Sepia Mutiny chronicles the outrage of the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti concerning Mike Myers’ upcoming film The Love Guru. The organization provides a helpful table explaining exactly how you’ll be punished if you take in the flick:

Act

Demerit

Means

Making the movie, ‘The Love Guru’

30 units

2nd region of Hell for 1000 years
Watching it for entertainment without knowing the spiritual science/significance

2 units

Nether region (Bhuvaloka) for 100 yrs
Watching it for entertainment even after knowing the spiritual science/ significance

5 units

1st region of Hell for 100 yrs
Being a seeker of God/on the spiritual path, knowing about the Movie, but doing nothing to stop it

5 units

1st region of Hell for 100 yrs
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 King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters lost at the Oscars, but boy is it winning on Netflix — it’s the No. 1 on-demand video they offer.

Watched it last night, and it was just so winning. Incredibly dorky, but winning. Steve Wiebe forever! Billy Mitchell and Brian Kuh are douches! More on competitive videogaming here

A piece by Salman Rushdie, “The Shelter of the World,” ran in last week’s New Yorker, and while I didn’t find the story (a tale of Emperor Akbar and maybe-real, maybe-imaginary wife Jodha) as gripping as I have some of his work, one passage jumped out at me:

“The court was also full of foreigners, pomaded exotics, weather-beaten merchants, narrow-faced priests from the West, boasting in ugly, undesirable tongues about the majesty of their lands, their gods, their kings. When the Emperor showed her the pictures of their mountains and valleys they’d brought with them, she thought of the Himalayas and of Kashmir and laughed at the foreigners’ paltry approximations of natural beauty, their vaals and aalps, half-words to describe half-things. Their kings were savages, and they had nailed their god to a tree. What did she want with people as ridiculous as that?

They came in search of—what, exactly? Nothing of use. If they had possessed any wisdom, the inutility of their journeying would have been obvious to them. Travel was pointless. It removed you from the place in which you had a meaning, and to which you gave meaning in return by dedicating your life to it, and spirited you away into fairlylands where you were, and looked, frankly absurd.

Not sure whether it’s happenstance or by calculation, but Rushdie’s not the only person who’s got something to say about the erstwhile emperor. Jodhaa Akbar, a Bollywood flick billed as “a sixteenth-century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa,” debuted on February 15 and has been in the news ever since, not least because its historical accuracy has been called into question. The Times gave it a fairly good review, but people in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Sonepat, and Ambala will have to wait for pirated VCDs of Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Cecil B. DeMille-esque grasp of cinematic grandeur.

The Times of India offers a fairly good precis of recent controversies related to Bollywood releases; the Hindustan Times also chimes in with analysis of the phenomenon.

Mass hysteria, the making of a mountain out of a molehill? Or a microcosm of a deep sense of unrest about (historical and contemporary) identity in India? I can’t say that I have any answers, or even insight. But Bollywood — and artistic expression, disciplined studies or street-level outpourings — does, however, seem like an important vehicle for understanding the subcontinent; I certainly find it, and the way people in the middle class interact with it, more enlightening than figures from the World Bank about the economy’s growth.

Additional links:
Bollywood literacy for the 1990s and today, a Berkeley course coordinated by Leena Kamat and Katherine Good
Hindi cinema: making meaning of a popular culture
Desi critics
Queering Bollywood
Bollywood as India’s cultural ambassador
Bollywood for the skeptical
Upperstall: a better view of Indian cinema
Bollywood fashion police
BollySpace 2.0
Beth loves Bollywood

One of my inimitable colleagues is, in addition to being an editor extraordinaire, a screenwriter/playwright. This weekend, one of his films will be presented:

Tomorrow Always Comes — A 1940’s campy film noir sex romp comedy thriller. Harlem, Chinatown, Park Ave. It’s the same old story. Boy meets girl, boy gets dead, girl gets rich. Real rich.
By Royston Scott and Jacob Burckhardt
The Professor and His Improper Potion — A four-minute epic of love found and lost.
By Royston Scott and Jacob Burckhardt
Duet For Spies — A story of doubt and deniability, a dark post-cold war comedy of individual and institutional delusions becoming the same.
By Jim Neu and Jacob Burckhardt

These are the details about when and where it’s all going down:

February 2, 2008, 8 p.m.
Millennium Film Workshop
66 E. 4th Street, between 2nd Avenue and Bowery
$8 ($6 for members)
Information/reservations: 212-673-0090