Brie Larson's new film, Basmati Blues, has piqued the interest of social media users – but for all the wrong reasons. An initial trailer for the film, which has since been deleted, came under fire for perpetuating stereotypes about Indian people and has resulted in numerous criticisms of the romantic comedy.
Aside from the boring clichés – such as Larson being pushed by a goat at a train station, the cringe-worthy title, or her desperately fanning herself at how spicy Indian food is – there's a more serious issue people have been pointing out.
The movie, which was filmed in 2013 and only just received the funds for distribution, portrays Larson as an American scientist who goes to India to try and sell genetically-modified rice. Linda (Larson) then discovers that this would inevitably destroy the lives of local farmers and subsequently saves them by turning her back on the company and protecting their livelihood.
Larson's role in the film has been compared to that of the 'white saviour' – a widely used cinematic trope in which white people come to the rescue of people of colour. Not only is the 'white saviour' a problematic idea as it harks back to racial hierarchies during times of colonialism and slavery, but it's an overdone narrative that doesn't explore the nuances of non-Western countries.
Multiple Twitter users have angrily condemned the film and Larson herself for taking up the role.
Ultimately, these comments aren't unfair. This year it was reported that India was the fourth fastest growing economy in the world, highlighting how Western ideas of India's economic struggles and poverty are less clear cut than reductive stereotypes.
In hindsight if the film is anything like the promotional images and trailers have suggested, it's a real shame that Hollywood found the budget to push a romanticised view of India as "the exotic", and not explore exuberant and multilayered place it really is. I'm sure an Indian writer could have done this for them.