If there was once and again a successful musical Springtime for Hitler, then why not a Bollywood musical melodrama where he might get to chase Eva (in a wet saree?) around a tree, singing and dancing with an ensemble of colorfully (or khaki?) clad dancers?
But no. It seems Bollywood’s first attempt at a Hitler biopic will not be a musical (let alone satirical send-up) but a romance-drama focusing on, among other things, “Hitler’s love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence”!!! Really!!
I know fascism fascinates many people in India, and some there long for a dictatorship given the messiness of Indian politics (imagining themselves, of course, being in the dictator’s favor). Gandhi and his nonviolence are no longer fashionable, nor Nehru’s non-alignment (which Oliver Stone was longing for just last night on Bill Maher’s show), as various fundamentalisms and communalisms fight it out, often bloodily, over the country’s battered secular fabric. And people’s memories in India are as short as anywhere, if not shorter, when it comes to history, but surely, a Hitler hagiography is going too far?!
I have to agree with the concerns expressed in this Guardian Film Blog:
Western productions have occasionally attempted to make fun of Hitler, ranging from successes like The Producers to fiascos like Heil Honey, I’m Home. But Dear Friend Hitler is not a traditional Bollywood musical, and makes no claim to comedy. “It aims to capture the personality of Adolf Hitler and his insecurities, his charisma and his paranoia during the last few days of his life,” Kumar says. In other words, this is Downfall – but with a positive spin.
For many westerners, Hitler remains history’s ultimate evil. In India, awareness of the Holocaust is limited. Characters in Bollywood films jokingly refer to bossy family members as “Hitler” – provoking a sharp intake of breath from many western viewers, who associate Hitler with crimes significantly worse than telling you to do your chores. In 2006, a Nazi-themed cafe opened in Mumbai with the name Hitler’s Cross. Bollywood actor Murli Sharma attended the launch party. Asked whether he found the name troublesome, he said: “I am not really agitated as I have not read much about the man. However, from what I know about Hitler, I find this name rather amusing.”
Dear Friend Hitler has not yet been made, and it is too early to say whether it will be any good or not. What can be said is that the reported comments of Kumar and one of his producers display a shocking ignorance of historical fact. Kumar’s assertion that Hitler had a “love for India”, and his producer’s statement that “if we should thank anybody for Indian freedom, it should be Hitler”, are not merely misguided – they are completely wrong.
What do you think?