Mehta brings together East and West
Acclaimed author sees India and religious beliefs in a different light
By KIRK MILLER
Theclash between Eastern and Western cultures
and the trials of various religious beliefs in India
may seem like heady stuff, but Gita Mehta sees the
country in a different light.
"India is one of the great slapstick civilizations
of the world," she said.
Mehta has become a renowned author for her
perspective on modern Indian culture. Her cult
classic "Karma Cola" and the new release "A River
Sutra" have been praised for their insight of reli-
gious diversity and vivid recollections of India, both
tragic and occasionally quite funny.
Her current book tour hits Ann Arbor tonight; on
the phone from Washington D.C. she said two years
is a long time to be out promoting her work.
"I don't enjoy being on the road," she admitted.
"You always end up talking about yourself and you
don't meet a lot of people."
A lot of the success of Mehta's novels come
from her worldwide perspective. Before her current
success as an author Mehta was very involved with
writing and producing political documentaries for a
variety of networks. "It was when the West wouldn't
take the rest of the world seriously," she said. "This
was before CNN."
The extensive amount of work that went into the
getting the films off the ground and the dependency
on getting the right image drove Mehta into a
writing career. Plus, as Mehta admitted, she no
longer had the "passion of youth."
Her first book "Karma Cola" was very warmly
received by the press and became a cult classic at the
end of the '70s. Part of the success of the book
Mehta attributed to the right timing; every publisher
was looking for a more "light-hearted" view of
India is one of the great
slapstick civilizations of the
- Gita Mehta, author
spiritual guides after the Jonestown massacre. With
a wickedly satirical viewpoint it attacked the flood
of Westerners in the 60s who looked to India for a
crash course in spiritual guidance, including the
Beatles visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and
Allen Ginsberg's visit to Calcutta.
Ginsberg had proclaimed Calcutta the "most
liberated city in the world" due to its lack of hang-
ups and preponderance of nudity. Mehta saw it quite
"It was a characteristically original view," she
wrote. "No one before had suggested to the natives
that their destitution was asign ofadvance." Ginsberg
quickly returned home after discovering India had
very hot summers, leaving several disappointed
worshippers of the beat poet.
"India wanted consumerism," Mehta said. "The
West was horrified that we all wanted to rock'n' roll
when they wanted the rope trick."
However, her satire is just a reflection of what
she saw, not an attack on cultural imperialism. She
keeps homes in New York, London and New Delhi,
and has very nice things to say about all of them; she
claimed America has a "sense of possibility" and is
a "very optimistic culture that is generous when you
The same mix of humor, tragedy and clashing of
old and new are apparent in "A River Sutra." The
unnamed "hero" of the book retreats to the spiritual
banks of the Narmada River and encounters several
different characters who relate their tales of spiritu-
ality, all of them from different faiths.
"You can't live in India without feeling that
[religious diversity] in the air," she said. "India is
unique in that it is familiar with all religions ...
Buddhism, Christianity that predates Europe,
One new development in her work is a movie
adaptation of her new novel by Merchant Ivory, the
same group that adapted other classic novels like
"Remains of the Day" and "A Room with a View"
into mainstream hits. Mehta is very removed from
the film process and is not sure what the final result
will be, but is optimistic about one thing.
"It'll have a great soundtrack," she laughed.
Gita Mehta will be reading from her books and
signing at Borders tonight at 7:30. It's free.
Gita Mehta reads from her work and signs books tonight at Borders.
*Stuck in the middle with
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
The re-exhibiting of "Reservoir
Dogs," writer-director Quentin
Tarantino's auspicious and explosive
1992 debut, is an appropriate gesture to
a filmmaker who will be catapulted
Directed by Quentin
S ATarantino; with
and Tim Roth
,'>from cult and campus favorite to mass
consciousness next month with the re-
lease of his "Pulp Fiction."
Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs" first
bowed in the Ann Arbor area at the
Michigan theater in early 1993. Since
then, it has assembled a massive fol-
lowing through word-of-mouth and
Upon the initial release of "Reser-
- voir Dogs," Tarantino quickly became
*everyone's favorite new purveyor of
near poetic violence and wickedly
- amusing dialogue. His name was
dropped almost as a litmus test for
those in the know. His work as screen-
writer for the entertaining "True
mance" set him on his path from
house to frat house, converting
ciples to his work at every stop.
In a brief, yet already influe
film career (which includes the o
nal script for "Natural Born Kille
"Reservoir Dogs" stands as his d
ing triumph to date. The film, insp
by the Stanley Kubrick classic"
Killing," is the lead-up and afterr
of the perfect jewelry store heist g
awry. One member of the colle
group of criminals is an undercc
policeman. Once the real crooks
cover this, it's all egos and tem
colliding in a desperate attempt to
termine which one of them it was
"Dogs" is a rare combinatio
pathos and destructive machismo, st
tured in a fragmented narrative lo
than any Pavement tune. Yet, Taran
architects the proceedings with a1
fessionalism and a talent that give
indication that this is his debut feat
Aside from Tarantino's script,
the outstanding ensemble castI
serves to differentiate the film from
typical Mafia/action/ultra-male sch
that Hollywood spoons out. The
sembled cast displays an unca
chemistry, whether trading quips at
the inspiration for Madonna's "Li
Tarantino and his 'Dogs'
Ro- Virgin" or trading bullets. A virtual are anonymous to each other, therefore
n art who's-who of character actors was en- avoiding pitfalls in case the heist is not
dis- listedfortheproject,ledbythisdecade's a success. As an alternative, the crooks
art house king (and the film's co-pro- are given color-coded names (i.e. Mr.
ntial ducer) Harvey Keitel, who stars as a White, Mr. Pink) in a slight homage to
rigi- veteran crook who balances compas- the board game Clue.
rs"), sion and professionalism. The remain- Besides Clue, Tarantino pays hom-
efin- der of the cast is highlighted by the age to'70s kitsch, both on the radio, the
ired frenetic and always brilliant Steve television and even through a motif of
The classic comic books, such as the Silver
nath Tarantino pays homage Surfer or Fantastic Four. The crooks
gone to '70s kitsch, both on are grounded in the past, never fully
cted developing or modernizing because
over i they are marginal members of society.
dis- television and even This factor, combined with a cast of
pers despicable protagonists, allows
de- through a motif 0f Tarantino to pen realistic conversa-
classic comic books, tions free of political correctness. It is
n of these moments, either reveling in kitsch
ru-such as the lver or ignorance that give "ReservoirDogs"
oser Surfer or Fantastic an oddly sly humor.
itino Quentin Tarantino conquered the
pro- Four. high-brow world of the Cannes film
s no Buscemi, the psychotic Michael festival this spring with his crime trip-
ture. Madsen and the youthful Tim Roth, all tych "Pulp Fiction." Soon he will con-
it is as other members of the crime party. quer America with the same picture.
that Chris Penn is the son of the ringleader. Until then, "Reservoir Dogs" has
n the "Reservoir Dogs" avoids the typi- swooped into town, to build momen-
lock cal crime film obstacles by assembling tum, satiate those impatiently waiting
as- a group of criminals who lack the ho- for the new film and conquer Ann
inny mogenous ethnicity necessary in a film Arbor. Long live the king.
bout about La Cosa Nostra or other Mafioso RESERVOIR DOGS is playing at
ke a types. This group is not a family. They State.
EASTERN MiCHICAN UNiVERSITY
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A Homecoming Concert
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Y September 23 1994
Bowen Fie(d House
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cron the EBlUCapw at the
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