A tale of blaxploitation and Lord Ram

On the two-year anniversary of How the World Works, everything starts to make sense. Well, not really.

By Andrew Leonard

Published December 7, 2007 11:57PM (EST)

Today marks the two-year anniversary of How the World Works.

I can't think of any more appropriate way to mark this auspicious moment than by observing that this morning, after completing my analysis of the rhetorical symbolism of Larry Page's wedding, I spent the next couple of hours further educating myself on the subprime mortgage-freeze free-for-all currently occupying the frenzied attention of the entire econoblogosphere while also teasing out the subtleties of Australia's new prime minister's supposed backtracking on his Kyoto commitments.

When what I really wanted to write about was a court summons issued to the Hindu gods Ram and Hanuman by a subdistrict judge in Dhanbad, India as part of a 20-year-old land ownership dispute. (Strangely, the gods are refusing to show up.) But I found myself stumped coming up with an angle that fit neatly into even my eccentric definition of the word "globalization."

Gimme a minute. I'll figure it out.

OK. Let's try this.

Of all the topics I've dipped into and out of over the last two years, India regularly delivers the most intoxicating combination of intellectual stimulation and pure entertainment. There are a couple of reasons for this. India's potency on the global stage in both economic and cultural terms needs little elaboration. Then there is the pure seductive force unleashed by the great unknown -- so many gods and goddesses, so much incredible history, about which I know next to nothing. My curiosity is unlimited and there is much to be curious about in India. The widespread use of English in an online setting also makes tapping into the subcontinental zeitgeist much easier than getting inside the head of, say, China.

The intersection of YouTube and Bollywood alone is endlessly irresistible. And judging by the popularity of yesterday's Barack O'Bollywood post, I am not alone on that front. But one of the glories of blogging is that information flows in multiple directions. I'm not just sitting here finding out stuff -- it's also out there finding me.

Yesterday's Obama posting encouraged Soam and Shari Acharya, a San Francisco-based duo of multimedia producers, to introduce themselves to me by e-mail. They wanted to let me know about their film short "Devi Brown," which they described as a trailer for a "nonexistent film" that answers the question of "what happens when blaxploitation meets Bollywood."

Anyone who has been reading this blog for the last two years will know that such questions smack right into the sweet spot of my preoccupations, along with the politics of microfinance, carbon offsets, home-brewed biodiesel, and collateralized debt obligations. But it gets better, because the e-mail also linked to Shari Acharya's nifty online multimedia presentation "Bollywood and Globalization" -- an interactive distillation of her San Francisco State University industrial arts master's thesis. In her thesis, Acharya explores how the opening up of India's economy to global trade in the 1990s both challenged, and ultimately revitalized, Bollywood.

I can't wait to see "Devi Brown." I also have a rapidly expanding list of must-see Indian movies. I feel ... better informed.

Now, if someone would just make a movie about two ancient gods summoned to a modern Indian court to settle a land rights squabble, starring Shah Rukh Khan and a battalion of singing and dancing monitor lizards, my day would be complete.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Globalization How The World Works India