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Hitler Goes Bollywood!
June 18, 2010 4:59 AM   Subscribe


 
"Dear Friend Hitler".

Catchy title.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:02 AM on June 18, 2010


I suspect it has a lot more to do with outrage in the West, such as the editorial in the Guardian earlier this week protesting the movie, than with the boundless influence of India's 5000 Jews. But it's good to see that the first comment on that article refers to the trope of Jewish power.
posted by craichead at 5:13 AM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


Who Moved My Jews?
posted by ao4047 at 5:20 AM on June 18, 2010 [11 favorites]


Well, I can see Mein Kampf as a management book, since so many managers seem to aspire to insane dictatorial powers....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:21 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Actually, it wouldn't be so surprising for Anupam Kher to step down in the face of protests from the Indian Jewish community.
posted by bardophile at 5:44 AM on June 18, 2010


I can imagine a Russian-themed restaurant in NYC's East Village, where the decor consists of giant kitschy posters of Stalin. I doubt that most of the clientèle would see anything other than a bold graphic design.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:51 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


I can imagine a Russian-themed restaurant in NYC's East Village, where the decor consists of giant kitschy posters of Stalin. I doubt that most of the clientèle would see anything other than a bold graphic design.

To me, that makes this all the funnier. I once was in a show at the Red Room above KGB Bar in the East Village.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:02 AM on June 18, 2010


StickyCarpet, there at least used to be, maybe still is, exactly that bar in the east village, called KGB.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:03 AM on June 18, 2010


Heh. Jinx.
posted by Navelgazer at 6:03 AM on June 18, 2010


"Anyway I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, Your sincere friend, Sd. M. MK Gandhi".

"We have no doubt about your bravery or devotion to your fatherland, nor do we believe that you are the monster described by your opponents."

These letters were addressed to... you guessed it, Herr Hitler.

However, Mr. Gandhi did say this in one of his letters:

"But your own writings and pronouncements and those of your friends and admirers leave no room for doubt that many of your acts are monstrous and unbecoming of human dignity, especial­ly in the estimation of men like me who believe in human friendline­ss. Such are your humiliation of Czechoslovakia, the rape of Poland and the swallowing of Denmark. I am aware that your view of life regards such spoliations as virtuous acts. But we have been taught from childhood to regard them as acts degrading humanity."

But then again, he also said this:

"Hitler," Gandhi said, "killed five million Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher’s knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs… It would have aroused the world and the people of Germany… As it is they succumbed anyway in their millions."

And...

"I do not want to see the allies defeated. But I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed. "
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 6:14 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


When I first heard of the news of this I thought a Bollywood flavoured Springtime For Hitler would be great... then I learned it wasn't quite that...

Can't seem to find a Downfall parody.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:15 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can't seem to find a Downfall parody.

This seems scarcely possible.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


I can imagine a Russian-themed restaurant in NYC's East Village, where the decor consists of giant kitschy posters of Stalin. I doubt that most of the clientèle would see anything other than a bold graphic design.

Don't know if it's still there, but there used to be almost this exact bar in downtown Warsaw, where they certainly see a lot more than a bold design.
posted by echo target at 6:23 AM on June 18, 2010


Stalin has never had the nasty reputation in the US that Hitler does, no matter how many millions he killed. He was our ally, after all. So you can display posters and even statues of him as irony, in a way that you simply can't with Hitler.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Granted, perhaps Indians don't know the ins and outs of the Holocaust. But how 'bout World War II? You know WORLD WAR TWO?
posted by MarshallPoe at 6:32 AM on June 18, 2010


The Indian attitude towards WWII is decidedly ambivalent. They were not independent during the war, and yet were conscripted to fight, often in some of the most brutal battles of the war, like Monte Cassino. Moreover, many Indians suffered as food and goods were diverted from India by the British to support the war effort (and the British public). There was also the myth of the "martial races", like the Sikhs and the Gurkhas (not Indian, I know), who were cariacatured as suited only to be fighting machines.
posted by oneironaut at 6:43 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


As an Indian now living in the US, I'm really embarrassed about this stuff.

It's also strange. The generation above us is extremely anti-Muslim.

With regard to Gandhi's remarks....Wikipedia and biographies can confirm that he was far from perfect or the kind of guy you would want to be friends with or related to. He slept with his niece, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Ew.
posted by anniecat at 6:46 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Granted, perhaps Indians don't know the ins and outs of the Holocaust. But how 'bout World War II? You know WORLD WAR TWO?

The one where 2.5 million Indians fought at the behest of their colonial masters, a war where 3 million Bengalese died in a famine at least in part due to colonial misadministration/indifference/exporting food to feed the British army?

