Tower of Silence by James Killough

‘Just Don’t Die in India’

During my early years in India, back in the late 80s, when I was writing the first feature film of mine that would go into production, I was invited to dinner at the home of a charming socialite in the Juhu area of what was then called Bombay. Some people say Juhu is the Malibu of Mumbai, but that isn’t being fair to either California or India. The only things that make the comparison viable are the location on the beach, the presence of film folk, and the insane real-estate prices. To be honest, the strongest shared quality is that the two names rhyme.

Irving Penn Scream

The Essential Art of Not Taking Offense

A recent controversy surrounding the stand-up comedy group All-India Bakchod (‘fuck senseless’) caused them to take down an inflammatory video of a roast they did from YouTube. My Hindi is intermediate, not good enough to follow Indian stand-up comedy, which is a huge pity: it is a cultural phenomenon that is rising like a fire-breathing dragon in the New India, a welcome appropriation from what I am henceforth calling the American Raj, our unstoppable cultural hegemony that digs deeper,

RuPaul

Hate Is a Drug

I live in an area of West Hollywood that is on the hill well above the three blocks of back-to-back gay bars known as the ‘Fruit Loop’, a block below the super-straight Sunset Strip — infamous rocker lounge The Viper Room abuts my corner store. The residents make an eclectic demographic. On the corner of my street and Palm Avenue is an ugly mid-century apartment building, elderly housing for Russians. The cheap fabrics and sad bric-a-brac in the windows give it the appearance of those dwellings beloved by photojournalists who snap willfully dreary reportages of the faces of Chernobyl twenty years after the nuclear meltdown. Across from that indifferent edifice is a wee compound

Dhoom 3

With the Success of ‘Dhoom 3,’ Should Hollywood Learn from Bollywood?

Other than switching cigarette brands from Marlboro Medium to Special Blend 27 for a richer, smoother smoking experience, my only New Year’s resolution is to forgo clickbait. I will no longer be enticed by HuffPo to find out what Sandra Bullock found out after she Googled herself. I refuse to be shocked by what fashion editors have photoshopped off a celebrity’s body. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to entice readers myself

Satya Bhabha in Midnight's Children

REVIEW: ‘Midnight’s Children’ Haunts the Land of My Past

One of my stock phrases when I’m asked which writers I admire is, “Salman Rushdie taught me how to write.” Not that I attended some master class he gave—I’m an autodidact, so this was a correspondence course by reading his entire oeuvre. Oddly, I’ve never met him directly, although we have a few friends in common and it would be reasonable to expect that an ‘old India hand’ like me, especially one with such deep ties to Kashmir through marriage and personal history (Rushdie is of Kashmiri descent), would have had some contact with him, however brief. Nope.

A less dramatic statement would be that Midnight’s Children is the text that transformed my writing the most. Rushdie introduced me to how plasticine the English language can be,

The Elusive Eunuch—Part One

At some point during Shoot Your Heroes Week here at PFC, I had an exchange with Eric Baker in our incestuous comments section that led me to remember the time I crossed the Rann of Kutch in a rickety van in search of the secret temple sacred to the hijras, the notorious eunuchs of India.

Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton became the one and only hero I’d ever had around page one hundred of Edward Rice’s superlative best-selling biography of him, which I read when it first came out in the early 90s.  This is the kind of man I would have tried to become had I been a Victorian with the sort of linguistic and scholarly brilliance with which he was blessed.  Burton was a character far more extraordinary than his contemporary Rudyard Kipling in many respects; he didn’t just dream of the Indian subcontinent and the British Raj in poems and novels, he lived it, playing the Great Game to the very edge of brinksmanship with a level of chutzpah I aspire to.

Ashton to Ashes

THE KILLOUGH CHRONICLES

by James Killough

It hasn’t been a good year or so for my ideal younger man, Ashton Kutcher.  This breaks my heart because I do wish him all the best, in a concerned, fatherly way.  First came his split with Demi, then his stint on Two and a Half Men, a show he is being credited with killing, although I see that more as a kindly act of euthanasia; I agree with Charlie Sheen: TAAHM kinda sucks.  Now he has managed to outrage some members of the Indian community by appearing in “brown face” in an ad for PopChips, and he has been roasted alive on Twitter, a social media platform he in no small part helped to build.

This poses something of a conundrum for performers in general and the people who create material for them: at what point does satire become offensive and racist?  Are actors, comedians specifically, only allowed to appear as their race or, in the case of repeat-offender Sacha Baron Cohen, as something other than their real sexuality?

Happy Birthday, Mr. Prophet

KILLOUGH CHRONICLES | THE INDIA FILES

by @James_Killough

I cannot imagine what it must be like for twenty-three-year-old Hamza Kashgari right now.  It’s one thing to be Salman Rushdie, already a Booker Prize-winning novelist when the fatwa was issued against him by the ayatollahs in Iran after he willfully went against everyone’s advice and published The Satanic Verses, but quite another to tweet a series of messages addressed to Mohammed on his birthday that the Prophet himself might have approved of.

One man's devil is another man's god.

There is no existing iconography of Mohammed—or there shouldn’t be— because he explicitly forbade it.  He didn’t want to be worshipped and deplored any form of idolatry.  As we in the West often imagine what Christ would think if he came back and saw the sorry state of what his teachings have wrought over two thousand years, the same would apply to Mohammed.