Polter-Cow (spectralbovine) wrote,

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Dayelight Saving Time

Yesterday for my grandmother's birthday, we went out to see My Name Is Khan, a Bollywood film that may be playing at your regular American movie theatre. It's about Rizvan Khan, a Muslim with Asperger's Syndrome, on a quest to meet the President of the United States and deliver a message: "My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist." Why? Hey, let's have some flashbacks framed around the main character writing a letter to his wife!

In true Bollywood fashion, the first hour is a love story, and then it turns into a different movie. If you're Krrish, you become a superhero movie. If you're My Name Is Khan, you become an examination of post-9/11 prejudices and paranoia and the consequences thereof. I was going to go back and add a "melodramatic" qualifier, but I figured that was understood, this being Bollywood. It can get melodramatic and cheesy at times, but I thought it was pretty good overall. I may just be easily impressed when a Bollywood film looks and feels like a Real Movie, though. No one breaks into song, and it's not shot like every other Bollywood movie. Plus, a lot of it was filmed on location in San Francisco and L.A.; it was so fun to recognize streets and landmarks. If I recall, Karan Johar's previous film, the megahit Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham... (or as I like to think of it, Everybody Cries), was shot interestingly, but it was the most sentimental movie on Earth. This was an improvement. (I still haven't seen Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. I KNOW. I also haven't seen Hum Aapke Hain Koun. Or the second half of Mohabbatein.)

I'm lucky in that I never experienced any sort of post-9/11 weirdness. It helped that I was at Rice, secluded on a college campus. My mom asked me to shave my goatee for my own safety, but I didn't, which led to my first big Standing Up to My Parents, but that's another story. I felt safe at Rice, and I never felt like anyone looked at me like I was a terrorist just because of my skin color. I've never known anyone personally who was affected, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a big deal.

One aspect of the movie I found interesting is that after the first hour, when it's played for all sorts of hijinks, Rizvan's Asperger's becomes largely incidental. Once the movie becomes about Indians dealing with prejudice, the Asperger's is just part of his character, and although he has some trouble communicating with people at times, he generally does okay. It would be a different movie if he weren't autistic, but his autism isn't essential to the story. Well, it is, specifically, but...you know. I liked that it wasn't a Movie About Autism but a Movie with an Autistic Character.

Shahrukh Khan puts in a good performance, though it may be a little overdone for all I know, and Kajol was really good. And pretty. And Christopher B. Duncan plays Barack Obama. That's right: Clarence fucking Wiedman is Barack Obama.

I think it'd be a good Bollywood movie to see for newbies since it takes place in America and there's a lot of English. Also, you'll learn an Important Lesson about prejudice and racism.

Last night I also finished A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire (seanan_mcguire), the sequel to Rosemary and Rue and the second in the October Daye series. Being a second book, it...is not the first book. Which is good and bad. On the one hand, you don't have to spend paragraphs explaining your worldbuilding and characters every few pages. On the other hand, you can't rely on that initial, visceral sense of discovery and newness. This second book is also not the first book in terms of genre and structure; it appears that each book will have a different feel to it, with Toby Daye, P.I., being the constant. Rosemary and Rue was a hard-boiled noir tale that took Toby from location to location. A Local Habitation is more of a sci-fi/horror story that takes place almost entirely in one building. Seanan describes it as a seventies noir take on Ten Little Indians.

A Local Habitation takes Toby Daye to ALH Computing in Fremont. ALH Computing is run by a group of fae interested in modern technology; it's only natural that fae in the Bay Area are going to want to mix magic and technology. Of course, soon after she arrives, a dead body turns up, and the rest of the book is a locked-room mystery of sorts in that all the characters in the building are potential suspects...until they get killed off, that is.

Although it's not necessary to have read the first book to enjoy this one, it really helps since the consequences of the last book weigh heavily on Toby throughout this one and inform her decisions. I don't read any other urban fantasy series, so I don't know how much continuity they have, but I really liked those touches: this Toby was not the same Toby from the beginning of Rosemary and Rue. I also like that the main plot of each book has a piece in some Larger Story that we can't really see the full picture of. We learn more about Faerie in this book: one of the central questions raised is "How does a race of immortals view and deal with life and death?" Fae aren't supposed to die. (Of course, it appears Faerie is going to have to get used to the deaths of fae since Toby's going to need more murders to investigate.)

I still find a lot of Faerie confusing—How do knowes work? What's the Summerlands again? Are Duchies worth more than Provinces? Wait.—but not inhibitively so. I just go with it as Toby walks down hallways hoping not to get jumped by an unseen killer, as she tries to protect everyone in the building because who else will? I think this book is sadder and more thought-provoking than Rosemary and Rue. It gets to be very focused, and even though it's longer, it reads just as quickly.

At her Belmont Library appearance yesterday, Seanan said An Artificial Night, the third book, is more like a Jason Bourne movie. It's a 400-page chase scene. I'm looking forward to being right there with Toby, breathlessly racing to the end of another adventure.
Tags: being indian, books, family, movies, personal

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