Sunday, December 17, 2006


I know that many people will hasten to correct me and be surprised at my reaction. But the reason I disliked Borat was not because it's disgustingly outrageous in many parts. That did not bother me. My philosophy about movies always has been that it does not matter if you see a lot of gore, violence, or sex in them, as long as there's a purpose for all that. I usually have no problems with graphic murder details, extreme rage, rivers of blood and excessive sex, if they all are essential for the thread and context of the movie. However, the more extreme notions that a writer and director include in a movie, the more responsibility they have to actually justify all of that. And Borat fails to do this. It sets an unwieldy standard for itself by all the shock value that is built up. But it fails to deliver the punchline of purpose that necessarily should accompany such an explosion of outrageousness.

Yes, there definitely are some quite hilarious moments that leave you genuinely laughing. But they are much fewer than the moments which leave you gasping with horror and looking for justification. All through the movie I was thinking, what's the point? If the point is simply to make people gasp in horror, then that purpose is served. But then what's the difference between Borat and a roadside freak show? After all, there are many American movies which are like that, but then they also don't try to disguise themselves as anything else. And they also usually don't get four stars from Roger Ebert.

Borat appears as if through all the outrageous antics, it is trying to highlight the idiosyncracies of America and Americans. But it hardly exposes them any more than they already have, and then also only a few of them, and then also limited to a few Americans and a few aspects of America. I was hoping for a movie that would bring out the most outrageous idiosyncracies of America and Americans through the most outrageous depictions and analogies. But what idiosyncracies are we talking about here? Americans' obssession with sex, religion, and high-handedness? Or their sometimes weird sense of humour? But we already knew this, and we also know that such excesses are not a global part of all of America and certainly cannot be generalized. So why do we need Borat to demonstrate this?

Not only that, I am not surprised that the movie offended quite a few because of it's purpose not keeping up with its shock value. In some parts the movie seems demeaning to both Americans and Kazhaks. I read that many Americans were essentially tricked into starring in this movie under the pretext that it was a sincere documentary. I am sure that when Michael Moore filmed Fahranheit 911, even he did not tell everyone in it about his explicit purpose. But in that case, such actions seem justified, because the movie was designed to expose the weaknesses, hypocrisies, and extremes of the administration. Again, if there's a good purpose, any kind of excess can be rationalized and I can understand it. Not so in Borat

Sacha Baron Cohen sure has been bold, and I don't deny that he is a creative and talented man. People might tell me, you are going down the wrong road here; Borat is again one of those movies which you should watch, as they say about some Hindi flicks, while "leaving your brain at home". I don't mind such movies at all. But then they should not be justified as examples of great satire, irony, and philosophy, as Borat has often been made out to be.

With a purpose fleshed out distinctly, Borat would actually have been a great movie. But as you are left groping about for that purpose in the darkness, whether the movie intends it or not, you cannot help but think that Borat has insulted the intelligence of its audience.


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