(isn’t brownface fun?)
I was led through the variegated paths of the interweb to Outside the Whale, Rushdie’s perfectly angry essay about sentimental (and racist) representations of the British Raj. Some highlights follow:
On David Lean’s proprietary dickishness:
Lest we begin to console ourselves that the painful experiences are coming to an end, we are reminded that David Lean’s film of A Passage to India is in the offing. I remember seeing an interview with Mr Lean in The Times, in which he explained his reasons for wishing to make a film of Forster’s novel. ‘I haven’t seen Dickie Attenborough’s Gandhi yet,’ he said, ‘but as far as I’m aware, nobody has yet succeeded in putting India on the screen.’ The Indian film industry, from Satyajit Ray to Mr N. T. Rama Rao, will no doubt feel suitably humbled by the great man’s opinion.
On preposterous casting:
True, Indian actors were allowed to play the villains…. Meanwhile, the good-guy roles were firmly commandeered by Ben Cross, Christopher Lee, Omar Sharif, and, most memorably, Amy Irving as the good princess, whose make-up person obviously believed that Indian princesses dip their eyes in black ink and get suntans on their lips.
On the hilarious result of this preposterous casting:
"The two central characters, both supposedly raised as Indians, have been lobotomized to the point of being incapable of pronouncing their own names. The man calls himself ‘A Shock’, and the woman ‘An Jooly’. Around and about them there is branding of human flesh and snakery and widow-burning by the natives. There are Pathans who cannot speak Pushto. And, to avoid offending the Christian market, we are asked to believe that the child ‘A Shock’, while being raised by Hindus and Muslims, somehow knew that neither ‘way’ was for him, and instinctively, when he wished to raise his voice in prayer, ‘prayed to the mountains’."
Go read the whole thing. There’s an excellent digression on Thatcher and Orwell.