Fantasy, Representati on and Identity. Desperately Seeking Helen By Eisha Marjara 06-01-2010/Anna Chen Outline
Influence/Background Filming Process Narrative & Style Characters Trauma/Symptoms Journey of Self-Seeking Gender & Culture Identity The End/Beginning Questions The Author
Eisha Marjara, a new-generation Indo-Canadian filmmaker from Montreal. Filmography: 24 Hours (1990) The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1994, 10mins) Desperately Seeking Helen (1998, 80mins, 16mm)
The Tourist (2005/6) Lolita Diaries (2008) Influence/Background Bollywood and Hollywood film. Emigration from India to Canada Air plane crash- Air India Flight 182 bombing.
(1985) Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the Montral-London-DelhiBombay route. On 23 June 1985, the airplane operating on the route was blown up in midair by a bomb in Irish airspace. The incident represents the largest mass murder in modern Canadian history. The explosion and downing of the carrier occurred within an hour of the related Narita Airport Bombing. In all, 329 people perished, among them 280 Canadian nationals, mostly of Indian birth or descent, and 22 Indians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_India_Flight_182
Filming Process Filmmaker Eisha Marjara was born in India and emigrated to Quebec as a child; in this engrossing 1998 autobiographical film she ponders her ethnic identity, the power of pop culture, the nature of femininity, and her mother's failure to balance East against West, all the while embarking on a wild (and perhaps imaginary) search for Helen, an Indian film star who played the vamp in hundreds of Bollywood musicals. Marjara mixes photos, home movies, film clips, and footage of her journey through the teeming Bombay of the mid-90s, digressing from
one topic to the next in a sequence that becomes increasingly resonant and finally supplying an epiphany of sorts when the pivotal events of her life are revealed. -Ted Shen/ Chicago Reader http://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/desperately-seeking-helen/Content?oid=899061 Desperately Seeking Helen enters a world of fantasy and unimaginable realities, as Marjara navigates cultures and memory to find a sense of self. Desperately Seeking Helen is a compelling account of self-discovery and a moving reflection on the power of movies. -Susan Chacko
http://www.sawnet.org/cinema/reviews.php?Desperately+Seeking+Helen the film is an impressionistic, humorous reminiscence of director Marjara's own story. In the film, Helen helps her deal with her unsettling youth, her anorexic problem and her relationship with her mother and sister who died in the 1985 Air-India bombing disaster. -Firdaus Ali http://www.rediff.com/us/2000/apr/24us1.htm Narrative & Style Autobiographical and experimental documentary with a story written
by the director. (bollywood-based docu-fiction). Include three parts- her mother, her childhood, her teenage. Three separate threads make up this film -- the story of Marjara's mother, who moved reluctantly with her husband to Canada; Marjara's own childhood and fascination with Hindi movie vamps; and her teenage anorexia and search for identity. These threads are determinedly intertwined through the film. Collage of family photos, home movies, film clips and footage. Narrators over-tone voice; different sounds, voices and music technically overlapped.
Journey of SelfSeeking A journey between home and homeland. A journey back and forth from India to Canada, from Bombay to Quebec, and from Quebec to Bombay again. A journey from childhood to grownup. A journey from a girl to a Tomboy. A journey from fantasy to reality. A journey from screen representation to self-image (hairdo-short, long or braid, body-thin or strong, stars on the screen).
40:47 (Between home and homeland) For my sisters and I, there was no question: Quebec was home. India was far from our minds. Faint in our memory, and alive only in pictures. Characters
Helen Mother Eisha /Child Eisha /Teenager Father Hema Malini Padma Khanna Helen as A Fantasy
Heroine on the screen. Heroine for Eisha as a child. Vamp character in Bollywood musical. Bad woman for Indian audience. Helen in Teesri Manzil (1966) and Don (1978) Who is Helen?