The history of India (and the other British colonies) in WWII is actually really interesting and set the stage for Gandhi's movement after the war but you really need to remember that the choice between the Britain and Germany isn't so cut and dry given the history of the British empire in India.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:54 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


I could be wrong, but I understood the British Indian Army was volunteer, not conscript? Military recruitment in India from Wikipedia
posted by alasdair at 6:55 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


From the "Mein Kampf is a best seller" link above:

"They see it as a kind of success story where one man can have a vision, work out a plan on how to implement it and then successfully complete it".

...OK, well, two out of three, but still...
posted by PlusDistance at 7:23 AM on June 18, 2010


.Wikipedia and biographies can confirm that he was far from perfect

Yes, but he was a complicated man, and lifetime spent in the pursuit of living according to certain principles, no matter how crazy it appeared.
posted by dhruva at 7:26 AM on June 18, 2010


And also I dont think that the whims of bollywood should reflect upon Indians, the bollywood industry is best known for chasing the money, rather than making any grand statement.
posted by dhruva at 7:28 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The number of people worldwide that despise Prince Asaka, who gave the go-ahead on the Nanjing Massacre, might exceed the population of the US. Yet I don't think too many people here would be up in arms over the Prince Asaka sushi bar. I know, not quite the same thing, but entire populations can have their blind spots.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:42 AM on June 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


KGB bar has a personal history, at least... it started in the guy's Ukrainian grandfather's socialist drinking club...

The weirdest part about the Hitler stuff is the outright positive things people have to say, though. They say straightforwardly that they idolize him. They say things like "the killing of the Jews was not good, but everyone has a positive and a negative side". I don't think people at KGB are talking like that...
posted by mdn at 7:46 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sure, the British Indian Massacre of 1919 was a negative, but the British had a vision and they achieved it!
posted by klangklangston at 8:20 AM on June 18, 2010


Next up: "Dear Friend Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer"

C'mon, it'll be hilarious. Just look at that name! The backing track for the Crawling Order can be yakety-sax.
posted by aramaic at 8:40 AM on June 18, 2010


ALL SINGING!

ALL DANCING!

ALL HILTER!
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 AM on June 18, 2010


I can't say anything about India, but I can say that when I lived in China I found the same sort of blank ignorance about what the Nazis actually did coupled with vague admiration for Hitler as a "great man." People actually got angry at me for suggesting that the Nazis had, in their own way, been just as terrible to the Jews, the Slavs, the Gypsies, etc. as the Japanese were to the Chinese. Apparently only one's own suffering is important, wherever you go.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:47 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Related...

1. Wikipedia: "Savitri Devi Mukherji (September 30, 1905 — October 22, 1982) was the pseudonym of the French writer Maximiani Portas. She was a proponent of Hinduism and Nazism, synthesizing the two, proclaiming Adolf Hitler an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu."

2. "The Savitri Devi Archive is a repository for writings and documents related to the philosopher and religious thinker Savitri Devi, born Maximine Portaz (1905-1982)."

3. David Tibet: "Since this New Year of 1993 I have been reflecting on questions people have asked me concerning the song Hitler As Kalki (SDM) and my views on Hitler. I am in no doubt: Hitler was Antichrist; Jesus killed Hitler - eventually... We can hope that it should have been much sooner, but for whatever reasons it was not to be. Unfortunately since Hitler's death, all around his cruel spirit lives and multiplies, and many antichrists now surround us. In the dark corners of the nightworld he and his followers wait, emerging once more and more into the day. I remember my father telling me of his experience as a member of the first British troops to enter the extermination camp of Belsen, and the hell on earth he found there. So then, perhaps this earth is hell, but it rests to us to ensure that we defend our own hearts against the call from the abyss. May all be happy; may all be aware. The Little Shining Man approaches. Terrify not Man, lest God terrify you."

4. BBC: "In the closing stages of World War II, as Allied and French resistance forces were driving Hitler's now demoralised forces from France, three senior German officers defected. The information they gave British intelligence was considered so sensitive that in 1945 it was locked away, not due to be released until the year 2021. Now, 17 years early, the BBC's Document programme has been given special access to this secret file. It reveals how thousands of Indian soldiers who had joined Britain in the fight against fascism swapped their oaths to the British king for others to Adolf Hitler - an astonishing tale of loyalty, despair and betrayal that threatened to rock British rule in India, known as the Raj."

5. Gandhi to Hitler via post: "It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success? Any way I anticipate your forgiveness, if I have erred in writing to you. I remain, Your sincere friend M. K. Gandhi."

