Arriving in Kalleda it feels as though we have traveled back in time. Men with turbans and huge mustaches wander the estate grounds, tiger skins hang on the walls, servants in traditional dress await orders, and feudal landlords harass poor peasants about money. Oh wait, that’s just the period piece being filmed at the school!
A big name director of Indian films that delve into local social issues both new and old apparently decided that the ancient estate which now functions as Kalleda Rural School was the perfect setting for his newest film. It would have been interesting to get his take on the relevance of the social issues addressed in the movie to the local village in which he was filming. After all, as Vandita pointed out, he is using a different medium to work towards the same goal of raising awareness regarding current problems in the society.
However, an enlightening discussion was soon out of the question when, during pleasantries, the director found out that Liza and I are American. He promptly went off on a diatribe about how America had really belonged to the “red men” and was settled by the British so how could we claim to be Americans? Liza politely pointed out that he had asked “What country do you come from?” not “What country do your ancestors come from?” An important distinction, but at the end of the day I don’t think that I should have to defend my American identity to anyone. Besides, my ancient ancestors aren’t British, my Mum is! A genuine conversation about what it means to be “American” and the intricacies and social repercussions of that definition would be another matter entirely, but that wasn’t on the director’s agenda.