Helen knew who she was from the very start. Who is Helen? A diva of Indian cinema, the world's biggest dream factory. She has performed in more than 700 films. More than a movie star, she is a glittering figure of desire and playfulness, the mistress of a thousand disguises, yet always herself. http://www.sawnet.org/cinema/reviews.php?Desperately+Seeking+Helen Helen, the actress of the title, has a fascinating history of her own. She
is half Burmese and half English, and moved with her mother and sibling to India as a child. She started acting to contribute to the family income, learned to dance, and made her first breakthrough in Howrah Bridge in 1958, dancing to Mera Naam Chin Chin Choo. She went on to two decades of film roles, but was always cast as a Westernized vamp, the counterpoint to the wholesome Indian heroine. http://www.sawnet.org/cinema/reviews.php?Desperately+Seeking+Helen Helen becomes a passage into Marjara's real world--her
unsettling youth, life-threatening anorexia, and the devastating 1985 Air India bombing, which took the lives of her mother and sister. This video revisits the '70s pop culture of Marjara's youth and enters the fascinating world of the Bombay movie industry--"Bollywood." http://www.onf-nfb.gc.ca/eng/collection/film/?id=33640&v=h&lg=en &exp=$%25257BEisha%25257D Helen vs. Eisha
19:02 (Helen as a screen fantasy.) So she isnt real, but the fantasy is. Shes the heros fantasy of the perfect woman. A heroine. Not what Helen was, and not what I wanted to be. 26:40 (Film and TV screens influence, Helen as a larger than life figure.) Ive always wanted to be a billboard queen. The size! The bigger, the better. When I first saw Helen on a movie screen, what impressed me was her size. She was truly larger than life, a woman with a figure, a shape and energy that brushed the screen. The voluptuous woman. The star. Yet Ive lived the fantasy world within a TV screen, with TV ladies that were made to fit to size. I could never walk on the streets. I had to wear a
veil. They used to go berserk when they saw me. - Helen Mother as A Heroine Heroine in real-life. A typical figure as the traditional Indian women. A heart-breaking loss for Eisha. An isolated housewife in a wintry Quebec town, jobhunting with a resume and
an Indian accent. Mother vs. Eisha 10:22 (Mother as a real-life heroine.) As a little girl, I always thought my mother was a real-life heroine. Unlike Helen, the heroine becomes a bride after the end. (b&w) The movies end begins the real life of the heroine lady, and it lasts forever and ever (color) 15:17 (Trying to get balance between here and there.) My mother loved to walk, but she couldnt get used to the ice. She always found it hard to balance herself on the ice. After she fell the first time, her
attention was not on walking anymore, but rather on saving herself from the next fall. Her balance, thats right. She never got her balance right. Thats because she had one foot in Canada and one foot in India. 54:24 (Mother being herself , getting balance.) Its not something that came easily. It was something new. When she wasnt working for meals on wheels, she made her rounds from school to school with a resume and an accent, an Indian lady who taught English in a French school and spoke both languages differently. It was great. And we got used to it, coming home without mom there. She had a paid job. The corning dishes were left alone. Leftovers were enough. We made our own dessert. When she was
teaching, she was herself. It was her body. It moved differently, like she was dancing with perfect balance. Eisha as A Child Live in a movies world with heroine Helen. Play under the kitchen table. Happy family memoriesBirthday & the beautiful doll. A journey toward a foreign
country- family migration. Live in her Mothers World. 24:34 (Doll as a symbol of white beauty, girlhood and perfect woman ) (Come on, make a wish.) On my 7th birthday, I got a doll. All girls have one. It wasnt a cuddly, stuffed animal, but a beautiful goldenhaired beauty(Wow!) Who never had to wear a braid. (I wish I had what she has) I could pretend and play with her, and mom didnt mind. And I was still being a good girl. I gave her a secret name. (My secret Helen!) (b&w)
21:33 (Kitchen table as a play stage.) A table. A Kitchen table was all it was to everyone else, a place you did your homework, ate everything on your plate. But to me, it was a stage. A stage for a special story. It was my secretmy secret place The story lay underneath the table, inside my imagination, in a place I could pretend and play. (b&w) 15:17 (Learning is playing. Only Helen has fun.) For my sisters and I, the ice was a playground and the snow, a brand-new toy. We slid along the snowbanks, made snowmen and tunnels that led to our fantasy world. Friends were made and French was easy to learn, because learning was playing. For grown-ups, learning isnt supposed to be fun. Thats why it takes them so long. Only Helen had fun. (b&w and color pictures)
Eisha as A Teenager Innocence/childhood lost. Experience Anorexia. Search for self-identity. 44:37 (Goodbye, childhood!)