... The remarkable book Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker [google books] [New York Times] swayed me to the idea that almost nobody had clean hands up to and during WW2. Let us hope knowing is half the battle (GIJOE!) and discussions such as this can make at least a tiny movement among a small number away from tyranny of all kinds.
posted by eccnineten at 8:53 AM on June 18, 2010 [6 favorites]


Whatever his other faults, and I'm sure there were many, calling out Gandhi for being obsequious to Hitler or for calling him a "sincere friend" in his 1939 letter is arrant nonsense.

This was a little over a month before Hitler invaded Poland. Gandhi was attempting to prevent a war which ultimately killed 60 million people by making a personal appeal to the dictator. It probably wouldn't work, but it was certainly worth a try. I think in the circumstances a note of gracious courtesy, even a little sycophancy, was appropriate in the circumstances. How do you suggest he sign off? "OMG WTF Hitler you are teh evil!!!1! kthxbi"?
posted by dontjumplarry at 9:47 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


but you really need to remember that the choice between the Britain and Germany isn't so cut and dry given the history of the British empire in India.

Are you serious?
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:29 AM on June 18, 2010


MarshallPoe: "Are you serious?"

<insert Pat Buchanan joke here>
Seriously, though, he's talking about who India had experience with up to and during the war, not a detached, objective perspective. See 1adam12's comment about cultural blind-spots.
posted by charred husk at 10:43 AM on June 18, 2010


I can imagine a Russian-themed restaurant in NYC's East Village, where the decor consists of giant kitschy posters of Stalin.

L.A. has not one but two locations of a restaurant called "Mao's Kitchen." The stupidity is mind-boggling. It's like it was founded by a Rush Limbaugh caricature of a liberal. That's like naming a place "Hitler's Public Showers."
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:25 AM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


MarshallPoe, I assume you know nothing about British Rule in India (or lived under occupation).

I think the constant demonization of Hitler is dangerous. The most important lesson for humanity from the Holocaust should be that Hitler was a man, not a monster. If one Hitler gained power once, another can again.
posted by phliar at 11:27 AM on June 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


And also I dont think that the whims of bollywood should reflect upon Indians, the bollywood industry is best known for chasing the money, rather than making any grand statement.

Yes please. I wish they could tell how embarrassed I am to have to explain that Bollywood is not really a representation of what a common person's life in India is like.
posted by anniecat at 11:34 AM on June 18, 2010


You say one good thing about Hitler...
posted by wcfields at 11:38 AM on June 18, 2010


India and Nazis - during the war, there certainly was ambivalence, given that India experienced the ravages and indignities of British imperialism, while having not experienced Nazi atrocities. Now, the Nazis are fighting the British - is it any surprise that many Indian intellectuals would be ambivalent, or outright pro-Nazi? It's human nature.

The same mechanism could be observed in Arab countries during WWII. There were Arab leaders who expressed support for Hitler - again, they didn't experience Nazi atrocities (at least early on), but certainly experienced British and French colonialism.

And what about the Baltic republics? Conquered by the Soviets, and "liberated" by the Nazis (at least that was the first impression) - sadly, many of their citizens supported the Nazis (at least initially).

Incidentally, the Nazis put in a certain amount of effort into propagandizing Indians - I've actually held a book put out by the Nazis, detailing British atrocities in India... quite a bizarre experience.
posted by VikingSword at 11:42 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This btw. is another one of the countless reasons why we should not engage in the kinds of imperial adventures we so often do, most recently under Bush. The affected people tend to turn to whoever is our enemy or whoever offers them help - even if it's the Al Qaeda. It's a lose-lose for all concerned. But expecting the likes of Bush to learn from history is asking way too much, so I guess we'll just have to muddle on.
posted by VikingSword at 11:56 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Kher's choice to do the film in the first place is interesting, although he is an incredibly prolific actor. I really enjoy him in any film I see. How, I wonder, was he drawn into this project in the first place?
posted by toodleydoodley at 12:02 PM on June 18, 2010


It's bizarre for us to see non-Westerners regard Hitler as a great man, or even merely as yet another historical figure. All the same, there is still a statue of Cromwell in London, a portrait of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, and a holiday named after Christopher Columbus. We think pirates and Vikings are cute and fun. That and my father had a copy of The Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. People are funny.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:19 PM on June 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


L.A. has not one but two locations of a restaurant called "Mao's Kitchen." The stupidity is mind-boggling. It's like it was founded by a Rush Limbaugh caricature of a liberal. That's like naming a place "Hitler's Public Showers."

Eh, it's kind of different. History has winners and losers: Mao is a winner, Hitler is a loser. Mao is certainly not regarded as a mass murderer among his own people, while Hitler is. I mean, if Lincoln had lost the civil war, would he be regarded as a war criminal today? A tyrant, with his suspension of habeas corpus? Hard to say.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:32 PM on June 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Note to Indians: when Hitler talked about Aryans, he didn't mean you guys!
posted by miyabo at 1:25 PM on June 18, 2010


Note to Indians: when Hitler talked about Aryans, he didn't mean you guys!

