Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Yes, you did read that right

I was in Amritsar recently (on which more to come) and couldn't help but notice that the place was plastered with posters for a movie with a title which, for European visitors, was rather eyebrow-raising:

Um, what? Let's have a closer look:

Yep, that's right. The big Punjabi movie hit of this season glories in the name Hero Hitler in Love.

Naturally I had to investigate this, so after taking the above snaps I got online to check the film out. Apparently, in the movie, "Hitler is a man with unique and different thoughts who loves his fellow villagers and helps them unite their soul mates."

So just to clarify, then, we're not talking about the most notorious psychotic mass-murdering dictator of the twentieth century. We're talking about a sweet, admirable and quirky Punjabi villager.

Called Hitler.

Anyway, apparently Hitler falls in love (the title kind of gives it away) and, although he believes in solving problems by talking about them, something happens that makes him decide to "become real Adolf Hitler".

Now, I haven't seen the movie, so I don't know if it features a Punjabi villager invading half of Europe and slaughtering millions of Jews, disabled people, gypsies and homosexuals (all in the name of love, of course). One can only presume not, which begs the question of what "becoming real Adolf Hitler" involves for Punjabi audiences.

Oh, and apparently Hitler is also an entrant in the Asian Car Racing competition. You read it here first.

I'm trying to imagine an equivalent film being released in the UK, called, oh I don't know, Pol Pot Gets His Groove Back, without uproar. I find it difficult.

I'm reminded of an incident when I was in Korea, when a Nazi-themed bar opened in Seoul, complete with swastikas and imperial German eagles, with staff all (in)appropriately dressed as SS officers and storm troopers. The resident expat community was horrified, but many Koreans simply couldn't understand what the fuss was about. It was just a fun bar with a historical theme. The idea that events that occurred in Europe sixty years ago could still resonate enough to cause deep offence came as a surprise to many, not least the bar's owners who thought they'd hit on a great marketing ploy. (Of course, this neutralisation of history would never apply to, say, the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, which ended in 1945).

In the West, we are educated about Hitler and the Holocaust from a young age. He is more than a historical hate figure: he is someone whose crimes have been personalised for all of us from the first time we read about Anne Frank. He is, of course, not immune to being the object of humour. But while we may laugh at him and about him, he is rarely trivialised. We can't let ourselves forget the magnitude of his evil.

So it's unsurprising that, for me, the movie and its complacent plot description stick in the gullet. But then, of course, it's not Indian history. Hitler's name might be universally associated with evil, but the strength of that association varies a lot depending on where you are. And political correctness is probably less well established in the movie industry of Punjab than in the BBC studios or in Hollywood.

Ignorance is as ignorance does, of course. Few Brits know about the history of India, including that bit of it where we played an inglorious role. So it's hard to get very upset about a lack of sensitivity on the part of Indian film makers (or, for that matter, Korean bar owners) towards Europeans' historical hang-ups. But the Punjabis' lovestruck, heroic Hitler is another example of how, globalisation or no, the world according to Indians and Europeans looks very, very different.


Isabel said...

I've also been baffled with the fascination with Hitler in India. In every bookshop you'll find 'Mein Kampf'. Apparently it's a bestseller in India - and on the reading list of many business and management courses!

Sonia, Gary and Lydia said...

Wow, interesting! Are there lots of parents in India naming their children Hitler? Or did they just decide to use the name in this weird random film?!

Chris said...

Good question Sonia! I haven't come across anyone naming their kid Hitler here (and I don't know if it's the character's actual name or a nickname in the movie) but anything is possible in India!

Kay in India said...

I think South Asians in general are definitely not educated about the holocaust of WW2--> people from my dad's generation would only have studied about Hitler as a dictator.

This is an interesting link about Hitler and India:

Chris said...

Of course - the whole "enemy of our enemy" thing makes sense. Kind of obvious when you see it like that!

Really interesting post, I will add the blog to my follow list. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable!!! I am stunned!

An eye-opening post, Chris. Wow - maybe I should introduce a 'Hitler' character in my stories..... Hmmm.

Or perhaps at school. "Once upon a time children....."

Sanjeev Sabhlok said...

Adolf Hitler Marak, is an active politician in India, and was a minister in Meghalaya state of India. Please check Wikipedia.