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Reel/ Real Medievalism

June 30, 2010 Bloggies by


The other day, thanks to a friend,stumbled on to an article on Medievalism,Real vsReel ( The author dwelt upon how the onscreen (read Hollywood) interpretations of the Middle Ages digressed from the actual (read recorded) history. Still the postmodern interpretation of history as continuum prevails and film as one of its legitimate artistic toolsis given creative licence for its own representation, though be at variance with the "academic" facts.

Armed with the insight, watched the "Prince of Persia" skip, slash and swing his way through formidable opposition on his way to rescuing the world and gaining a princess to boot. Let alone the critics that decried the casting that denied an actor of middle-eastern originthe title role, what struck my fancy was the "standing ovation" accorded to none other than the King of Persia. The recurrent citation of "Tax free" income by the dubious associates of the protagonist could be taken as the modern interpretation as in the article mentioned earlier. But what set me thinking werethese:

Do actors have to be of that particular race/ region to take on a role? Recent reminders: resistance at the New Zealander Russel Crowe "affecting" an accent appropriate for "Robin Hood," grumble at Angelina Jolie playing Cleopatra in an upcoming project. (Also casting in the "Prince of Persia" as cited above)

Alongside please line up all the foreign (mostly British) characters that we have seen "captured on film" in Indian movies for instance. For instance, the malayalam movie "Pazhassi Raja" shows so skinny, famished, haggard Britishers that begs the question of their military "might." Even patriotic classics like "Veluthampi" show them in a derisive light with laughable mastery of the local tongue. Frankly the accents and language of some current anchors of the malayalam reality shows could give these stilted characters a run for their money. Still, doesn't the portrayal of foreigners pose the same problem when taken in a broader sense?

So the final question is, if races/ regionalmandates take precedence over casting in films, would we have to avoid any character who is not of our race/ region/ language?

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Comments (1)

  • Jun 30, 2010
    The issue is that of portraying the Other. The Medieval, the Middle Eastern, the "foreign" are all our professed Others,you see.

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