Tell it to Subhas Chandra Bose. I've wanted to write an FPP about him since encountering his name in Mary Kenny's book about Lord Haw Haw (they used to play chess together in the bunkers during the air raids in war time Berlin), but I haven't been able to dig up enough solid English-language sources --- it's still not clear to me exactly what his deal is in India nowadays, some of the stuff you dig up makes it seem as though he's still got a substantial cult of followers....
posted by Diablevert at 2:10 PM on June 18, 2010


Uh... I don't get this conversation in Comparative Evil. To say Hilter was not so bad compared to Stalin and Mao is completely off the point. Who fucking cares? Hilter should not be glorified in a movie - full stop.

I'd feel the same way if someone came out with a book on beautiful gardens of Pol Pot (human bones are excellent fertilizer) or Reverend Jim Jones' Recipes for Delicious Commune Living. Yeah - I get it that people are nuanced and complicated creatures - but when they commit an act of such huge overwhelming evil, then everything else is kind of overwhelmed, is it not?
posted by helmutdog at 2:21 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the strangest Bollywood films I've ever seen is Will Ko Triumph Hai - filmed in retro B&W cinematography, it features endless numbers of item girls dancing in the fields & mountains with hula hoops & so on.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:38 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


it's still not clear to me exactly what [Subhas Chandra Bose's] deal is in India nowadays, some of the stuff you dig up makes it seem as though he's still got a substantial cult of followers....

Leaving aside the vaguely orientalist implications of the 'cult' terminology, Netaji (leader) Subhas Chandra Bose's image is quite commonly seen framed on walls in India, alongside that of Gandhi, or in place of it - he was, of course, the militaristic side of the independence coin, as opposed to Gandhi's peacenik approach.

He and his men would probably have won themselves a greater place in the history books if the Japanese army - to which they had 'defected' - had armed them properly or sent them on missions that weren't completely suicidal.

It's also a nicer myth for Britain & the west, to say that they left peacefully because they couldn't stand hitting Gandhi's passive followers over the head with lathis any more, when Bose's army made it clear enough that for every khadi-clad punching bag, there was a man who was more than willing to pick up a rifle & push the war-weakened British out of the country by force if they had to.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:47 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]




Note to Indians: when Hitler talked about Aryans, he didn't mean you guys!

During the 20's-30's, there was a court case where someone was challenging the US miscegenation laws on that ground - "I'm Indian of Aryan descent, therefore, marrying a white person is not miscegenation."

Naturally, that didn't go through.
posted by yeloson at 4:40 PM on June 18, 2010


... entire populations can have their blind spots.

mdn :The weirdest part about the Hitler stuff is the outright positive things people have to say, though. They say straightforwardly that they idolize him.

eccnineten : Savitri Devi Mukherji... She was a proponent of Hinduism and Nazism, synthesizing the two, proclaiming Adolf Hitler an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.

Interesting. (Although I would have guessed an avatar of Kali)
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:01 PM on June 18, 2010


Kali is actually a self-manifested avatar of the Goddess Durga, who is herself an avatar of the supreme goddess Devi; I'm not sure if you can have an avatar of an avatar of an avatar (but at this rate, why not?)

But you weren't far off...Savitri Devi thought that Hitler was Kalki, 10th & final avatar of Vishnu, "come to end the present age of darkness and destruction known as Kali Yuga".

Current 93 wrote a lovely song about this, "Hitler as Kalki", which is written up in the List of Songs about Adolf Hitler in Adolf Hitler in Popular Culture.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:59 PM on June 18, 2010


Marshall Poe:

Granted, perhaps Indians don't know the ins and outs of the Holocaust. But how 'bout World War II? You know WORLD WAR TWO?

No. In fact, not even Britain knows about "WORLD WAR TWO". They call it "The Second World War"; a good portion of the people outside the US call it that.

Are you serious?

You do understand that you are looking at everything through the US lens, right? Occupation and oppression for hundreds of years in India probably meant nothing to you, but it meant a lot to the millions in India. I don't want to get all "Are you serious?" about you you being more outraged over this than say any given number of genocides happening now.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:42 PM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wish they could tell how embarrassed I am to have to explain that Bollywood is not really a representation of what a common person's life in India is like.

Do you actually have to explain that very often? Does anybody think that Bollywood actually represents "a common person's life in India"? From my (granted, very limited) exposure to Bollywood in general, I find it hard to believe that somebody would think that.
posted by antifuse at 12:11 PM on June 21, 2010


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