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Commentary

Watching 'The Avengers' In India, With A Twist

Originally published on Thu May 3, 2012 9:31 am

When I went to see The Avengers the very day it was released, I texted a friend in San Francisco. It seems kind of unfair, I said, that because of the 12-hour time difference, I get to see The Avengers before you do.

Turns out I was a week off. The Avengers actually released in 39 countries around the world, including India, a week before it opens in America.

Once, we waited patiently in India for the latest Hollywood releases to trickle their way over. That's no longer true for the big popcorn and cola blockbusters like The Avengers. Perhaps the studios want to get in on the action before the pirates do. Perhaps they have woken up to the fact that there is a big market in the world, beyond L.A. and New York.

Either way, I am thrilled.

But sadly, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The businessmen in Hollywood might be aware there is a new world out there. The scriptwriters, it seems, are still stuck in the old one.

Sitting in a fancy multiplex theater in Calcutta with cushy seats, 3-D glasses perched on my nose, I discovered that Calcutta has a cameo in the film.

It is not the only city to star in The Avengers. There's Manhattan and Stuttgart, as well. Unlike poor Calcutta, however, they look like cities actually worth saving from invading alien hordes.

Calcutta looked cramped, squalid and leprous, as in City of Joy from 20 years ago. Then, Patrick Swayze was saving lepers. This time around, Mark Ruffalo is Dr. Bruce Banner, keeping his inner Hulk under control by saving eternally ill slum-dwellers.

This is not the reverse migration story about the West coming East in search of the future. Or even to Eat, Pray, and Love. It is a throwback to a much older idea of India: a black hole, all slumdogs, no millionaires, waiting to be saved by a foreign do-gooder.

But why does the Hulk even go there?

"For a man avoiding stress, you picked a helluva place to settle," the Black Widow tells Banner.

That is an understatement.

Given Calcutta's notorious traffic jams, stifling sweaty heat and frustrating lackadaisical inefficiency, Bruce Banner should have been exploding into the Incredible Hulk every second day.

That he keeps his cool in Calcutta is the real unexplained mystery of The Avengers. As the summer sweats up here, I, too, want to know his secret.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We don't know yet if it's one of the exceptional movies or one of the rest, but if you're planning to line up for the midnight showing of "The Avengers" tonight, commentator Sandip Roy is way ahead of you - a week ahead. Sandip lives in Kolkata, where "The Avengers" opened last week. And India is just one of 39 countries where the movie is already playing.

SANDIP ROY: Once, we waited patiently in India for the latest Hollywood releases to trickle their way over. That's no longer true for the big popcorn and cola blockbusters like "The Avengers." Perhaps the studios want to get in on the action before the pirates do. Perhaps they have woken up to the fact that there is a big market in the world, beyond L.A. and New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

ROBERT DOWNEY JR.: (as Tony Stark) If we can't protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we'll avenge it.

ROY: Either way, I'm thrilled. But sadly, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The businessmen in Hollywood might be aware there's a new world out there. The scriptwriters, it seems, are still stuck in the old one. Sitting in a fancy multiplex theater in Kolkata with cushy seats, 3-D glasses perched on my nose, I discovered that Kolkata has a cameo in the film.

It is not the only city to star in "The Avengers." There's Manhattan and Stuttgart, as well. Unlike poor Kolkata, however, they look like cities actually worth saving from invading alien hordes. Kolkata looked cramped, squalid and leprous, as in "City of Joy" from 20 years ago. Then, Patrick Swayze was saving lepers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "CITY OF JOY")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as Character) What is it you do in America?

PATRICK SWAYZE: (as Dr. Max Lowe) I was a doctor.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (as Character) We desperately need a doctor here full time.

SWAYZE: (as Dr. Max Lowe) Don't try to recruit me...

ROY: This time around, Mark Ruffalo is Dr. Bruce Banner, keeping his inner Hulk under control by saving slum-dwellers.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

SCARLETT JOHANSSON: (as Natasha Romanoff) Doctor, we need you to come in.

MARK RUFFALO: (as Bruce Banner) What if I say no?

JOHANSSON: (as Natasha Romanoff) I'll persuade you.

ROY: This is not the reverse migration story about the West coming East in search of the future. Or even to eat, pray, and love. It's a throwback to a much older idea of India: a black hole, all slumdogs, no millionaires, waiting to be saved by a foreign do-gooder. But why does the Hulk even go there? For a man avoiding stress, you picked a hell of a place to settle, the Black Widow tells Banner.

That is an understatement. Given Kolkata's notorious traffic jams, stifling sweaty heat and frustrating lackadaisical inefficiency, Bruce Banner should have been exploding into the Incredible Hulk every second day.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

RUFFALO: (as Incredible Hulk) Hulk smash.

ROY: That he keeps his cool in Kolkata is the real unexplained mystery of "The Avengers." As the summer sweats up here, I, too, want to know his secret.

INSKEEP: Sandip Roy is culture editor of firstpost.com.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.