10 Indian Movies With White Girls to Start a Discussion

I’m loving this “start a discussion” criteria!  No need for perfection or judgement, just something to talk about.  So, let’s talk!  New topic, white girls in Indian films.  Not the best examples, not the most examples, just some examples.  And bonus, most of these characters show up for a song for 90% of their screen time.  So you can join in the discussion as soon as you watch the songs!  No need to limit yourself to movies you have seen.

Love Aaj Kal

One of my favorite white woman!  A rebound girlfriend, but one treated with respect by the film, and by the hero.  No, she isn’t the love of his life.  But she was more than just sex, they had a genuine connection. And she had enough self-respect to break things off with him when she saw that he wasn’t in love with her.  Although, she is also shown to be flirty and aggressive with him, fascinated by India, and less funny and understanding and “perfect” than the Indian girlfriend.  Is that because of white girl stereotypes, or just this one character in this one film and what makes sense for her?

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Another great white woman!  A vacation relationship, nothing more, but with genuine feelings involved.  And when he tried to blame her for his failures, she didn’t accept it and he genuinely apologized later.  They ended things with mutual respect and understanding and caring. But on the other hand, she never comes up again for the rest of the film.  And the implication is that she distracted him from his goals.  So is this a fun little romance they both went into with their eyes open, or is she supposed to be a “mistake”?  And would she have been minimized to just a “mistake” if she was an Indian woman?

Kabhi Alveda Na Kehna

Now this film, a bit trickier.  There is a whole song sequence reducing woman to white skin and blue eyes, complete with back up dancers.  And we see over and over again that Amitabh uses white women for his sexual adventures, not Indian.  For most of the film, white women are pure sex and objectification in contrast to Indian women who are wives and mothers.  But then, at the very end, Abhishek is shown happily marrying a white woman.  So, what’s up with that?  That’s my discussion question, “what’s up with that?”

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

Bet you don’t remember who the white woman is in this, do you?  It’s Kalki!  She doesn’t always play white, but she does in this.  Late in the film, at her wedding, we see her clearly white mother giving her wedding blessings.  In real life of course, Kalki is of European heritage but was born and raised in India, which lets her directors be flexible in how they want to handle her.  But why in this particular movie did they specify her character as white?  Is it part of her whole tomboy awkward character?  Being betwixt and between and outside of both white and Indian cultures?  Or is it just a nice small moment in a wedding song to gesture towards Kalki’s true heritage and her character would have been identical if she had played full Indian heritage?

Bangalore Days

Can’t find the clip online from the movie, but here’s Paris Laxmi performing in real life

This is barely a character, but it is a very careful use of the “white girl” character.  Nivin spends the whole movie idealizing the imagined past, including the perfect “traditional” Malayali wife.  He thinks he has found it in Isha Talwar, but her perfect surface (sari, speaking Malayalam) hides a modern inside.  And in the end he marries Paris Laxmi, a character we just see briefly earlier, living in his building, and puzzling him since she is a French woman who came to Kerala to study their culture and loves it more than many native Keralites.  Paris Laxmi, in real life, is a French woman who fell in love with Kathakali dance and dedicated her life to it, opening a school and so on.  So, essentially her character in the film.  What is the meaning of this?  The white woman who understands and appreciates Indian culture, who ends up being a more compatible spouse for a traditional Indian guy than the Indian woman is?

Pyaar Main Twist

This is just a cameo, but it’s a fairly big name cameo.  Baby Spice shows up in the middle of a song and inspires all the male characters to sing to her.  Including the groom at this engagement party who ignores his fiancee.  And Dimple Kapadia, the brides mother, who laughs and indulges them.  A white woman is a non-threatening temptation in this context.  Because she would never be a challenge to the marriage relationship, that would never be offered her?  Or because a white woman “doesn’t count”, it’s an understandable male urge?  Or something else?

Dear Zindagi

I screenshotted it for us!  Look how white she is. And you can see thumbnails of other photos of them together and the words “girlfriend” and “family”, all creating these fleeting feeling that he was part of an interracial couple.  Why?

This is a very small one, which makes it an even more interesting choice because it could so easily NOT have been included.  Alia researches her therapist Shahrukh and finds an old photo of him with a white woman, presumably his ex-wife.  It’s part of Shahrukh’s character that he is divorced and lives separately from his son, adds a layer to the care he has for Alia as his patient and the understanding he has for her sadness.  But why does she have to be white?  Is it really just shorthand for saying that his son lives overseas with her?  Or is there something else?  Is it about Shahrukh being too sensitive and farseeing to be happy in a traditional Indian marriage, thus marrying a white woman?  Is it about Shahrukh being more understanding of the never-ending patterns of Indian families because he wasn’t in fact able to throw off his Indian heritage and make the interracial marriage work?  Or is it something else?

