Indian Movie New Jersey by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Summary, Critical Analysis And Question Answers

Indian Movie New Jersey( 1990).
Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni: A Critical analysis 

> This is a poem that speaks about the experiences of a group of Indian immigrants in New Jersey , America, who are uprooted from their cultural, social and geographical milieu, who have now become totally alienated in a new surrounding and its culture which is more or less hostile.
> So the poem deals with the theme what it feels like to be an Indian immigrant in America.
> The poem unfolds the thread of their diasporic experience, through the act of a group of Immigrants , watching an Indian movie together in a movie house , New Jersey.

Chitra Banarjee Divakaruni biography
> A distinguished Indian diasporic writer, who writes mainly on themes like migration.
> Her works are largely set in America.
> Focus is always on the expatriate experience of the South Asian immigrants 
> Born in Calcutta
> After completing Graduation in Calcutta, she migrated to United States to pursue her post graduation.
> She also managed to secure a PhD degree from the University of California 
> At present she is a professor in Creative writing at Foothill College California.
> She is also a notable social activist, co founder of Mythri- a helpline for South Migrant women facing domestic violence.
> She had been a board member of the Daya foundation too.
> Her works got published in more than 50 magazines including The North Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker etc.

Major Works of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

> Arranged Marriage. The Mistress ofSpices
> Sister of My Heart. Palace of Illusions

Major poems of Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
> Dark Like the River
> Black Candle
> Leaving Yuba City

Awards and Honours received by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
> Divakaruni has bagged numerous awards including
> The Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award
> PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Prize for fiction
> Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize 

About the poem Indian Movie New Jersey
> Published in the year 1990
> It brings out a sense of togetherness in a foreign country, 

Setting/ Backdrop
> Set in a movie hall , in New Jersey, where a group of Immigrants are watching an Indian movie which brings out the typical Indian sensibility, which is different from that of a foreign one.
> It is not just about watching a movie , but it speaks volumes about something beyond the mere experience of watching a movie.
> It also gives us a clear picture of the social conditions of that place.

> A group of Indian settlers are watching an Indian movie in a movie house situated in New Jersey, which is an American City with a large South Asian immigrant population.

> What is common among them is the culture and sensibility that they share .
> It brings out this sense of togetherness, brotherhood , in a foreign climate.

Who is the speaker in the poem? 
  Here the speaker of the poem is an Indian immigrant who is settled in New Jersey, USA

Detailed Analysis
> The very first stanza opens with the image of the Indian sex godess
> The Indian film star is compared and contrasted with the white film stars who are extremely slim, with all ribs and gaunt cheekbones.
> The Indian sex godess / actress is not slim, instead she is plump.
> When she makes her appearance, smiling plumply from behind a flowery branch, exposing her white solid tree trunk - like thighs and hips, the male viewers begin to whistle in exhilaration inside the theatre.
> Her dress is not traditional. She wears a short red skirt.

What does the representation of the heroine point to?
> The heroine is presented as a sex godess, as a plumpy ravishing figure, extremely appealing to the male viewers . This representation points to the typical Indian sensibility / Indian perspective which is in stark contrast with that of the Western Sensibility. It is such a representation of the popular world view that Indian filmstars are extremely tempting.

> As the movie progresses, the lover- hero appears on the screen , who dances to a song. His lip sync is a little bit off, but that is compensated for, for the audience are already familiar with the popular song and they sing along . That is also a pointer to Indian sensibility.

Suddenly there is a shift from the movie to the inner self of the poet 
                 'It is safe here' is an ambiguous statement
It can either be interpreted as a personal experience where The speaker feels that she is far away from her worries and feels safe in the movie house when surrounded by her own people.( A kind of stream of consciousness)

> The second interpretation can be like the setting of the song in the movie might have switched to Kashmir, which presents an idealised representation of Kashmir, which is the opposite in reality.
>  In reality Kashmir is a violence ridden area , a land of conflicts with no serenity and peace.
> But in the movie song, Kashmir and its beautiful Dal Lake ,the jewel of Srinagar is presented as ideal.
> One can spot roses on every bush as if in the spring season. 
> The climate too is so appealing. 
> Indeed it's a feast to all senses. 
> So the poet feels that the Kashmir presented in the movie is so safe to dwell in.
> But the irony is that in reality, Kashmir is not that safe .

