I for India

By Hung, Eric | Film & History, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

I for India


Hung, Eric, Film & History


I for India (2005)

I for India (2005)

Produced and Directed by Sandhya Suri

First Run/Icarus Films

www.fiif.com

70 minutes

The past two decades have witnessed a tremendous shift in Bollywood's portrayal of the Indian diaspora. Before the 1990s, overseas Indians were usually depicted as decadent Westerners - smoking, drinking, immodestly clothed - who were ignorant of Indian history and culture. More recently, a contrasting and (at least from the Bollywood filmmakers' point of view) more positive image has emerged. Pointing to Indian diasporic characters' knowledge of traditional Indian culture as seen through their performance of religious rituals and family relations, intense Indian pride and other factors, Tejaswini Ganti (2004; p. 42) has concluded that "since the mid-1990s, Hindi films have frequently represented Indians living abroad as more traditional and culturally authentic than their counterparts in India."

In I for India, Sandhya Suri's moving documentary ab out her family 's immigration experiences, the director shows how rich and difficult the issue of "Indian-ness" is for both Indians with relatives abroad and overseas Indians. Through this exploration, she demonstrates how both Hollywood images fail to do justice to the real lives of overseas Indians.

Sandhya Suri's father, YP. Suri, was a 33-year doctor when he left India with his wife and first daughter in 1965 to seek better training in Great Britain. Upon their arrival, YP. bought two sets of what was then the latest in home video and audio technology and sent one of them to his family in India. Over the next four decades, they sent what are often artfully produced videos and cassette tapes to each other. These tapes were the main material for the film, and they are contextual ized by BBC footage about the British immigrant experience and new interviews with members with her immediate family.

During its brief 70-minute span, I for India focuses on three stories. The first explores the increasing strain between YP Suri and his relatives in India. Like many immigrant families, YP Suri and his parents initially believed that he would return to his homeland after a modest period abroad. It is therefore not surprising that the curiosity that filled the earliest videos sent between Great Britain and India was soon replaced by tense discussions about YP's "Indi an -ness." Most notably, family members in India chastise him for not visiting India, not attending family events and neglecting his duties as the eldest son. They furthermore complain about his increasing use of English in the videos. …

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