Purab Aur Paschim

Oh my gosh this sequence is SO WEIRD!!!  The 60s were SO WEIRD!!!  I don’t think I can watch this without feeling mildly drugged

One of the first white woman to have a significant role in an Indian film (well, white-in-her-character, many of the early actresses were of European heritage).  The evil Prem Chopra has abandoned his dutiful Indian wife and is flirting around with a white woman in London.  But when she learns of his Indian wife that is pining for him, she arranges so that their “wedding” in a park in London with Hare Krishna’s turns into a remarriage of him with his wife.  She is last scene dancing off across the fields.  On the one hand, her character is used to affirm the importance of Indians marrying Indians (Prem Chopra should never be with her, even if they love each other).  But on the other hand, she is a good sacrificing person.  Over all, good portrayal or bad portrayal?  I just don’t know!

Patiala House

I debated including this one, but finally decided it still counts.  Anushka’s character is clearly established as half-white.  That’s why she has never been fully accepted in the desi community, her father married a white woman.  She is one of them, but also not quite one of them.  And this half-white character is played by a fully-Indian actress (well “fully”, no idea what her heritage is going back generations, but certainly her immediate parents both identified as “Indian” racially).  Is this an overly optimistic view of the struggles of a mixed race child?  Especially casting a fully Indian actress to play it?  Or is it accurate, that sometimes a mixed race child can turn out stronger and able to see more clearly both sides of their heritage?

Salaam Namaste

On the one hand, you have a traditional couple who meet and fall in love and marry and get pregnant.  And on the other hand, you have the couple who move in together, have sex outside of marriage, never plan a serious future, and then end up having a baby out of wedlock.  Now, which of these couples do you think will have the white woman?  That alone makes this film interesting, the choice to have Arshad Warsi’s best friend character fall in love with a white woman instead of a desi one and make this mixed race couple the one that plays out the “traditional” relationship while the 100% desi one is the one that has the untraditional relationship.  Is she white just because the film is set in Australia and it seems to make logical sense?  Or was their more thought put into it, a deeper meaning?

33 thoughts on “10 Indian Movies With White Girls to Start a Discussion

  1. `
    This is a little off point, but I’m fascinated how wrong movies get the subtleties of a character from a different culture or time. For example, I lived through the 60’s but when I see a current movie that portrays the 60’s I’m often screaming at the screen, “No, that’s NOT how it was. Nobody would have worn blue jeans like that! and that “long hair” is the WRONG kind of long hair” etc., etc.

    I know English viewers of the 1964 Mary Poppins movie found the Dick Van Dyke terribly irritating and just wrong as a cockney character.

    What bothers me is this could be fixed. Why not get somebody who knows the culture do the casting, costuming, etc., for those aspects?

    Or maybe they don’t care since the target audience won’t know the difference?

    Like

    • Having worked a bit in theater costuming, I can tell you that not everyone has the inclination to do careful research. Sometimes they are just basing their designs on other productions or, even worse, on fashion magazines. I lived during the 60s, too, and am positive that no one in my orbit looked like something out of Vogue magazine.

      Like

  2. Another example of a white woman is in Rang De Basanti and the way she’s used is very interesting because the students are ignorant of their own history and she’s the one who comes in from outside and sparks their awakening. But once the Indians wake up and start on the plans that lead to the final tragedy she sort of drops out of the narrative. She got it all going but then it becomes their story, not hers.

    Like

    • Just to play devil’s advocate, she also is strangely made “Indian” in order to be an acceptable spouse for Aamir, going from a white woman who speaks Hindi to fully wearing a dupatta on her head and so on by the end.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 12:26 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  3. I LOVE THIS POST, because white women in indian movies is something I always search for and almost always it’s done wrong.

    Dear Zindagi – I’m sure they decided to make SRK’s wife white because it make us see him differently. He is not some boring type, he traveled the world, married white woman, knows the life outside India etc.

    There is a white women in Ustad Hotel too, and how she is presented is the reason I didn’t like the movie at all. As usuall she is characterless, unfaithfull and can stay without man few days. Nithiya Menen’s character for me is much more annoying but she is Indian, so she is perfect wife material, while the white girl gets rejected by Dulquer’s sisters only because she’s white.

