It is no secret that the film world is heavily influenced by wealthy, white men who have defined a standard for what should be considered high quality film. As people become more aware of this reality, especially on Kenyon’s campus, there is an interest in watching more movies created by the overlooked non-white, non-male auteurs. This is why the Sept. 9 South Asian Society screening of the Bollywood film Raazi, an adaption of the 2008 book Calling Sehmet by Harinder S. Sikka, directed by Meghna Gulzar, came as a refreshing change of pace. The film, which follows a confident, college-aged woman who trains to become a spy after agreeing to marry a Pakistani army officer, successfully filled over half of the seats in the Gund Community Theater on a Friday night.
The president of the South Asian Society, Sriya Chadalavada ’19, chose the movie after careful consideration of what would appeal to a Kenyon audience. After seeing multiple Bollywood movies in the past year, Chadalavada said that Raazi stood out “cinematography-wise and plot-wise,” and “of all the Pakastani-Indian films that show both sides, [Raazi] did the best job … being equitable in how they show these situations.”
Another appealing aspect of the film was its soundtrack. Raazi used music masterfully to further the plot: While music is often a major component of Bollywood films, this movie’s montages uses music to carry the plot forward in a way that allows audience members who are not fluent in Hindi to experience a more complete understanding of the story.
Razzi challenges cultural norms by showing an Indian woman marry a Pakistani man during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. Addressing this potentially offensive subject with a susinct and sensitive manner before the start of the film by South Asian Society member, Ahmed Khan ’19, who also acknowledged that any short summary he could give of the complexities of this war would not do it justice.
Bianca Bunoiu ’19, a student who attended the screening, felt that “some of the audience had such an immature reaction to some of the things that were happening on the screen.” Bunoiu attributed the inappropriate giggling to a probable lack of exposure to Bollywood troupes. As Kenyon continues to screen films made by a diverse set of filmmakers, the student body will be exposed to a fuller scope of film. This will also expand their knowledge and appreciation of other countries’s popular culture.