Copyright 2001 The Times of India, All Rights Reserved

[ December 10th 2001 ]

Paramount Pictures' recent release Lara Croft: Tomb Raider which demonises Hindu Gods is yet another example of stereotyping of Hinduism by Hollywood, according to a report in Times of India. Expectedly, the film has drawn criticism from Hindu organisations in LA who have threatened to sue the producers if the offending portion is not expurgated.

Shot partly at the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, the film shows statues of Hanuman becoming demons and attacking the heroine of the film. Croft, the heroine played by Angelina Jolie, kills the demons with her guns. "Hollywood has always thrived on stereotypes. But Lara Croft is not even an intelligent way of demonising. It is sheer stupidity. So I don't get offended by what they portray stupidly," says director Shyam Benegal.

The stereotyping of Hinduism by Hollywood goes back to 1939 when the film Gunga Din portrayed Hindus as bloodthirsty "thugs" who worship Goddess Kali and offer her human sacrifices in the presence of an insane Hindu priest. "I know how stupidly they demonised Gandhi (in Gunga Din) who was fighting the British in those days. By the way, it was a British film, not from Hollywood," Benegal corrects.

Some of the Hollywood films which have depicted Hinduism outrageously include The Party, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Rains of Ranchipur, and Eyes Wide Shut, Thirteen Women and Holy Smoke. The Party revolves around an Indian doctor named Hrundi Bakhshi, who is depicted as a blithering idiot who stumbles at every step. Played by Peter Sellers, Dr Hrundi is the centre of all humour throughout the film.

Steven Spielberg's Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom depicted Indians as barbarians who eat snakes, bats and monkeys. It showed how the Indian Maharaja offers his white guests snakes and bats as dinner and monkey head as dessert. And Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut shows sexual orgies amid Sanskrit chants.Interestingly, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom became notorious for creating a new PG-13 rating (before it there were only PG and R ratings) which meant that anyone below 13 could watch the film only if he or she was accompanied by an adult.

The Rains of Ranchipur and The Party, which also portray relationships between an Indian man and a white woman, show how drooling Indian men are doomed. Films like Thirteen Women and Holy Smoke show gurus and sadhus seducing white women.Not surprisingly, Hinduism and its symbols have been used by pop divas like Madonna and Alanis Morisette who have vulgarised bindi, menhdi, and sanskrit slokas.

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