JFK and the Kama Sutra

Can watching a movie teach you about human history? It might do if the filmmaker can resist the temptation to make stuff up. I remember once seeing a film about President Kennedy, who is famous in the jungles of the Africa for sending chimpanzees into space. As an alpha male gorilla, I often use the president’s famous sayings to inspire my band. “Ask not what I can do for you, ask what you can do for me” is one of my favourites.

After seeing this movie, called JFK, I was seething with righteous anger. It appeared that the noble president had been gunned down by treacherous blackguards in the US government, who then framed a goof called Oswald for the murder. But when I complained to Dr Whipsnade about it, he told me that the film was complete poppycock. He said that the maker of JFK was a guy called Oliver Stoned who had spent most of the 1960s high on pot. Rather than tell the truth, Mr Stoned had invented a lot of hooey to make a bogus political point.

At first I was disinclined to believe Dr Whipsnade, whom I suspect of holding reactionary opinions on a variety of topics. But then I watched a
BBC documentary which confirmed that the film was indeed full of falsehoods. Far from being a “patsy”, Oswald was an expert marksman with a history of violence and extremism. He also shot a policeman who had dared to ask him where he was when the president got his head blown off. All of which seems pretty damning to me.

At first, I put this episode down to one bad director who told lies because he was a pothead on a political vendetta. But then I went to another movie which suggested that filmmakers are constantly blurring the line between fact and fiction. It was called
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, which I saw in a cinema with Ranjit Ram, the Indian knife-thrower. Ranjit hoped the film would teach me something about the history and culture of his country, but I must admit I was more interested in learning about human mating positions.

The first mating scene occurred early in the movie, as one would expect. But when the sultry servant girl wrapped her thighs around the prince, Ranjit stood up and started walking towards the aisle.

“I am going!” he announced angrily.

I naturally followed him out of courtesy, which provoked a fair amount of hissing and muttering from the people whose view I was blocking. When we arrived at the exit, Ranjit turned around and made the following defiant proclamation:

“This film you are watching has NOTHING to do with India!”

We then made a hasty exist amid a groundswell of shushing and cursing from the exasperated audience.

After we had left the cinema, Ranjit explained what had upset him. It was not the mating scene, as such, but the fact that the seduction had occurred on the day of the prince’s wedding. The idea that an Indian of noble birth would debase himself in this fashion before his betrothal to a princess struck him as a monstrous lie, and a slur on all things Indian. He said he was going to picket the cinema on the next showing of the movie, and I agreed to join him out of a sense of solidarity and loyalty. He made a sign for himself saying “DON’T WATCH THIS FALSE FILM”, while I agreed wear to sandwich boards with the words “AN INDIAN WEDDING IS NOT A JOKE” on one side and “AN INDIAN PRINCE IS NOT A GOAT” on the other.

As luck would have it, a journalist from a local newspaper had come to see the film and briefly asked Ranjit a few questions with his notebook in hand. When the journalist suggested that movie directors should be allowed a bit of artistic licence to make their films more interesting, Ranjit replied:

“Showing one nonsense after another is not art! Filmmakers who insult our history must learn we are not accepting these bullshits quietly!”

You’ve got to admit he has a point.

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