Cultural Identities and Canadian Multiculturalism in Sriniva Krishna’s Masala (1991) Related work: MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE (1986)
Outline • The first generation: Grandma and Lord Krishna • The second generation: misfits and opportunists • The third generation: more choices (The use of dream sequence and symbols) • Canadian Racism: institutionalized and personal • The film’s subtle ironies • Masala’s importance & Sriniva Krishna
The three generations of the Indian Community 1. Grandma, 2. Lallu Bhai Solanki and his wife, Bibi, Mr. Harry Tikkoo, Krishna’s father & mother 3. Krishna, Sashi & Rita Solanki, Anil, Babu, • The others: • Lord Krishna & Balrama, • Whites with drug: Lisa • The sikh revolutionary: Bamadour Singh • Question: What are their senses of value, or cultural identities? cousins sisters
Multiple plot lines • The grandma’s wish to get money for her son; and Mr. Tikkoo conflict with the Canadian government over the stamp. • Lallu Bhai’s dream of global sari industry; Krishna’s search for a job and his sense of identity; • Rita’s dream of flying; • Anil’s wet dream of sexy women; • Sikh’s revolution, trying to turn Punjab to Khalistan
The first generation: Grandma and Lord Krishna • Grandma: adapting to the new environment by combining Canadian and Indian cultures in her own way. • “We are outsiders here; no money down real estate” • interested in kitchen gadgets. • Pray to Lord Krishna through a video
Lord Krishna: his adaptations & gradual loss of power people need gods because the world is unfair. • Adaptations; • “Why can’t a god be like man?” Can work with Jesus; clip 2 • Call his believer, show miracle within the TV box; clip 4 • As a hockey player; clip 5 • Loss of power: “We are losing our minds” clip 6 • Fly the plane awkwardly, clip 15 • Cannot cross over to Canadian “jurisdiction area”; cannot talk to justice jack; clip 13 • Tired of the country, want to leave after the Rath Yatra clip 14 • Grandmother calls him “troublemaker”; ask to get her granddaughter back; clip 16 • Cannot order the sikh people. Clip 17
The second generation: misfits • Krishna’s parents: “beaten up” and decide to go back; clip 14 • Harry Tikkoo: “turn to a different person after being beaten up”; in financial dilemma, interested in stamps
The second generation: opportunists • Lallu Bhai: his success dream clip 8 -- a sexist and womanizer; – makes use of Sikh revolutionaries; -- wants to monopolize the sari business (going global) clip 8 • His dream of being a self-made man • What does Sari here symbolize? Consider the beginning of the film, too. Clip 2; clip 14
The third generation: Krishna • Far away from his namesake god; clip 7; clip 20; • Don’t feel anything clip 10 • Cannot work anywhere: post office, travel agency, (Cannot play by the rules.) • Wants money (“Do you have 800 dollars?”) and a house with swimming pool but no neighbors. • Resist racism (I’m not Paki); Try to rescue the boy but gets himself killed. • Symbols of the air plane: in front of the post office; when having sex; driving with Anil;
The third generation: Anil, Rita and Sashi • Rita: her dream to fly—clip 3; • Rita’s difference from Sashi, who hates Indian men clip 12 –stereotypes? • Anil: about his career – his mother: “My husband wants gynaecology, but I want heart surgery.” His wet dreams and masturbation. • Babu: wants to be a real estate agent.
Racism: institutionalized and personal • Individual assaults by the “big white boys” • Canadian government’s strategy of containment: Opening talk: shows Krishna as an outsider • The minister of multiculturalism: the importance of “playing by the rules.” clip 20 • Respect or disrespect of the other cultures? Clip 18 • the importance of the beaver stamp
The film’s subtle ironies • Anil’s sex scene –female contortionist? • The final clash between the parade and RCMP’s • The Sikh, “What is there to suspect?” • Toilet paper –product of the Western world; “something imported to elevate you out of your Third Worldiness” (Krishna in Bailey 44) • “Is the temple for god, or for the minister?” • The last scene: the “Canadian” National Museum of the Philately; the fittest survive, the ethnic colors in the kitchen, and the thinker cannot feel anything. • Multiculturalism as Masala – Sari, Parade, Temple, or respect of south Indian cultures and peoples?
Masala’s importance • As a second generation of Canadian subaltern cinema • “Using the conventions of disaffected youth drama, Hollywood musical, Hindi musicals, European art cinema, and Canadian satire, Masala moves beyond the cinema of duty by decentering the whole notion of center-margin as a driving force in the film, and by making representation itself a concern.” (Bailey 38)
Criticism of Masala • Krishna about the Vancouver Film Festival (400 out of 600 audience were Indians) “[an elderly woman said:] ‘I just want to say one thing. Indian women do not marry for homes and Indian men do not marry for fucks. And I don’t appreciate this bad language.’ And then the screaming started. Four hundred people screaming at each other. I was holding a microphone and screaming and you couldn't’t even hear me.” (Bailey 42) • At Sundance festival “[American audience] calling the film misogynist, homophobic, heterophobic, and racist.” (Bailey 44)
Krishna’s own views • This is a film about home. The Air India plane six years ago had exploded over the Atlantic, I knew people on that plane. . . . What it began to mean to me was that there is no going home. . . “