Even though the movie “Simran” (which is based on a true story) is perceived as a comedy by many, I see a deep tragedy associated with immigration in this movie. The movie depicts the lives of Indian immigrants in America and their children.
Simran, a daughter of Gujrati immigrants, is torn between two cultures and sets of values to a point that she is confused, lost and disturbed. As a result of this, she becomes cynical, unstable, impulsive and arrogant. In other words, her personality is completely shattered. However, Simran is not just an isolated case, but unfortunately represents a shattered society. This is the price which immigration to western countries is extracting from us.
The movie may not do very well at the box office, but Kangana Ranaut has portrayed the character very well to a point that it shatters the myth that immigration has proved a boon for most immigrants. The bitter truth is that for many, it has been more of a curse than a boon. It destroys family structure, culture and value system. The bitter truth is that we have been unable to retain the best elements of our culture, and equally unable to adopt the best elements of western culture. Many times, we end up with the worst elements of both cultures.
Years ago, in the early seventies, when I first came to America, I became friends with the hospital administrator of the hospital where I was doing my internship. He invited me for dinner at his house. When he was showing me the house, we came across a notice board which showed notices for the children as to how much dues they were supposed to pay. I felt that this was not a real family; they were just people living under one roof.
The movie “Simran” reminded me of my first experience of seeing the disintegration of family in America. Simran’s father angrily reminds her that she has to pay the utility bills; worse, he takes money from her purse without her knowledge. This one incident played a crucial role in pushing her to a life of crime. Even though the movie tries to show the transformation of Simran from a hotel housekeeper to a criminal in a funny manner, yet the unfortunate fact is that many times it can be a tragedy.
Like Simran, who has no qualms about resorting to prostitution, stealing or robbery, many of our youngsters have taken to a life of crime. The London police recently arrested hundreds of prostitutes of Indian origin in one day. In Canada, some of our youth are involved in the drug trade. Similarly, many Indian Americans are involved in human trafficking in America.
However, we rarely talk about these aspects of migration to the western capitalist countries. We are too busy boasting about our and our children’s achievements in the western world. This is not only harming our children in the western countries, but is harming the youth in India, who become extremely dissatisfied with their lives in India and only see immigration to the western countries as a solution to their problems.
I came across a few Simrans in the U.S. among the Indian American youth. A few years ago, I happened to attend a party of medical students in Seattle, Wash. I saw an Indian girl who was like a towering personality there and was looked up like a hero and a role model for the other students. Among her many qualities, which the other students admired, were also her heavy drinking and having sex with multiple partners.
I feel that if we compare Kangana’s brilliant roles in the two movies, then the tragedy of immigration becomes obvious. I also praised Kangana’s role as a Haryanvi Jat student athlete girl named Kusum in the movie “Tanu Weds Manu Returns.” Kusum is completely opposite of Simran. She is simple, straight-forward, bold, courageous, and clear about her goals and is very proud of her achievements.
I also feel that we should compare Kusum with Simran to understand what immigration to the western countries is really doing to us, rather than live under the illusion that we have gained everything and lost nothing by migrating to the western countries. Instead of a one-sided view of migration, we should have a more balanced view based upon realities rather than keep living under the illusion.
I want to congratulate Kangana for portraying Simran as a character which is very close to reality. This can help us understand our own situation better. Generally, immigration is associated with short-term economic gains and long-term cultural losses. It brings us back to the question that out of economics and ethics, which is more important?
In western capitalism, economics is above ethics. Lenin called imperialism the highest state of capitalism. I have called the western-led globalization the highest state of imperialism. This globalization is economic-only globalization and has no ethical aspect. This globalization is primarily based upon selfishness, greed, inequality and injustice. Therefore, in the long run, immigration in this globalization is more likely to prove harmful for people of both developing countries and developed countries. We witnessed some of this during the refugee crisis in Europe.
In the eastern philosophy, ethics (Dharma) is above economics, and it lays the foundation of a society and keeps it stable. Moreover, without ethics, economic gains cannot be sustained. If instead of western-led globalization we have a globalization led by the east (Russia, China and India), then it can be based upon equality, fairness and the needs of society. Immigration in that globalization can become useful for both developed and developing countries. Movies like “Simran” then can be real comedies rather than tragedies.