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“Diaspora” originates from the Greek word diasperien, and is defined as the dispersion of a population group or community of people from their country of origin. The cultural clash of two or more cultures co-existing in one place is the result of the relocation from one country and placement in another one. The concept of ”diasporic consciousness” describes members of the diasporic community who have multiple reference points through which to identify with their country of residence as well as their homeland. What differentiates those with a diasporic consciousness from individual migrants is their consciousness of their origin and roots, despite placement into a new country. To display diasporic consciousness, one must convey a mosaic where the core of the original culture is surrounded by a new geographical, ethnic, and cultural context.This consciousness is heightened by communication and visits, and is retained in memories, storytelling, and other creative forms, such as cinema. In cinema studies, diaspora has become a theoretical tool that begins the debate of topics such as migration, identity, nationalism, transnationality, and exile. As an analytical model, diasporic cinema cannot be viewed through one frame. Rather, it is a dynamic frame, one that balances spatial, temporal, and political issues (META). It is noted that “cinematic representations of diasporic experiences have assumed a prominent position since the 1980s” (META), leading to an uprising of postcolonial perspectives as the center of cinematic narratives. Particularly, in An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking, Hamid Naficy, a contributor to studies of diasporic theory in cinema, dives into some of these postcolonial filmmaking trends. Naficy describes diasporic films as those whose filmmakers use the intersection of their cultures and film practices in their approach to filmmaking, giving these films the status of “accented” cinema. Naficy introduces the concept and frame of”accented” cinema to describe the displacement of filmmakers, their alternative production modes, and their unique styles. These filmmakers hope to speak not only to their homeland but also to societies and cultures whose desires and fears the filmmakers wish to express. Accented cinema continues to grow today, especially in terms of the number of films, variety, diversity, and social impact. Diasporic cinema and other accented films have similar characteristics. In terms of mode of production and circulation, Naficy notes that diasporic films tend to be located outside dominant cinematic centers and production practices. In terms of filmmaking techniques, a plethora of seemingly disparate techniques are used to create the ultimate narrative with the filmmaker drawing from local and global inspirations. In terms of  narrative, they address the negotiation of difference and belonging in indifferent or xenophobic nations. Factors of identity such as ethnicity, gender, race, sexuality, and class are put into question by the experience of diaspora or exile. The marginalized production style as well as the range of subject matters help define diasporic cinema as a type of accented cinema. It is also important to note that what differentiates diasporic films from other forms of accented cinema is the fact that diasporic films are multi-sited in filmmaking techniques and narratives. Specifically, diasporic films and filmmakers have the memory and consciousness that involves the homeland, compatriot communities, and a number of identities while using a variety of filmmaking techniques to enrapture the audience in the narrative. In addition, the negotiation of difference and belonging as mentioned previously takes place in the indifferent xenophobic nations but also in the homeland of the filmmaker or character. Ultimately, the numerous characteristics and double-hypotext nature that ascribe diasporic cinema are particularly evident in Indian diasporic cinema. The late 1970s began a time of increasing migration of South Asians from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Africa to the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, and the Gulf states due to shifting geopolitical economies. The influx of new migrants and technologies during this time period replaced older communities, forming new diasporas and new cultural processes. Today, the Indian diaspora is the world’s largest, constituting over 25 million people spread around the globe. Film, the most popular and significant cultural form and commodity in South Asian cultural and political economy, now circulates through these large distribution networks that span South Asian nations and their diasporas. Using cinema, Indian diasporic identity is thoroughly discussed with discourses consisting of the politics, cultures and economies of multiple locations. The characteristics of these multiple locations affect the form, production and circulation of Indian diasporic films. Particularly, Indian diasporic films balance and negotiate the two largest global cinemas: Hollywood and Bollywood. In addition, these films traffic also balance and negotiate individual national cinemas including but not limited to British, Canadian, and alternative Indian cinemas. With its large distribution network, the Indian diaspora uncovers much at a local level, but also this diaspora opens up an important space for understanding various tensions between familial and more individualistic cultures. Three key themes emerged as significant in South Asian diasporic cinema: (1) reaffirming pride in Indian heritage, (2) evoking romance and longing, and (3) reinforcing family values and a sense of kinship. Since the late 1980s, South Asian diasporic cinema has firmly distanced itself from Bollywood, focusing on issues such as racism, hospitality and assimilation. The topics even go on to tackle unconventional gender relationships. Indian diasporic cinema can connect “the diasporic perspective not with national identity but with the displacement of heteronormativity, through queerness and feminism,” as seen through movies such as Deepa Mehta’s Fire. Fire explores objectives of postcolonial feminism and the pressure that certain ideas of India exert on female subjectivities in the diaspora