LETTERS TO THE EDITOR [Correspondents are requested to keep their
letters as brief as is reasonably possible. The most suitable length is that of one of our "News of the Week" paragraphs. Signed letters are given a preference over those bearing a pseudonym.—Ed. THE _SPECTATOR.]
INDIA AND HOLLYWOOD
[To the Editor of THE SPECTATOR.] SIR,—In The Spectator of February 15th, you published a letter from me about the American film India Speaks. In that letter I 'gave an extract from the Statesman, in which the Editor said that there was a definite case for "a repre- sentation from the British Ambassador to the United States Government, that the latter should interest itself in the matter and should impress upon the Hollywood producers of this type of garbage that they are committing a breach of international courtesy, an offence against the Comity of Nations." Recently, the Statesman again returned to this grave subject
The vernacular Press has in recent weeks been publishing'
peculiarly reckless and inflammatory articles in which the wicked suggestion is made that " the film has a British official origin." One paper prints a streamer across the front page- " A libel against India," and then in bold type an introduction to the " Novel " about "deliberate concoctions and malicious lies to defame India before all Western audiences " ; and the statement that the producers "and others interested with them" have "purposely photographed scenes for their films that were not general conditions, rather they were based upon their knowledge of what the theatre-going public of America would fall for, and their only purpose in producing the picture was to humiliate India, before the eyes of the world." The paper then proceeds to represent the who!ly trashy production "as a deliberate British attack upon Hinduism and Islam." The article goes on to say : "Curiously enough, India always speaks in America. Is it because in America there is a certain feeling of sympathy for the freedom movement in this country ? Miss Mayo professed to write her book on materials largely supplied by British officials in this country, and partly from her own observations. The producers of the film India Speaks take as their basis a novel. We publish on another page some of the pictures and the novel itself. Decency forbids us from publishing the more outrageous pictures. The pictures that we have been unable to publish for this reason, however, give a clue to the motive underlying the production. The main purpose, of course, is to traduce Indians and hold them up as barbarous people to the world. But as open propaganda like this might not catch on, and may be suspected as to its source, a large element of indecent sensationalism is introduced for the attraction for the theatre- going public of America."
But as the Statesman rightly points out : "The point of the whole inflammatory appeal, addressed even more particularly to Moslems than to Hindus, is to persuade them that their religion is being vilified, in a film ostensibly of American origin, but really of British origin, in order to discredit India's claim to self-government."
The Statesman is quite correct, for the opening words of the article are : "India spoke through Katherine Mayo at a pyschological moment when the question of self-government for India was very much prominent in the world's eye, through a nation-wide struggle. India is being made to speak again by a company of producers." Throughout the whole article the " Editor " of this vernacular paper labours at great length (nine columns) to convey the impression upon his readers that the film India Speaks has been "inspired at Whitehall, where the real enemies of India have their abode " —as another vernacular paper bluntly puts it.
In another vernacular (" Anglo-Marathi ") paper which lies before me, it is actually stated that the film India Speaks has "not been forbidden in England," and that it is "exhibited nightly before great audiences of English people."
The film India Speaks appears to have been produced by " low downs" for "low downs" and it is said that the Whilemen ', in India, who are presumably supposed to be the English, figure as appallingly depraved scoundrels. This is no doubt a slight solace to the " Editors " of these ver- nacular papers, who, however, do not find in it any evidence to show that the British are not the real authors of the film. They are only out to convince their readers that the film is an "English film" inspired by" India's enemies " for a" specific object." The suggestion is that Englishmen at all times are anxious not only to "traduce Indians and hold them as barbarous," but they have done so on this occasion while the "India Bill" is on the "anvil." Such is some of the interesting propagania conducted in India against the British. people. There are about 50,000 newspapers published in India (dailies and weeklies), 99 per cent. of them are in the vernacular, and the Government of India have no organization to fight such malicious and inflammatory propaganda.
American film producers are not assisting the Government of India in their efforts to suppress this form of propaganda.
I think I have said enough about the film India Speaks to satisfy every reasonable person that there is a great force in the appeal made by the capable Editor of the Statesman, viz., that "there is a definite case for a representation from: the British Ambassador to the United States Government."— I am, Sir, yours, &c.,