Review on Mississippi Masala

Response Paper on Mississippi Masala (1991): the impact of racism and race in the identities of the characters The themes of racial identities & interracial racism are ones that surface multiple times in the movie Mississippi Masala (1991) by Mila Nair. In the beginning of the film, we notice Jay’s resentment of having to leave his country Uganda. Jay argues with his childhood friend Okelo that he has “been called a boot licker and a traitor to Indians… Uganda is my first home and India my second”. It saddens Jay that after 34 years of his life it all came down to the “color of [his] skin”.
His childhood friend reminds him that “Africa is for Africans… black Africans”. The exile of South Asians, which is enforced by military leader Idi Amin, tarnishes the view of the African culture for Jay. He, along with the other South Asians that are forced to leave, turns his back to the African culture he grew up and welcomes the Indian culture in American land. Jay even goes as far as not saying goodbye to his brother-like friend Okelo treating him with a cold shoulder. Jay fails to realize that his friend’s close mindedness is not one to blame for the ignorance that was going around in Uganda.
Another instance where race and the color of the skin create bias is at the wedding of Mina’s cousin, where two ladies are gossiping. The ladies comment on Mina’s dark complexion, noting that one cannot be “dark and without money and expect to get with Harry”. Notice the appraisal for a fair or light skin color. This racism, coming from within the culture, is an example of the struggle that Mina and the family face. Because she is a ‘darkie’ and poor, she cannot expect to woo the heart of the rich Indian bachelor Harry.

Racisms is used as a double-edged sword; best seen when Uncle Jammubhai says that “people of color stick together…united we stand, divided we fall” yet regards blacks as ‘foreigners’ and troublesome if they tarnish the family’s honor. Mina’s relationship with an African American is a parent’s “ultimate fear” since it involves the South Asian daughter marrying someone who is neither Indian nor White. There are also cases of racial identities that become affected by the events that transpire. Mina regards herself as ‘masala’ which is symbolic in regards to the title of the movie.
Masala is a mixture of spices, which we can take to represent her South Asian heritage. However, Mina was born and raised for part of her childhood in Uganda, so she also has African roots. ‘Mississippi Masala’ represents a mixture of American and South Asian roots. While in exile from her first home Uganda, and being raised through Indian culture, which she is geographically disconnected from, Mina learns to simultaneously welcome the American culture and its ideals as well. In other words, Mina is embracing the hybridity of cultures.
This case is seen best when we see her fit just right at her cousins wedding and the African American dance club. Mina welcomes diversity and constructs her identity based on ideals from her present. Mina cares not to make the same mistake as her father and pursues and interracial relationship with African-American rug cleaner Demetrius. However both communities don’t take their union as light matter. The Indian community regards their love as a “dishonor and shame” to the family, with some mothers going as far calling it a ‘rebellion’ and sending their daughters to their countries to get married.
Demetrius, who worked hard to create his cleaning company, gets a cold shoulder from his clients. The white lady, who gave a good recommendation of him to the bank, withdraws her good comments about him, and gets the bank to threaten to remove his loan. His aunt Rose says that ‘the days of slavery are over…[but]the world is not so quick to change”. She is referring to the racism and the pointing of the fingers that occurs when one goes outside the norm of what is expected.

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