The Darjeeling Limited: A Journey Inwards

The Darjeeling Limited Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzmann Directed by: Wes Anderson, As a patriotic Indian, I find it difficult to hide my pride when visitors from the West come in droves to India, battle beggars, heat and dust and go back transformed into lifelong Indophiles. There are some who don’t go back; they just lose themselves in the multi-coloured splendor that is India.

But the cynic in me asks, can an outsider truly grasp the complexity of the country? and what is it that they come looking for? We all are aware of the obvious answers, but could it simply be peace of mind, spiritual enlightenment and an escape from the in-your-face materialism? The very idea that travelers to India seek all this, and find it, is in a sense comical. It is this essence of the comic, mixed with a certain sense of solemnity and seriousness that The Darjeeling Limited brilliantly captures.

Three American brothers from a dysfunctional family travel across India by train seeking an emotional closure of sorts to past hurts. The eldest brother takes the lead in finding symbolic meaning in everything and everywhere. The trio is clearly overwhelmed by the sheer variety, vibrancy and sensuousness of the dusty landscapes they traverse.

Many Don Quixote-like moments later, they end up in a sleepy village where they experience death firsthand – of a child they try to save from drowning. As they gently get assimilated into the daily life of the village, the dignity with which the bereaved family copes with tragedy comes as a revelation. The brothers find peace where they least expect it.

The journey is real as well as an inward one. The film is brilliantly funny in its caricaturing the typical Indophile. The gaudy beauty of India is captured with an eye for detail. But the narration operates at different levels. At the obvious surface level, it is a parody on Westerners lapping up all things Indian. And at the subtle, subterranean level, it portrays the genuineness of a way of life. You need to see the movie more than once to grasp its nuances.

I made an effort to see this movie as it was another venture by the acclaimed Wes Anderson whose movie The Royal Tennenbaums is one of my all time favourites. I think this one has achieved a distinction in a league of its own.

Anushka Mathew

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