TV & Movies

Ugh, the Trailer for Brie Larson's New Film Basmati Blues Is All Kinds of Wrong


Brie Larson surrounded by Indian children in the film Basmati Blues

Update: Following the controversy around the Basmati Blues trailer, producer Monique Caulfield and filmmaker Dan Baron gave this statement to The Playlist“We deeply regret any offense caused by the Basmati Blues trailer. We have heard a number of voices that have understandably reacted to a trailer that is not representative of the film as a whole. Unfortunately, the international trailer has given the wrong impression of the film’s message and heart. This movie is not about an American going abroad to solve India’s problems. At its heart, this film is about two people who reach across cultures, fight against corporate greed, and find love. Basmati Blues is an ensemble musical romantic comedy. The film explores our responsibility for our actions and for each other, and attempts to do it in a disarming way, using music, comedy and romance. Basmati Blues is a love letter to multiple eras of Bollywood cinema, musicals, and classic Hollywood romantic comedies. We are confident that the film, when seen in its entiretywill bear out our appreciation and respect for India and its people.”

How are we having this conversation yet again?

A trailer recently dropped for a new film called Basmati Blues and it is straight up making my melanin crawl.

While its title might suggest that the film is about some sort of gluten-intolerant blues band, don’t be fooled folks. This movie is about the glorious gift that is America, and its ability to save us all—oh, and it’s about rice. Let me set the scene.

The trailer begins with the godlike voice of Donald Sutherland announcing that his company needs to send someone to India that Indians can believe in. Enter Arundhati RoyLaxmi Agarwal, Deepa Mehta Brie Larson. OK, cool. Now that the trailer has firmly established that this film is unabashedly about some sort of white saviour complex, we don’t have to feel weird about shots of Larson literally riding a white horse to save the poor villagers.

The premise of the film appears to be that Sutherland’s evil GMO rice company sends Linda (Larson), one of the company’s scientists, to India to sell their product to rural rice farmers. Unbeknownst to Linda, however, the GMO grains she is peddling are actually sterile and will destroy the farmer’s crops.

The trailer basically feels like an ad for one of those voluntourism trips everyone takes in their early 20s. Head on over to an “exotic” country, meet some locals, take some pics and go home telling people how “cultured” you are. “India’s this exciting journey,” says Larson in the trailer, creating the perfect tagline for the Western Saviour tourism company.

And during her “exciting journey,” Larson hits all the main attractions on the brochure for cultural clichés. She eats Indian food and is surprised that it is spicy. She engages with local wildlife, a.k.a. gets kicked in the heinie by a street goat. Oh, and then…AND THEN…she dons a sari and does a choreographed dance number. Because what is a movie set in India without a full-on Bollywood dance break? Except that if you’ve ever seen a real Indian movie, you know that Basmati Blues is nowhere close to worthy of being in the same category as true Bollywood films. 

The movie also stars Utkarsh Ambudkar, who has appeared in Pitch PerfectThe Mindy ProjectWhite Famous and let’s be real, a few of my dreams. This dude is mega-talented and LOL-worthy so it is deeply disappointing to see him fall into what looks like a stereotypical Indian role, complete with an accent reminiscent of Mike Myers in The Love Guru. (Also for some illogical reason, as Hindustan Times points out, Ambudkar and the other Indian farmers speak perfect English, even when amongst themselves.) 

Aziz Ansari tlaking about accents in Master of None

(Credit: Giphy)

On one hand, it seems promising that so far, the film has only been released in Sweden, and does not yet have a distributor in North America. BUT the real problem is that it was made in the first place. It’s like cooking a stew out of meat that is no longer fresh—just because you don’t serve that poisonous mess to the masses doesn’t justify the fact that you thought it was OK to make it in the first place. It was trash to begin with.

To be completely fair, this film was made in 2014. That was before Larson took a serious stand for survivors of sexual assault and won an Oscar, and around the time that Ambudkar still only had bit parts to his name. TBH, with the big-budget backing of this film, I can see why these actors—who, at the time, were basically the people from a movie that you saw but couldn’t name to save your life—ignored their inner Jiminy Cricket and signed on for these lead roles (except you Sutherland, you should’ve known better).

It’s not them. It’s Hollywood. And unfortunately, when it comes down to it, this trailer is simply same, same and not different.

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