Culture Wars Of Indian Representation In Bridgeton

Image Source — Bridgeton

There are two things that lurk within the dark and shadowy places of our fair city — vermin and secrets. -Lady Whistledown

The Gossip Girl of London is back with its new season in Bridgeton. The infamous period drama Bridgeton that is Gossip Girl meets Pride and Prejudice, and a little steamy romance of Fifty Shades of Grey had its new diamond of the season in the Netflix original series.

The Regency-era drama has taken the internet by storm, for positive reasons, of course, with its creative production, enchanted dresses, a black queen of England, and dialogues that could melt the heart of Anthony Bridgeton itself. Its other perfect anachronisms and a love story so lusty that oomph the viewers heaving for more.

While the first season was accurately spiced up. The second season introduced a new set of cultural resets and a chaotic, beautiful, and dramatic family — Sharma.

The show did attempt to emphasize the Indian origins of the period drama — Kate Sharma and Edwina Sharma, played by British-Indian actors Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran, respectively.

But, as Lady Whistledown would say, how much of a good show you put up, there will always be a fair number of mocking eyebrows.

With its early 19th century period drama race, the season has bestowed and gripped the unrequited and thirst-trap of both the protagonists. It has drawn criticism for being careless, despite its efforts over race and colonialism.

South Asians on TV

India is an active entertainment diaspora, yet its movie industry would be hanging its head in shame for holding to cast practices on colorism. Despite modernization, the Indian movie industry still casts women on fair skin.

Rather than if we see a heroine playing the character of a dark-skinned, ordinally the role would be played by an actress that fits the rule of thumb. The norms of casting in the Indian movie industry are typically based on who is young, beautiful, fair-skinned, and someone who fits the criterion of a typical Indian actress.

While on the western frontier, a Tamil woman is being celebrated for her talent and her stunning beauty across the world.

It has been seen from season 1 that Bridgeton’s alternative reality is a place of color where people can co-exist. With the Duke of Hastings played by a black man and a black queen of England, the authenticity of representation is referred upon.

But is it simply okay to put Indians amongst the British aristocracy?

Image Source — Bridgeton

The notion that ‘Kate’ and ‘Edwina’ are not Indian names while casting in a British Regency show. It still doesn’t change that the show was “told through a white lens.”

It is keenly authentic for both representation and identity that South Asian stories are told raw, highlighting the originality, especially if you are casting communities within South Asia.

Moreover, Bollywood likes to represent a broad aspect of the framework which tends to focus on North India.

Bridgeton tended to highlight a mixture of cultures instead of focusing on one, which raised many mocking eyebrows due to not focusing on one culture and representing it with utmost adoration.

As much as it has captivated the Indian audience, many held grudges. Despite the bangles, masala chai, and a melodramatic tune from the Bollywood blockbuster Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, a Hindu wedding tradition, it did create a nuisance. It left some viewers amused as to which part of India did the Sharma sisters come from.

Image Source — Bridgeton

In the attempt to mix a whole different culture using different words in the scripts — didi ( Sister in Hindi), bon (Sister in Bengali), appa — (Father in Tamil), it created a fusion of blunders with multi-ethnic representation.

Is it an Indian representation or Tamil erasure with the use of the commonly northern Indian caste name Sharma while having an English first name. The family spoke Marathi and the term Hindustani was certainly uncalled for.

In the fantasy modern realm age, there are no racial digs. Moreover, the audience is impressed by casting dark-skinned women, which Bollywood seems to be shy of.

But, in modern India, the show was an introspection on race, colorism, and colonialism.

There were no makers of cultural specifics. As much as the Indian audience loved to see Tamil women getting telecasted and appreciated across the globe, even Tamil cinema won’t do it, there was a lack of specific authentication of the background.

As profound as the series is, it makes me all giddy to see one of us getting represented, but it should be done diligently ethically, not aesthetically.

The concern is when the western frontier is casting Indian origins, it shouldn’t attempt to specify but let it be experiences of their authenticity and originality.

One of the scenes that left me bewildered, where I was to rewind to make sure it was that, was “Have you read Ghaleeb?” Edwina Sharma asks a suitor vying for her hand in the season.

Edwina pronounces Ghalib as Guh-leeb, hope it was not me but many who were left baffled at the mispronunciation.

Of course, this Indian fusion is both welcomed and challenged. Kate Sharma was headstrong, full of juice, and not afraid to speak out, more like challenging, which was missing in Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), the female fixation of the season first.

Though the first season had set the bars, the creativity and writing were remarkable. Also, the lack of lusty embraces and erotic sex showed the thick personalities of this season. But, who are we kidding? We miss the sex.

Though many believe that representation is profound that lifts the boats, it cherishes the cultures and ethics, and often it isn’t. It is a mere marker of success, more aesthetically pleasing than an ethical choice.

It did leave progress of Indian representation, but it’s still a grumble that it was made through a foreign lens and not correctly giving the ethical weight and representing them originally.

This season’s diamond has won the hearts and swept an impeccable journey for all dark-skinned women, giving them a boost.

As they say, “The heart, the most curious of instruments.”

Yours truly, Lady Whistledown.




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Archana Bhakta

Archana Bhakta

baby face with an old soul

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