Went to see Darjeeling Limited on Saturday. At the end of the movie I said, “I have one major complaint for this movie: they were never in Darjeeling.” Milie’s friend then argued the importance of this detail. It was the name of the train, and in fact the story was not about the destination but the journey, physically and metaphorically.
Still. Their journey did reach a destination, a destination that one might assume, from the title of the movie and the name of their fictitious train, that stopped, mysteriously, for intervals that allowed them to de-board, have an adventure, and get back on without having to pack, take their luggage with them, and board a new train, to be Darjeeling. All of the instrumental music is from Satyajit Ray’s movies, a famous Bengali filmmaker. And yet I suspect there is not a single frame of footage from Bengal at all. According to the credits, the singing children were from Udaipur; Udaipur, which is on the western extreme of India. Which is sort of like calling a movie “Philadelphia” and filming it in Pittsburgh, figuring that as long as you’re in Pennsylvania, the authenticity requirement has been met.
I went with the expectation of being able to relate to the setting and was disappointed to see nothing recognizable at all in the location. It was stylized to be recognizably Indian to people who shop at 10,000 Villages. So that distracted me, occasionally, from the story, however, it was a really good story.
We went to a book store afterwards. Something about the movie made me want to read. I spent 45 minutes looking for the book that the movie compelled me to read, hoping it would manifest itself to me, avoiding Indian authors because that would be too obvious. Finally, I found the memoir of a woman who reported for the New Yorker for a large number of decades, once a concubine and opium addict in China, entitled No Hurry to get Home. In one critic’s praise for this book, he compared her to M.F.K Fisher of whom I had never heard, but whose name I had seen moments before on a spine. I picked it up also, and in her introduction, M.F.K. wrote about how she remembered her life in whole sentences and no longer knew which ones she had ever actually written down or spoken aloud. I thought, “I need this book.” And then before I managed to get out, I found a book of Arundhati Roy’s essays, in the first of which she talks about not being able to leave her home even if it becomes the prime target of nuclear war. After all, what good is surviving if everyone you know and love goes up in a mushroom cloud.
I needed it, too.