New York: She came, she saw but she did not conquer hearts and minds. The queen of day time TV, Oprah Winfrey's two-part TV special on India has not got the kind of royal reception she did when she visited India in April.
The media mogul has come under fire from many on twitter for perpetuating stereotypes. Journalist and Film Critic, Aseem Chhabra explains, "Yes, there are snake charmers in India, there are elephants and cows and palaces. But she starts her first segment showing that. These are conscious decisions. You would think that someone like Oprah would have some producers and researchers to educate her. She is so "gee, golly I am in India". She used the word I am going to "experience" India. In America, nobody says I am going to experience Paris or London. What is India, some alien land on Mars?
In December 2011, Indians were flush with indignation at Jeremy Clarkson, host of the show Top Gear, after the Christmas special featured jokes about Indian food, trains and showcased a Jaguar car fitted with a toilet seat on its boot. Top Gear is one of the BBC's most popular programs the world over, known for its irreverent and out spoken humor. But Clarkson had to step on the brakes when it came to India. A furious Indian High commission even demanded an apology from the BBC.
Similarly in 2008, even as American audiences gushed over "Slumdog Millionaire," in India, there were brickbats over how the film depicted Indian society accentuating squalor, corruption.
Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan rubbished the film on his popular blog saying "If Slum dog Millionaire projects India as a third-world, dirty, underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots, let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations."
Funnily enough, despite the backlash the film was a roaring success in India. Indians still seem to care tremendously what the west thinks of us, as seen by the recent furore over the Asia Edition of Time Magazine's cover on the Indian Prime Minister.
The problem is also that Indians tend to have a problem about how the west presents us, especially anything negative about India. "explains Chhabra. "Every time there is an article in the NYT about dowry deaths we have people saying, "Is that the only story out of India? Why don't we write about the industrial growth in India?" We have industrial growth in India and dowry deaths. I think all stories need to be reported"
So do Indians need to let up a little? The irony is that as Indians do have a sense of humor. We all seem to love a good joke--as long as it is at everybody else's expense. The Punjabis make fun of the south Indians, the Tamilians and Malayalees rib each other, the Bengalis snigger at the boorish north Indians, but it seems when it comes to perceived slights by Westerners, India is no laughing matter.(Mind it)
Story first published:
July 25, 2012 21:06 IST