Did I do something wrong? Goodbyes were endings. Did I do something wrong? Goodbyes were endings and I knew that my final embrace was to something called childhood. If mom only knew how homesick I really was, even at home 47:57 (Just want to be like a boy.) I didnt know. No one ever told me. Maybe it was up to me to ask. I wanted to be so good in basketball, in sports. Show the world I can handle a ball just like a boy. I can handle a ball just like a boy. I can handle a ball just like a boy (Period comes and innocence was gone.)
I wasnt ready. Too young to understand the rules. I thought every second girl got her period. Mom never told me. And maybe she was afraid I would ask. But I didnt. And it just happened. Trauma/Symptoms Love lost- mother and sister died in air crash Heroines lost- Mother and Helen.
Childhood/ Innocence lost- The blood came and the body changed. Air plane bombing, mother and sister died. Anorexia( )- Rejecting food. Losing weight, losing hair, also rejecting being a traditional Indian Womens look. Hema Malini Hema Malini, a famous movie star and heroine. Another heroine on the screen. 39:30
Hema left the screen when she really married a movie hero. After many years, Shes returned to the only role that is available to an exheroine. The role of a mother. The mother of a movie hero. Heroines become mothers after the End. Padma Khanna Another Vamp figure on Bollywood movies. A substitute for Helen. 63:00 I began to ask myself, who is that woman, the woman behind the vamp? No, shes not Helen either, shes Padma Khanna, an actress once a vamp, who wasnt at all what she appeared on that screen.
Father Symbolic figure, almost not real. Patriarchic symbol, owning his wife and children. Leaving the Minolta Camera to Eisha. Gender & Culture
Identity My mother told me I was born on a hot spring day like this. The second of three daughters, I was not an easy birth. Everyone was expecting a boy. Mom said that it didnt matter, but I think it did. That Girl
TV show called That Girl. What does it take to be a movie star in India? To become a star, you should have an
attractive face and a figure and all that. But what I feel is for an Indian heroine, or Indian dancer or whatever it isyou have to have a good figure. Not a sticka thin stick, you knowwith bones coming out andThats not the kind of beauty we Indians appreciate. But even now, the public does not accept a skinny heroine. Jamie/ the Bionic Lady
47:06 (Gender identity.) (Helen? Whos Helen? No, Jamie! Whos Jamie? Jamie, The bionic lady. Dont you know anything? Shes half lady, half robotShes strong and shes fast. And she can beat up all the bad guys.) Jamie was tall, blonde and slender. She wasnt a woman like mom or Helen. She was half lady, half robot. And like the hero, a winner
in The End. Charlies Angels Lady ex-cops turned detectives, who carried guns and wore the right hairspray when the job got to tough to handle. They were tough. The most glamorous tomboys I
had ever seen. The End/Beginning 72:36 (Journeys end as another beginning.) What was I looking for? Oh, yeah, Helen. It shouldnt be this difficult. I was close to giving up. And then I wondered, what would I be giving up? Was I chasing a fantasy? I couldnt recognize myself, and no one else could either. And thats okay when you dont know who you are. And there I was in a full close-up. They say the camera doesnt lie, but it wasnt telling me the truth, who was I really? Helen, for me, only
lives on the screen. Off the screen, who was she? She was as ordinary as a real woman. As real as my mother. Then she wouldnt be Helen now, would she? Not my secret Helen. I didnt even look like one of the family, no, certainly, I didnt look like my mother. Questions Why does Eisha Marjara take Helen as the great role model/heroine to dream of? How does Helen function in a real-life? What is the final settlement on Eishas
identity with her mother, Helen, the other heroines or Jamie?
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