and at home. Fire has a primary premise that is propelled by a key theme in Indian diasporic cinema: marriage (a combination of the three themes mentioned previously). Marriage functions as a narrative device that brings people into each other’s social orbits, but it is a relationship other than that of husband and wife that sustain the narrative and explore marginalized female subjectivities. Most importantly, the films explore the pressure that traditional Indian ideologies exert on female subjectivities at home using a diasporic framework. Thus, Fire holds up for interrogation an idea of India that has been historically mapped onto womanhood through the complex and multiply-imbricated discourses of woman, tradition, family and heterosexuality, which Deepa Mehta disentangles and critiques in her diasporic film.In Fire, the director, Deepa Mehta, was born in Amritsar, India. Her father was a film distributor and theater owner, so Mehta literally grew up on films. She began her career in documentaries and moved to Canada in 1973. Mehta currently divides her time between Canada and India. Mehta is best known for trilogy of feature films: Fire (1997), Earth (1998) and Water (released 2006). Mehta’s films have been more intimately directed at the idea of India and the identities available for women as it circulates within India itself, including in the diaspora. Fire is set in a middle-class urban home in Delhi, the idea of India is ostensibly having an unquestionable, immediate presence.The narrative of Fire is initiated by a wedding, and we see the result of this marriage when Sita, the new bride, comes into the home of a joint Hindu family (two families living together). The household that Sita joins as Jatin’s wife is already shadowed by the unhappy marriage of her sister-in-law, Radha, to her husband’s brother, Ashok. In the household, both Radha and Sita perform their duties and are ignored by their husbands. Spurned by their indifferent and insensitive husbands, Sita and Radha develop fires of desire and love for eachother. Using the diasporic paradigm, Mehta showcases that the woman’s perspective has never had a place in traditional discourse in India. Rather dialogue of the women’s perspective is displaced in relation to Indian patriarchy. In the film, we can see literally the oppression of female by male. Ashok thinks that a woman’s duty is to satisfy her husband and to perform any and all duties without hesitation. He never respects his wife Radha but rather uses her to test his own celibacy. Jatin never respects his wife Sita because of his affair with a Julie. He visits home and spends time with Sita only at night for sex just for the family’s sake to give birth to a child. Fire shows how patriarchal society in India treats their wives in their homes. Thus, Mehta showcases the tenacity of  Sita and Radha and their refusal to be defined by the traditional home by pursuing their relationship. Mehta also contests a notably controversial topic in traditional India: sexuality. The film depicts passionate and powerful scenes between Sita and Radha through Mehta’s use of lighting and camera angles. The display of emotion and desire coupled with loneliness drawing people together to a forbidden relationship in Indian culture makes Fire a powerful film of womanhood. During the climax of the film, Radha explains her relationship to Ashok. She explains that the relationship was formed by the insensitiveness of Ashok and Jatin. While she is talking to Ashok, Radha’s sari catches literally on fire. Instead of helping her, Ashok simply watches. In Indian mythology, it is said that a test by fire proves a woman’s honesty and chastity. If the woman is impure, she would be engulfed by the flames. If she is virtuous, however, she would be unharmed. Radha does escape the fire and she is left untouched, which ultimately means that her relationship with Sita was not wrong or impure. Thus, she cannot be blamed by her family or by traditional society. At the conclusion of the film, Radha and Sita are seen at a Hindu temple. The temple becomes a positive site since the temple is providing Sita and Radha shelter. The temple is where their desire can be showcased freely and independently from the constraints of the traditional home.  Ultimately, Mehta uses the narrative to productively examine the place and acceptance of lesbianism in contemporary India, highly disputing the traditional discourse of womanhood and gender norms. Through the film Fire, it is evident that Mehta never attempts to portray ordinary issues in her films. Rather, she believes in targeting serious and revolutionary issues which dominate and influence current society. Fire is a clearly diasporic film that resents a traditional social system in which many women do not have rights. With funding from North America and India and a Indo-Canadian filmmaker, Fire represents both the strengths and weaknesses of the diasporic paradigm. The diasporic paradigm and particularly Mehta’s relationship with her homeland and host country provide incredibly sources of inspiration and identification. Diasporic filmmakers like Mehta cause “use transnational model of production and exhibition, a cosmopolitan sensibility, and are thus uniquely positioned to appeal to broad audiences”. For example, for Mehta, audiences range from those in India to those in the West, including Bollywood and Hollywood. To what extent, however, can the films and filmmakers effectively portray and narrate a topic of their country of origin? With filmmakers increasingly adapting and assimilating to their new communities and societies, diasporic cinema does invite the weakness or criticism of not effectively intersecting the cultures and ideologies of various cultures. While it can certainly be seen as a weakness, this increasing adaptation and assimilation can ultimately allow filmmakers like Mehta to take on complex discourses such as gender and sexuality despite the controversy in her homeland, India. Through the analysis of the diasporic cinema paradigm and the case study of Fire, the impact of the diasporic perspective and its focus on national identity and its dispersion allows filmmakers to tackle topics from national identity to gender identity. Word Count: 1922

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