Every weekend, I revel in living in a metropolitan area with diverse cable access programming. I watch shows like Namaste America, Showbiz India, and AVS. I devour them like people devour Extra and Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight. I get my desi fix. Except this weekend, where I tuned in and got a good half hour pitch for The Love Guru, which is about as far from desi programming as you can get.
Guys, I get that it’s a journalistic coup to be let into the press junket and to get to talk to Mike Myers and Justin Timberlake and all… but WHAT IN THE FRESH HELL WERE YOU THINKING?
The Love Guru is so cheap, so degrading. It boils India down to all the basic, common conceptions: mystical mumbo-jumbo, The Kama Sutra, unpronounceable names, and Bollywood. I’m sure the studio and Myers’ party line is something to the effect of “lighthearted romp,” and “it really shows the ignorance of the West and isn’t meant to insult the East,” and “an eventual moral lesson,” but that’s a load of bullshit. That’s ALWAYS the excuse when a minority is skewered for entertainment purposes. “Oh, we’re actually being tolerant and educational. Just watch the movie and you’ll see.” Yeah, right.
I doubt anyone will come away from this movie more tolerant or the least bit educated. Even living in New York, I encounter people who are SO clueless about Indian culture that they ask me if I was thrown out of a window to see if I’d bounce, if I know anyone who gave birth in a train bathroom, and if I worship rats. People are stupid, okay? The Love Guru just panders to that stupidity.
I watched a bit of Myers’ interview and my perimeter alarm began to blare when Myers’ mentioned that the caricature of Guru Pitka came from his need to deal with his father’s death. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Red alert! It reminded me of the time I encountered an actor in a bar and he expounded about how the poor people in India have so much “joy.” Millions of women across the country think he’s hot; thanks to that, I will always think he’s an idiot. Why is that Westerners always feel this patronizing need to turn to India to find themselves, to answer unanswerable questions? Can’t that be done in Idaho or something?
But oh, my friends, it got worse.
The interviewer asked Myers about his spiritual journey and he started talking about Deepak Chopra. I’m sorry, but the words “spiritual journey,” and “Deepak Chopra,” should never be uttered in the same context. Chopra is a man who has made his fortune selling the CliffsNotes version of Hinduism to the West, like the stoner kid in high school selling test answers to everybody who couldn’t pass Calculus. I do appreciate that Chopra is part of the Virgin Comics line, which is a legitimate forum for shorthand Hinduism, but I hate that he’s become the go-to guy for everyone’s experience with Indian culture and spirituality. So, no, Mike Myers, sorry. You’re not Priyadarshan or David Dhawan. You’re an outsider, and you do not get a basti pass (what I’d call the desi version of a “ghetto pass”) to bastardize my culture for laughs just because you admire Deepak Freaking Chopra. That’s like saying someone can use the n-word because they listen to Beyonce. Not to mention that a shallow, tasteless movie with a dick joke every five seconds cannot and should not be justified with some cheesy sentiment about looking to Indian culture for guidance. You’re being offensive in order to play to the cheap seats and make money. Just own it, okay? I was so furious, I shouted “shut up, Mike,” and hit “mute,” so that I wouldn’t be out a $300 TV set because I threw something at it.
Honestly, I expected to be pissed off by this movie, and by things said in its press clippings. What I am more pissed off about is that a time-leased program dedicated to celebrating Indian culture chose to give it so much promotion. As I said higher up, what in the fresh hell? How does that seem like a good idea?