News was that Bala’s Paradesi completed its production in the middle of 2012 . it waited for a release through diwali, pongal and now nearly to tamil new year. Maybe the tamil film industry needed to see some of its high profile projects crash and burn before it got into the mood to appreciate the unrelenting Indian – exploitation film that is Bala’s Paradesi.
Bala is in no mood to finesse his oppari (funerial wail, dirge) with any context perspective or balance. The dead and the exploited own the Truth. When you cry for your dead you don’t care who’s looking and what they think of the spectacle you are making.
So who died?
There’s a clarity of analysis you find in people celebrating grief (often in india) that gives them the permission to drop social niceties, rationalized kind thoughts and speak their mind about a subject. Bala cries, in Paradesi for the plantation dead of the last(british) colonial era. He does not draw any parelells to the current one that is in progress in india, and does not make any allusions to any current set of bad guys. He focuses on the Indian collaborators that sold a previous generation of hungry indians into foreign plantation slavery. He focuses on the sexual exploitation, the beating the disease the death and the pestilence of evangelical christianity that came with the exploitation. The film does not let up.when its over its like someone has cried themselves to sleep. It’s cathartic like that.
Universal Spiritual truths
As any exploitation film does, Bala’s Paradesi touches deep emotional chords of all people suffering from colonial exploitation. It is not only a recreation of a racial memory in indians, to which they should congregate and worship , it is also a unpreachy reminder that evil IS among us and we DO live and work every day under it’s whiplash and that we should never forget. The film has no positive messages for anyone. when there’s a death of a dear one in the house, people tend to feel dark like that.
Almost certain flop.
The film is going to be a highly rated collectible and an almost certain flop. It exposes the emasculated eunuchhood of its Indian audience rather than making them feel strong and powerful and all macho (nan kadavul) . It fills people with despair and in its frankness tells everyone how terrible the world around them really is. In today’s entertainment theory prevailing under current dispensations both Bollywood and hollywood, there is no place for cathartic tragedy. Everyone wants their captive audience motivated and cheerled into some form of sugar high, from their films. The season for indian-exploitation is not yet here. Even tamil film tragedies lived briefly from Oru thalai ragam to Nizzalgal and died…Heroes and Maniratnam took tamil films and gave it candyfloss. It’s difficult to wean audiences away from candyfloss.
On its merits
Paradesi is a leniar melodramatic soap opera on steroids about the perdition and ruin of a poor village, which sells itself wholesale into slavery to a white plantation owner (the white guys are cartoons raping, drinking with their women and behaving generally cartoonishly evily. The Indian collaborators are the True Enemy). In the process every last unthinkable happens to the indian village (pretty wives get molested by white people, their wages get stolen, they get infected , beaten their calf muscles cut off(so they cannot run away) burnt in unmarked pyres, killed by disease, neglect and malice. and their children get sold into slavery. All this happens to auditory and visual cues of men crying loudly as in a death. The camera is workmanlike and a washed out blueish black and white theme is imposed on all the film.
Paradesi is a warning to the audience to heed the lessons of the past lest they be condemned to repeat it.On this count it may be too late. India is ruled and operated by foreign spies/agencies/interests. Indians abroad are in the terminal stages of the artificial famine. It’s like they blew tsunami sirens after everyone died.
I found myself joking to the other (few) people in the audience, wondering if anybody from the village got at least green cards for all their trouble.