I have heard white people criticising Hindi films because they are musicals. Anna Morcom writes that “Hollywood and high cultural and Western discourses […] see Hindi films as unrealistic, immature and inferior due to their musical format” (Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema, 2007, 241). In terms of Oscars, this is obvious. Very few Hindi films have been recognised and validated by the Oscars in the foreign film category.
However, when a white director makes a musical, with white people in it, suddenly every aspect of the film they are making is up for an Oscar. One can point to the case of Moulin Rouge, or now, with the Oscars buzz around it, La La Land. Moulin Rouge was actually nominated for best picture.
When white people are involved, something magical happens. Suddenly the musical is serious. Suddenly, it is engaged with reality. Suddenly, the actors in the film are magically talented.
The magic doesn’t work when the film is about brown people and features them and is directed by them. Oh, no. Because we are talking about white magic. The magic of being white and thinking white. A whole culture’s film productions can be dismissed as being inferior musicals when the people involved are brown. Only white people are supposed to have privileged access to reality and the high space of culture.
If one point this out as a clear example of the West’s racism, one is accused of being a racist. One is accused of playing the race card. One is said to support tokenism and not talent. Such is the way of the world in the west.
Yet, for my own part, I didn’t watch Moulin Rouge. And I’m not going to watch La La Land. The West’s Oscars are bullshit. The West’s system of white validation is bullshit. I will watch my Hindi musicals. Their music is inspirational. The lyrics are amazing. They are based on poetry. The acting in the films is brilliant. The stories in the films are great. Hindi films are among the best in the world, whatever The White Man thinks.