What does the line ' rose on every bush and the Dal Lake clean again mean?
  It is an idealised image of Kashmir, with a warm, soothing climate with roses in every bush as if in springtime, a place which is so peaceful to live in. But in reality it is not like that. Kashmir is the land of conflicts.

Stanza 2
> The song is over 
> Now the Sex godess begins to speak
> She switches to thickened English , to cut a joke, which is the typical Indian English speech that is stressed and her words are slightly mispronounced too.
> The audience laughs and applauds in sheer appreciation.
> The speaker says that there is no need to get embarrassed by the mispronounced phrases dropping like hot lead into foreign ears, because there are no foreigners present. 
> The audience is Indian.
> The Indian English speech variant may appear awkward to a foreign ear , but here there is no need for such embarrassment, for there are no foreigners present .
> Once again there is a shift from the movie to the inner thoughts of the speaker, a kind of stream of consciousness where the speaker presents all her thoughts as it comes .
It is typical of modernity in literature 

     " The flickering…
        ...daughters who date on the sly"

> It is an indication of the changes both cultural and social that have occured, against their wish.
> The movie offers them a momentary relief from the problems that have occurred as a result of the cultural encroachment that they face .
> The mixing up of both cultures is not always that good as we believe it to be.
> It is clearly seen in the hairstyles of their sons , especially their mohawks and their refusal to take up the responsibility of family.
> It is evermore evident in their daughters' secret dates, which is indeed a negative impact of the dominant host culture over their culture .
> So the life of immigrants in America is not as smooth as we believe to be. There are grave issues .

Stanza 3
> Now it's the climax.
> At the end the hero dies for his close friend who also loves the sex godess,a typical Indian movie with an easily predictable climax.

Even the men clear their throats to say 
            " What qurbani! What dosti!".

> The hero sacrifices his life and love for his friend, which exerts a cathartic effect on the audience .
> As a result the audience feel pity for the poor hero and even the male audience clear their throats.
> Once again there is a display of Indian values and thoughts, which is an indicator of Indian sensibility.
> The movie is over 
> But they mill around, showing reluctance to go home .
> This movie hall has become a kind of public sphere , where they are free to discuss their concerns , tastes ,interests and even a place where they can even boast about their achievements.
> Normally they don't speak of grave issues , instead they talk casually about some good news, the purchase of a new gold chain or a trip to India 
> But they deliberately shut their eyes to more severe issues those Indian immigrants face in America.

The problems faced by Indian Immigrants in USA 
> Motel raids , where foreign settlers are targeted.
> Cancellation of travel permits.- their travel passes are cancelled for no reason.
> Attacks and assaults

Sometimes the houses of immigrants are targeted and attacked by throwing stones.

> A group of racist gangs targeting South Indians. They are raped by these groups.
> So in short Asian settlers are met with a racist treatment.
> So a dark side of their life in America is revealed here.
> The irony is that they don't speak of these grave issues, instead the discuss petty issues.
> There is a conscious effort from their part to shut their eyes against the atrocities.

Stanza 4
> They only speak about pleasant things like making match for their daughters, business deals or planning a yellow, two storied retirement home in India with wrought iron gates, owning an ambassador car etc 
> Two storied yellow houses and ambassador cars are indicators of luxury . 
> The wrought iron gate is yet another indicator of their safety concerns, owing to the insecure living conditions they had in America.

Or sometimes their topics of discussion include plans of relocating to areas that are thickly populated by Indian immigrants like Summer field or Fort Lee, where they will have friendly neighbours.
> So this is all what they talk about, discarding the real issues they face in their host country.
> They are lulled into a kind of passive acceptance..

> So the movie hall has become an escapade for them from the harsh realities. 

> In the last lines the speaker says that Values like Success, love , luck , sacrifice etc can only be found in movies but not in reality. 
> The speaker feels these values have been reduced to mere movie truths and cannot be realised in real life. 
> People migrate to different countries like the USA with great expectations but they are disappointed once, they realise that these places are void of any values.
> America was a Utopia to them . But once they started living there it's culture and value system disappointed them.


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