I hate it when my non-Indian friends tell me that Slumdog Millionaire is their favorite film. I don’t hate the movie per se but I hate the fact that it is considered a masterpiece, when in reality it is just a collection of clichés about India. I also hate the fact that they cast Dev Patel (with his so-obvious British accent) as the protagonist. One of the reasons why Attenborough’s Gandhi is still in my list of movie suggestions is because it had Indian actors for most Indian roles, despite their ‘flawed’ accents (except obviously Sir Ben Kingsley who did a marvelous job at copying Gandhi’s accent, with it becoming even more ‘Indian’ after Gandhi is back from South Africa). If all the other characters had been played by Hollywood actors (imagine Daniel Day-Lewis as Jinnah and Harrison Ford as Nehru), I am not sure if Gandhi would have been a movie it is considered to be.
Today’s Needull deals with the widely debated issue of ‘white’ men being cast as people of other races, something which media refers to as ‘whitewashing’ . We have seen this happen in numerous movies, from Johnny Depp as the Native American Tonto in The Lone Ranger to Jake Gyllenhaal as the eponymous Prince of Persia to closer home with Priyanka Chopra as Mary Kom.
In the below BBC article by Arwa Haider, we look at how Arabs have been stereotypically portrayed in Hollywood, the reasons why it is hard to convince renowned Arab actors to go mainstream and the changes that are imminent with the audience demanding for more authenticity.
P.S: Sadly, the article doesn’t even mention the timeless classic Lawrence of Arabia, wherein Anthony Quinn and Alec Guinness played unforgettable Arab characters.