    Very interesting case of white woman is in Aattakatha (malayalam). The movie is ODD and I don’t recommend it, but at least the girl is not that bad and she has big role. Of course, indian writers think white girls without bad habits don’t exsist, but her only bad habit is smoking (which she later quits because saintly hero tell her to do it). Besides smoking she is very normal, good person with the passion for Kathakali and malayalam (that’s why I watched it). She later falls in love with the hero, and after some time they have sex once, but she is not shown as a easy, frivolous woman, and I really appreciated that. what a pity the movie later goes bonkers and obody watched it.

    Like

    • I was thinking about you when I was writing it, because I know it interests you.

      So, in Dear Zindagi, “was with a white woman” is just general shorthand for “completely open minded and accepting”? Like, being in a cross-racial relationship is the biggest possible marker of not caring what people think?

      Thanks for reminding me about the white woman in Ustad Hotel! She’s a perfect example of the “typical” white woman character. Seductive and desirable, crazed for Indian men, stealing “our” Indian boys, but eventually revealing their shallowness and incompatibility and lack of worth as true Indian wives. Or else used just as a hook-up with the implication that all’s fair because eventually they would reveal their shallowness and so on so why even try for a real relationship. Versus Bhaag Milkha Bhaag or Love Aaj Kal, where it was just a relationship with a person that ended mutually. And then there is Namaste London, where it cut the other way with the evil desirable shallow white man, but that is super rare.

      I was also thinking writing this post about how many actually real life “white” women act in Indian films but never play their own race. Amy Jackson, for instance, could easily have been written as of European heritage in I, she’s playing a beautiful successful international model who has no large family behind her. Just make her the daughter of two white people who lived in India and nothing would have significantly changed. The few times an actresses joint heritage is acknowledged I find really interesting. Another example I could have used was Katrina in Baar Baar Dekho, which was a wonderful character. British mother, Indian father, lived in England and then India, embraced both parts of her heritage. Only I decided Anushka was more interesting to consider because Patiala House is all about identity and Baar Baar Dekho isn’t so much.

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 2:25 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • Yes, in Dear Zindagi marrying non-Indian means being open-minded and more important – not follow traditional way of making things. Which is how Alia’s character was too.

        Raabta – there is no white girl character but when SSR goes to Budapest his mother says: don’t date white girls! I was so mad at her.

        ABCD (malayalam) – the beginning of this movie is sooooo bad one almost doesn’t notice Dulquer’s white girlfriend who’s only job is to stay in bad in sexy nightgown waiting for men.

        Like

        • Oh oh! There is one in Raabta! His colleague at work that he romances as a special challenge, and then takes to Kriti’s chocolate shop and she is snotty and basic and he dumps her for Kriti.

          On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 4:16 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

          >

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Neal n Nikki has several white people, men and women, playing pivotal roles in the script. But the key difference is that the white people are Canadians and the entire movie takes place in Canada (British Columbia), so it’s the Indians playing on their turf, not visa versa. The white people were your typical good-looking average-IQ plot-device characters that you encounter in any light rom-com; they didn’t represent anything either unsavory or enlightened by dint of their being white. Maybe it worked so well because the two Indian lead characters were equally flawed and real and average-IQ as the white characters, rather than being aspirational by comparison.

    In Rajneeti the white woman actually represents the conscience of the film. She’s not just a white gf but she and her family had been through similar personal and political turmoil as the Rajneeti family itself. Maybe to me, the most interesting use of a white person in an Indian film, or second only to RDB.

    I find it ironic that it’s usually white women and not white man as love interests in Indian film, because IRL I find white man Indian woman pairings more numerous, especially at the marriage level.

    I just watched No One Killed Jessica. The one white male behaves in a very strong principalled manner, even though his Indian wife was the exact opposite. Was this a comment on white privilege, white obtuseness, or simply saying that both the Justice system and the corrupt political forces will simply sidestep around any white upstarts, provided that those upstarts wield no power?

    When I watched the movie Chef, I was surprised by just how many white people were used as extras in random scenes all around Kerala, even in interior villages. One such scene takes place on the outside patio of a cafe, only 3 tables on the patio, one table had saif and son, one was a nonglamorous white couple lazily chatting, and third table was empty. It’s a different kind of white tourism that the rest of India doesn’t really see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think your description of Neal ‘n Nikki matches the feeling I had with Salaam Namaste. Arshad’s wife was white for no particular reason, just that they were in Australia and it made sense. She was no more or less of a stereotype than any other character (Arshad as the funny friend, Saif as the man-boy who won’t grow up, etc.).

