I went to watch Parasite on the penultimate day of Oscar night. Indeed, the movie is a geniotic work. As a privileged Asian, it pinched me hard through an evocative process of smiling, giggling, horrified and grimacing.
I tried to remember a few dialogues so that I can use them as quotes for social media but then, I can always Google. So, I did not bother.
Parasite won Oscar in the category of best movie, as expected. But real magic started when Bong Joon Ho (some of my friends are calling him Bong da, da being a brother in Bengali community, the suave Bongs of India) took to the stage and greeted the audience and continued with his speech in Korean. An Asian man, from this hemisphere of the world, went to the wild wide west, took to the throne and won what is revered as the quintessential best honour in the world of movie-crafting.
More amusingly, I found it out from a few butt-hurt white men fuming contempt on Twitter. Even though Bong da paid tribute to his master, Martin Scorsese. In this age of the World Wide Web, we live in a crunched space. You scream there, I hear it here! An invisible wand connects our lives fast.
Now, what is so great about Parasite? Where exactly Parasite differs from one of those cliched Asian movies depicting unrelenting poverty, overwhelming population, humans degraded to the lives of mole and living in quarters hemmed at the downward slope of the city, oftentimes underground. Drunk men piss by the lamp post. When it floods, the commode spurts out brown water from the sewerage. I gasped. Does that water contain excretion? These lives hardly matter. They fume insecticide in the area in a fashion that shows pure disdain for human lives. The Internet is a resource as necessary as water to survive the rat race and best consumed when scraped stealthily from the neighbour.
Parasite does not always squabble at the drab lanes of Seoul instead it eventually leaps into a sprawling bungalow overlooking a pretty manicured lawn. If you call a house like that your home, you are a successful human. A bungalow so pretty, you almost feel being somewhere in London or LA. All the big media houses testified to this feel, that it could a metro city in the west!
This is from India to South Korea. I just want to reassure that we have been watching Parasite like movies since decades, in a more dramatized format but yes, the same dystopian story where life in the riches is longed for, coveted yet short lived, because money is made on someone else’s peril. I have warned you already, our drama is far fetched but it screams truth nonetheless.
For example, when I saw Song Kang Ho trudging the cart with Choi Woo-shik atop, I vaguely recalled Rakhi Gulzar pushing SRK’s dad in Baazigar. The rain. The smell of an impending death. One of the first Bollywood movies I watched as a child, with Dida by my side, both hopelessly romancing the young Shah Rukh Khan. Parasite lacked the essential indie element of romance, Bong da! We may be poor, but we romance in style. 1.3 billion people thrives in this part of the world for some reason, apart from fertile waterborne economy, just saying!
Once, I was to translate, “Yeh Dilli hai mere yaar, bas Ishq Mohabbat Pyar!”. I realized it was hard to find synonyms for Ishq and Mohabbat. Pyar is love. So is Ishq. Mohabbat is no different either.
Coming back to Baazigar, there were pretty rich men with all the might and poor SRK had to fight against all that with a menacing mind to attain his “Makshad”. We are Asian, but geographically we are far apart and we prefer our loud dose of drama. So the poor man’s son pretends to be in love with the rich man’s daughter (s), manipulates but turns out a lover at the end and subsequently a Baazigar!
In the movie Parasite, the distressed family wanted to survive, without having anything specifically evil in mind, you see? Our Baazigar was treading on the lines of high pitched love-revenge drama punctuated with dancing at the gardens. I get it, Baazigar is hard to fetch critical acclaim for obvious reasons. But for a large section of people like us, whose doctor appointments often go uncalled for (or dreaded because of high fees), college education blunted, dreams shunted; Baazigar and its likes become an easy venting wind. You romance Kajol, win the princess and half of the kingdom yet let go, because we are “Diwana” in love. Unfortunately, the west is yet to understand diwana-ness, a legit emotion, helps fetch good business and can surpass the allure of Oscars.
I am digressing with Baazigar. That was not the intent though. Baazigar can never take away an iota of achievement that Parasite is crowned with!
“They’re rich but still nice,” he says, single malt churning out in his stomach. His wife is more practical. “They’re nice because they’re rich,”
Neither a film blogger, not a movie critique, I took to writing this article on the movie Parasite, because I was intrigued with Bong da’s techniques to bring out the inherent paradox of the system, stemming out of inequality, atypical folly of late capitalism. From all I could read from the first viewing of Parasite(because a movie so great deserves multiple replay), I did not see the unnecessary glorification of poverty porn.
A few days ago, someone asked which movie you need to watch before traveling to India? It was a forum intended for western women with an interest to travel to India. Suggestions hovered from Lion to Slumdog. I sighed. I mean, of course I cringe looking at K Jo’s box office smashers but Slumdog is not all of India either. I was thinking about this deeply, when Parasite came to the screen.
During runtime, I put my feet into Da Song’s shoe and camped in the pretty lawn, soon to be bloodsoaked. I watched two families fall asleep in the room, one atop the couch, sated with fondling and mating; the other fighting back snore and a fateful night’s exhaustion. All these, white the dim yellow light screams “Help Help” in Morse code, a cry comes from the deep of hell. Everything is rotten there, dark and scary. Hell is what humans fear!
Taking cue from thousands of years of human history, we can hope the prevalent skewed economy will surpass one day. Destitute’s distrust with wealth and authority will not collide with an annihilating force. We will stop feeding each other. Sun will awash a land perched high above the slums of the world, hopefully empty and flooded swiftly with the metaphorical rain.