Tuesday, July 7, 2009
"New York" in Varanasi
Going to a Hollywood film in Hindi is part of the plan for the program we are on, perhaps to teach us that not all of this city is as 16th-century as the Nagwa neighborhood we are living in.
We take the Nirwan van and an autorita-type rickshaw into the city center to--yes--a mall.
A security gate like those in airports guards the entrance to the mall. Our bags are checked, and we are scanned with a wand and patted down. Then to go to the second floor we are checked again, and at the entrance to the theater more severely screened by Army-officer-looking guards.
The poster for the film shows the two young male and female co-stars in a fierce-arm-wrestling pose (see above)
We sit down in an elegant new theater with reclining plush seats to watch New York directed by Kabir Khan.
This film about the impact of 9/11 on Iranian-American Muslims begins with one young man abducted by the FBI, then "persuaded" to spy on someone he knew in college several years earlier, who may be part of a sleeper cell.
Without English subtitles, it was very hard to understand--every now and then I caught words like "likken" ("but"), "aur" ("and"), and other not-too-useful clues.
It was surreal to be in Varanasi watching a fantasy-version of New York--"New York State University" (not SUNY) that has grassy lawns with a backdrop of skyscrapers. The campus looked like Trinity College in Hartford. The characters watched the 9/11 events going from the first plane to the tower collapse in 60 seconds.
About half an hour into the film, a waiter handed me a menu apparently asking if I or anyone in my party wanted to order pizza. I declined.
Then came intermission (the film was 3 1/2 hrs long). At the break, everyone in our group tried to hear from Nita Kumar what had happened or explained her own theory.
I turned to two young men in the row behind us, who wanted to practice their English, and asked, "Is Sam actually in a sleeper terrorist cell or not?" Sam had been innocently arrested, then tortured, then resumed his life.
"Yes," they said.
"Does he own Omar now?" I asked because the would-be spy had been caught by his friend and forced to kill a man and to join the cell.
"Yes," they said, explaining more, but the film began again.
Apparently Omar becomes a double-agent because his friend discovers him, the friend's wife nearly shoots him for it, and Omar is forced to kill a man and join the gang-like cell.
The last hour of multiple shootings and jumping off skyscrapers a la The Godfather scared me to death--I don't watch films like this if I can help it.
But as we walked out past the security checks, I thought about all the suicide bombers and terrorists of various stripes in the various countries of the world.