Basmati Blues

The trailer of Hollywood actress Brie Larson’s (seem above) upcoming film, “Basmati Blues,” has been criticized for its stereotypical depiction of India. In the film, Indian American actor Utkarsh Ambudkar plays a local farmer – who speaks crisp English – whom Linda falls in love with. (YouTube screengrab)

Many fans are calling out Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson for starring in a film that relies on cultural appropriation and Indian stereotypes.

The film in question is “Basmati Blues,” the trailer of which was released recently.

The film stars Larson as Linda, a brilliant scientist who is sent to India to sell genetically modified rice that she created in the company lab to the local farmers. But when she realizes that what she is doing is not only not helping the farmers but also going against their interest, she sets out to save the hapless villagers.  

The international trailer of the film, which Larson filmed back in 2013, but which just secured funding for distribution, was deleted following the outcry. But the damage had been done.

Larson and the film were criticized for perpetuating the “white savior” narrative, and pretty much every stereotype about Indian culture: getting shoved by a goat; a dramatic representation of Indian food being super spicy; Indian weddings featuring Bollywood-esque well-choreographed colorful dance numbers; and locals tricking unsuspecting foreigners into doing crazy acts on the pretext of teaching them Indian customs/traditions.

And that’s not all. Indian American actor Utkarsh Ambudkar plays a local farmer – who speaks crisp English – whom Linda falls in love with. And in one of the sequences with him, exclaims, “India is this exciting journey.”

Even though Larson’s character appears to be that of a well-intentioned American looking to help villagers, how the film is packaged and especially the dialogues seem to have rubbed a lot people the wrong way, and some of them took to Twitter to voice their displeasure.

“Okay so Brie Larson is in this movie called (uhg) #BasmatiBlues (ew) and I’ll be damned if she can even pronounce Basmati (and no, it’s not BAZ-MAH-TEA). White people are always gonna make cringy movies about India, it’s a fact, but this trailer takes the Cringe Cake,” one fan tweeted.

“BasmatiBlues is what happens when you let whites have creative freedom wrt Indian culture + how to interpret it,” tweeted another.

One critic who found the storyline controversial wrote, “This is ridiculous. They’ve completely ignored the culture of the country. Typical to portray India as about rice, spicy food, poverty, poor English and cringy music. India don’t need a White savior. We’re good without them.”

“I really admire and respect Brie Larson, but don’t go “India is an exciting journey” on us yaa,’ pointed out another. 

One fan wasn’t willing to discount the fact that the film was shot four years ago, writing, “Okay, but what were the people involved in making #basmatiblues actually thinking? 2013 was only 4 years ago and I’m pretty sure we were past these stereotypes way before.”

In an attempt to explain the film’s storyline, Shout Factory, the North American distributor for “Basmati Blues,” issued a statement to Refinery29.com, in which producer Monique Caulfield and director Dan Baron wrote: “We deeply regret any offense caused by the ‘Basmati Blues’ trailer... Unfortunately, the international trailer has given the wrong impression of the film’s message and heart. This movie is not about an American going abroad to solve India’s problems.

Calling the film an ensemble musical romantic comedy, the duo wrote that at its heart, this film is about “two people who reach across cultures, fight against corporate greed, and find love. The film explores our responsibility for our actions and for each other, and attempts to do it in a disarming way, using music, comedy, and romantic.”

“‘Basmati Blues’ is a love letter to multiple eras of Bollywood cinema, musicals, and classic Hollywood romantic comedies. We are confident that the film, when seen in its entirety, will bear out our appreciation and respect for India and its people,” they added. 

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