Vishwaroopam, an American story
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This is an American film. From the plot details to the larger narrative of the so-called war on terror, where hi-tech American soldiers are fighting "savage" Muslims in the barren landscapes of Afghanistan, it bears a strong American imprint. Haasan would have been better served staying true to this narrative and not bringing in an Indian angle. And if the domestic subplot was essential to make the film accessible to Vishwaroopam's audience, it needed to be at least a little more true to the facts. The ground zero of the war between the United States and the Taliban-al-Qaeda is geographically closest to India. And Abbottabad and Kabul are closer to Delhi than NYC. Yet, there is no evidence that individuals or groups from the vast Indian Muslim population or, for that matter, from Kashmir, have joined those groups. Nor have al-Qaeda or the Taliban opened a front in India. The only links the security agencies claim are the larger connections between Pakistan-based groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba or Jaish-e-Mohammad and al-Qaeda/ Taliban.
Was Haasan trying to emulate John Wayne or is he the new, Indian-origin Rambo who goes out to fight America's war? Has America's war now become India's war? Even if Vishwaroopam is a cinematic representation of India's new foreign policy priorities, there remains a need to understand the dangerous implications of Hollywood's historically stereotypical representation of the Soviets, Arabs and Muslims. Sulaiman Arti, who investigated this Hollywood phenomenon, says that "the intensification of the Arabs' stereotypical image over the last century from 'comic villains' to 'foreign devils' did not occur in a vacuum but, certainly, with the intertwinement of both political and cultural interests in the region". Lina Khatib's scholarly work, Filming the Modern Middle East: Politics in the Cinemas of Hollywood and the Arab World, and Jack Shaheen's Reel Bad Arabs, which scrutinised 900 films to shed light on this dangerous trend, make similar claims.
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