Bazodee, a feature film starring Trinidad and Tobago’s most prominent Soca artist, Machel Montano, premiered it’s trailer in Times Square over this past weekend. Of course, fans of Montano will likely rush to theatres (a list of theaters where the movie will be playing will soon be released) in droves to support the movie that was shot in Trinidad and highlights the beautiful, multi-cultural heritage of the island as well as its natural beauty.
I, however, am having a real hard time getting as excited about the movie. Why? Well, because whoever wrote this mess is plain ignorant and racist as hell.
The movie is supposed to be a typical Bollywood-esque story, where an Indian woman who is supposed to marry a rich man is swept off her feet by an unexpected suitor, but varying elements of the tale are plain problematic. Let’s start with a few lines from the synopsis, per IMdb:
“Anita Panchouri is the doting daughter of a deep in debt Indian businessman. She’s on the verge of willingly marrying a wealthy suitor when she meets a romantic rasta singer, Lee de Leon who’s drafted last minute to perform at her engagement party. There are sparks, naturally, but Anita refuses to acknowledge them, focusing instead on playing matchmaker to a constantly bickering, secretly-in-love couple: her sarcastic cousin Poorvi and her underachieving future brother-in-law, Partiv.”
A Romantic rasta singer? Like re-f**king-ally? Can someone please explain to me what the hell a romantic “RASTA SINGER” is?
To put this into context, Machel Montano, as aforementioned, is the premiere Soca artist of the entire West Indies. In the first scene of the trailer, Machel– or Lee de Leon– is seated outside of the airport singing one of his hot tunes “Gyal Wuk,” when Panchouri approaches him and expresses that she loves that song.
“I wrote it,” he responds.
*Cue the narrator*
“For Anita everything was perfectly planned……. The right man.”
*Very light-skinned, white-looking, tall Indian man appears*
“The right future.”
*Shot of huge diamond ring*
“But on an island where everyday brings new possibilities. Life has other plans”
*Anita longingly stares at Machel Montano — Lee de Leon– when he magically shows up to her house to perform with an ukelele*
This movie is capitalizing on Machel Montano’s fame and his music while simultaneously reducing him to a jester. Well, a rasta jester. He appears here and there, with minimal talking lines, to play that forsaken uke and provide entertainment to the other obviously more important characters: the Indian woman and her friends and family.
This, of course, is a classic Bollywood-esque script. Woman getting married to rich man. Woman falls in love with other suitor who isn’t so rich. Except, that story line serves to essentially make a mockery of Trinidadian culture by reducing its music star to a secondary role, despite the fact that he is the only reason anyone would even see the movie in the first place. After all, all of these other actors– including the female indian lead– are no-name actors anyways.
And I just have to wonder WHY?
I so badly wanted to get behind a movie created in Trinidad that features various elements of Trinidadian culture. And this movie does precisely that. There are so many beautiful scenes that underscore the richness and diversity of Trini culture, from the Carnival scene, to the beating of Tassa drums and even some with classic Indian dance, all delivered in a high-quality motion picture that blows any other movie made on the twin islands out of the water. But whhhhhyyyyy? Why play into colorist stereotypes and racist tropes? Whhhyyyy?
Suffice it to say, I will still likely go to the theaters to represent and see the Caribbean represented on the big screen.
Hopefully, after watching the entire film, I may be able to reconcile these issues with it? Unlikely, but I’m not going to lie: Anything with Machel Montano in it, I’ll forever support.