At Home in Filmistan by William Nakabayashi, The Believer Magazine, June/July 2018

I know my coverage as of late has been on stories from Asimov’s and F&SF, but I do still have a subscription to The Believer. It’s one of my favorite productions, still, though I’ve found the offering a little more hit and miss over the last few issues.

This piece is intriguing, though lacks, for me, any definitive meaning. It is a rather typical119-cover piece you’d find in The Believer if there is such a thing as a typical piece for this publication. The author travels to Mumbai as an ethnographer and meets a man who was part of the aboriginal peoples of what is now called Filmistan. Filmistan is a movie production hub with multiple sets and sound stages. Sadly, the formation of this Filmistan in the 1940s displaced the indigenous people of the region. Now there are very few who identify as Warlis, rather they have mostly assimilated with the rest of the populace of the suburbs of Mumbai.

Vikas is a Warlis and one that still practices, or attempts to practice many Warlis traditions. He maintains much of the prayer and spirituality as his indigenous ancestors but is constantly influenced by a film industry that worships fame, visibility, and technology more than the old mystical aspects of the human experience.

The author of this piece has been friends with Vikas for almost 2 decades and watches him go through the heavy endeavor of marrying ancient traditions with an ever-changing technological world in which social stratum is less defined yet still maintained by economic fortune and visual expectations, as visibility, in Vikas’s mind, is power.

It’s an interesting piece, but I feel as though I’m still unsure how monumental the founding of Filmistan was and how much damage it did the Warlis people. it is obvious that it was severe, but this piece focuses much more on Vikas and his eccentricities than on the difficulties of losing oneself when the culture you have ancestral ties to is degraded and disregarded.

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