Navigation | Final Post: Conflict Between East and West in “Pardes” –K. Fallon

Final Post: Conflict Between East and West in “Pardes” –K. Fallon

Pardes begins with the wealthy Kishorilal returning to India after living in America for many years. He visits his friend Suraj Dev and the two determine arrange a marriage between Koshorilal’s son, Rajiv, and Suraj Dev’s daughter, Ganga. Kishorilal returns to America and sends his adopted son, Arjun (played by Shah Rukh Khan) to India to prepare Ganga for her wedding, then bring her to the United States to meet her fiancé. Arjun speaks of Rajiv as if he is difficult, greedy, and selfish, but when Ganga asks Arjun if these descriptions are true, he states that Rajiv is in fact kind, welcoming, and will be a wonderful husband to her. When Ganga travels to America, however, she learns that Rajiv is completely westernized in the most negative way: he smokes, drinks, and acts lecherously toward women. Ganga feels alone and out of place and relies on Arjun for support and friendship in this new, strange country. When Kishorilal realizes that Arjun and Ganga have become close, he pushes up the date of Rajiv and Ganga’s wedding, and the family travels to Las Vegas for the wedding. Arjun becomes drunk and tries to rape Ganga; she escapes, but runs away. Arjun chases her and the two travel back to India so Ganga may return to her family. Suraj Dev misunderstands the situation, thinking that Arjun and Ganga have run away to be together, and Suraj Dev tries to kill Arjun. Arjun gets away, and Suraj Dev locks Ganga in the shed. Kishorilal returns to India with Rajiv, who fights with Arjun over Ganga. Kishorilal starts the fight just before Arjun is about to kill Rajiv; Arjun admits his love for Ganga, and Ganga tells Kishorilal that Rajiv tried to rape her earlier. Kishorilal determines that Ganga will instead marry Arjun, and Rajiv will not be married at this time.

The film has some pretty blatant anti-western messages, the most obvious displayed through the character Rajiv. Rajiv has been completely westernized: he has never even visited India, and therefore has barely any connection to his family’s culture and past. He is the most evil character in the film, and the fact that he is so western suggests for the audience to perceive the West as a threatening place. He smokes and drinks, acts that are both abhorred in Bollywood films, but more importantly, Rajiv engages in sex before marriage, to the extent that he tries to force Ganga to do the same; he is therefore a predator. Throughout the film, characters imply (and explicitly state) that Rajiv is a bad person because of western life’s influence over his opinions and actions. At the beginning of the film, Suraj Dev even seems concerned over permitting his daughter to live in the United States with his friend’s westernized son, foreshadowing that Rajiv will be a villain in the plot.


 There are, however, also details that both make the United States seem favorable and details to portray India in a negative light. For example, Arjun and Rajiv have a friend in the United States whose family is Indian, and who is very friendly and kind, but does not even speak Hindi. He is therefore perceived as less respectable than the “truly Indian” characters, but still seen as better than Rajiv. In contrast, Suraj Dev has an acquaintance who wishes for his son to marry Ganga instead of Rajiv. The son is a body builder, a detail that hints at western culture, but also is very threatening like Rajiv, despite the fact that the son has lived in India all his life. In addition to characters, there are moments in the film as Ganga travels the United States with her new family that portrays America in a positive way. English songs play in the background that speak of America as a wonderful new experience that Ganga should be excited about. In this way, the film subtly compensates for its anti-western perspective: details show that America is not all bad, nor is India all good (but traditional Indian culture is still better).

These conflicting messages seem to together display the main message of the film: there are aspects of the West that should be appreciated, but one must not forget his/her Indian culture from the homeland. Arjun is the perfect balance between East and West. He was born in India and lived there as a child, meaning that he understands the importance of traditional values, but he later moved to the United States and lived with Kishorilal, meaning that he also has sufficient experience living in a differing culture. Arjun shows that the East and West can exist in harmony, so long as neither culture overpowers the other. Arjun is the connection made between the friends Kishorilal and Suraj Dev, who have been parted for so long, and his balance of the East and West shows them how to appreciate both the United States and India throughout their lives.

Ganga and Arjun






Filed by kefallon at April 30th, 2013 under Uncategorized

Leave a comment