A cliché makes sound business sense. It also saves the propagator of clichés from
intellectual rigor. The motive behind adopting Anurag Mathur's 'The Inscrutable
Americans' for a movie becomes comprehensible if we take these facts into consideration.
His hero, Gopal Kumar, scion of a conservative, affluent, small town business family, arrives in the 'promised land' for a year's course in Chemical Engineering. "After that, I am returning to use new technologies in our factory," he says. His family owns the National Hair Oil Factory, back in Jajau, Madhya Pradesh.
Gopal's guides to social adjustment in the US are Collected Letters From Penthouse, and the movies Deep Throat and Saturday Night Fever. A happy-go-lucky American youth, Randy, assists him in fathoming the culture-divide. But Gopal's deeply ingrained 'Indian' sensibilities (a cliché by itself) only help him in juxtaposing the apparent 'differences' in the ethos of the two countries.
Mathur's superficiality is rooted in his inability to break from the confines of the formula. So Gopal is predictably astounded by the enormity and quiescence of a shopping mall, as by the picture perfect American scenery. He enjoys haggling for prices, does well academically, dreams of 'laying' an American girl (but never succeeds) and discovers the underbelly of American prosperity.
In short, he does what an average viewer expects him to do. So when a person says "Watch your ass," Gopal wonders how he guessed his family owned a donkey. He's similarly confused why they 'beat' each other up while playing football and still call it a 'game' and wonders whether red-haired girls are 'red all over'. Such clichés are mixed well with some rather creative sequences in the book, but abound throughout the movie.
After a year, Gopal returns to India. He ends up viewing America through a romantic prism. An escape from Indian 'realities'. By positioning the diverse scenarios in a simplistic way, the makers seem to be rationalizing the phenomenon of brain drain.
Watching 'The Inscrutable Americans' is like reading a comic strip or watching a Mehmood or Govinda movie, where stereotypes are reaffirmed and the humor is loud. The movie fails to throw fresh insight on the lives of Indians living in America.
The leads thoroughly live their roles, but of the rest of the characters, the
lesser spoken, the better. May yet prove to be an entertaining watch, but those
who've already read the book had better stay away.