Explore the presentation of Orientalist discourses in the short film Surviving Sabu.
I will be exploring the short film Surviving Sabu which was written and directed by Ian Iqbal Rashid in 1998, with reference to the 1942 film The Jungle Book. My analysis will question the presentation of Indian and Muslim identities in both films.
Surviving Sabu presents the relationship between two characters: a father and his son. The family have immigrated to England at some point in recent decades, although the audience is never told when or specifically where from. The characters have anonymity, we are not even told their names. They could be two individuals of any migrant Indian, Muslim family, and the son concludes that this is all that they
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De Creteau describes these ‘muffled voices’ as ‘a rumour of words which vanish no sooner than they are uttered’. Michel Foucault in his writings presents a theory that knowledge is a form of power that can be exercised over people6. Kipling’s knowledge of ‘truths’ about the Orient are ones that are ‘made’ by a ‘scriptural operation’ which ‘produces, perceives and cultivates’7 certain constructed ideas of India. Knowledge becomes an important theme in Surviving Sabu, when the father angrily retorts to his son, ‘You know everything; I know nothing!’ The knowledge that ‘everyone laughing…laughing at me…he taught me that’, puts the father is a position of powerlessness. The son and the father’s conflicting interpretations of Sabu Dastagir’s career in Surviving Sabu are symbolic of a conflict both in their own identities and a rift in their relationship as father and son. The father struggles with his son’s identity as homosexual, urging him to be a ‘good Muslim’. When the son tells his father that he has ‘something to tell him’, the father replies, ‘you’ve decided to find yourself a nice Muslim girl and give us a reason for living?’ The father thus is as resistant to his son’s gay identity as he is to see the racist discourses in Dastagir’s films. While the son feels that his father is complacent in expressing his Indian heritage, ‘I never spoke of life in India’. He is ‘uncomfortably aligned with the image of Sabu within dominant White English