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Wednesday, September 03, 2003 - 09:14 PM Permanent link for Where's the Party, Yaar?
Where's the Party, Yaar?

The latest blast of desi culture opens up this weekend here in SF - Where's the Party, Yaar.   (this article is an intro to the movie;  my review is here)

Set / filmed in Houston, the film trailers and particularly the music video (although IMHO, a pretty lame song) give a great snapshot of the desi underground - a party scene that non-desi's probably scarcely realize exist.  The storyline toys with the classic ABCD vs. FOB schism.   What's well portrayed is that the culture is highly synthetic - "ABCDs" aren't simply closer to the "white" end of a linear spectrum with "FOBs" on the other end.   ABCD's are a fork in the road on the way to mainstream America.   And a rather proud, unique one.  

It's my own personal, living proof that culture is an emergent property of simply having enough young people, who share a common bond, in a unique place, together.   I was actually at one of the "Music Masala" parties that WTPY was filmed at a little over 12 months ago back in Houston.

Relative to other ABCD offerings, there are a couple different things at play here - the trailers do seem to portray the brand of Desi culture local to Houston.  Houston is host to one of the largest Indian populations in the US (given the dominance of the engineering and medical biz in the H-town economy + McMansions that Indian parents love, it's no suprise) and the Desi culture has always had a particular feel relative to NYC, LA, or SF.   

The NYC crowd is a tad bipolar between Wall Street and Jackson Heights  (the ultimate in Gentry vs. the hip-hop / Escalade scene) but they do contribute significantly towards "fleshing out" NYC.  LA desi's don't feel like they've been able to achieve critical mass because they're subject to the sprawl the rest of the region's denizens are hit with.   And Hollywood is such a massive tidal cultural current, it sort of sweeps up / redirects a lot of the desi cultural energy.  SF, aside from tech, is unfortunately a bit too often purely professional, culturally void, and a little too obsessed with causus celebre on the left to fan the culture that you see in NYC or London (bring on the flame mail!).

Houston however, feels right in the middle - not too desi, not too White, not too FOB, not too urban, not too suburban, professional & not-so-professional in close proximity, the right mix of high density Desi suburbs (Sugarland, anyone?) and low density ones (my family was just outside of southeast Houston)   It has enough of a native culture to make it interesting and give you something to play with but also enough of a blank slate for the desi crew to carve out their own niche.

The second interesting thing about WTPY - a good portion of the cast & crew are Malayalee .  It's truly rare to see Keralites in this position because large sections of the Culture Industry in India are dominated by Punjabi's from the north.   The movies / music / dance that makes its way here to the US carry this heritage (Punjabi MC, for ex.;  Mulit in the Absolut video is certainly a Northern stereotype and a few of the surrounding cast are even more so;  Monsoon Wedding is about an extended Punjabi family;  Bhangra music finds it's origins in the region's wheat fields).  

By contrast, we-of-the-south are stereotyped as studious, pious, and, well, not that much fun.   (this thread on GNXP gives you a good taste of the dominant memes surrounding the South; one great quote - The northern jocks and beauty queens vs. the southern nerds. So, basically India is like one giant highschool).   Houston, however, has a particularly large proportion of Malayalees which perhaps makes this sort of cultural participation inevitable.  Cool stuff!

A quick snapshot of San Francisco-Bay Area showings:

Fri, Sep 5th San Francisco

UA Galaxy 4
Showtimes: 12:40, 3:00, 5:20, 7:45, and 10:00

1285 Sutter @ Van Ness
Fri, Sep 5th San Jose AMC Mercado 20 (Santa Clara) 3111 Mission College Blvd @ 101

Update: Manish Vij, my desi culture-meister, has tracked down a large number of reviews of WTPY available on-line:

UPDATE 2 - I saw the movie and posted my review here
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