      Good point about the white girlfriend in Raajneeti. Especially since they make a faint towards treating her in the usual way, having Ranbir move on and forget her once he finds “real” love with Katrina. But then the film shifts, and re-affirms her as Ranbir’s “true love” and Katrina as the false one.

      One of my favorite things about Veere Di Wedding was how honestly they handled the white husband. He wasn’t some perfect wonderful “better” guy, he was just the man she fell in love with. Maybe because there are fewer stereotypes around the white husband-desi wife pairing, they were able to be more open about it? You can kind of make the white husband whatever you want, while it feels like the white-wife/girlfriend stereotype is so firmly set that any character will either be seen as falling into it or fighting against it, not just as themselves.

      Yes to Chef! And I wonder if that is related to the Malayalam examples of Bangalore Days and Attakatha? Something about the culture being more accepting, letting white people just be people and inviting them in to the culture instead of keeping them separate?

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 3:48 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

      • In Attakatha the white girl was invited and treated well in Kathakali “school”, but she was mistreated by hero’s mother, even before she knew they are in love.

        Like

  5. I usually see the white women as a lens to see American (or European or Australian) culture through a different lens. I don’t always like what I see; after all, who enjoys seeing their own culture stereotyped? But it is interesting and educational.

    Like

    • I waver between finding it educational and good for me, and getting concerned about the harm it might be doing to the perception of white women in India. All those tourist rape stories are alarming. On the other hand, making fun of white men, that’s always good!

      On Tue, Dec 18, 2018 at 4:11 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

      >

      Like

  6. Don’t forget the one in Lagaan who learns Hindi in about a week and pines forever for Aamir (and later goes on to star in The L Word).

    About Dear Zindagi: for me it was an interesting fact for Alia to find out about Shahrukh, and maybe adds another layer of fascination for her. It’s always interesting when you discover someone you have a crush on has been with someone completely different from you.

    I’m always interested with how they treat Kalki in movies, and whether or not they explain why she’s white. Happy Ending takes place in the US, and Kalki adopts an American accent when she’s speaking English, but she also speaks Hindi. So, it’s never discussed, but we imagine she’s got an Indian parent and an American parent, and she takes after the American parent. The kind of thing like in Margarita, where she just has an Indian family, would never never happen in a Japanese film and maybe not in an American one either. The only really colorblind US film I’ve seen so far is Sideways, where Sandra Oh’s mother is played by a white woman and her daughter is played by an African American girl. Totally possible, of course, but they don’t explain it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like your read on the Dear Zindagi moment! Alia suddenly having this flash of Shahrukh as a completely different person in the past, and a flash of herself as the savior person who is “different” from the woman he left/lost.

      Kalki is interesting because she is the only white woman actress I can think of who isn’t fulfilling some pale desi girl fantasy. Amy Jackson and Katrina Kaif almost always just play sexy Indian woman with very very pale skin. But Kalki’s look doesn’t fit that. And most of her directors don’t try to make her fit, don’t give her dark hair or eyes or any of the rest to make her fit in.

      the real mystery to me is Jab Tak Hain Jaan where FlashBack Kat is clearly a little blond girl, but Adult Kat looks fully desi and has two desi parents. What WAS that???? did they really think we wouldn’t notice?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kalki in A death in Gunj – I don’t know if her character was white or Indian, but for sure she was typical femme fatale. She had sex with a married man (he was her boyfriend earlier, if I remember well, but then he left her to marry a sanskari good girl), and she was with other guy too, just for fun, so very white girl stereotype.

        Like

  7. `
    I don’t want the reputation as the gender-equity commenter, but think it would be a very interesting discussion if you did similar post on white guys in Indian movies.

    Like

  8. I found this beautiful song few days ago, from tamil movie Madrasapattinam and I feel like watching it, but before I start I want to ask, if somebody have seen it and if it’s good. I can’t bear another boring film,.

    Like

  9. How about all the movies Katrina, Amy Jackson, and I could go on and on are in. its funny how they cast so many white actresses but what about Black? I never seen a single one, just showcases how racist and inferiority complex, still stuck stuck in the colonial hangover indian films are still in

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.