Disturbing, yet…

I was catching up on news at Huffington Post this afternoon when I came across this really disturbing (yet oddly compelling) music video by Devendra Banhart featuring his hottie girlfriend, actress Natalie Portman. I like that the video (to his song “Carmensita”) even starts out like an authentic Bollywood movie. Even though I don’t see what she sees in this disheveled mess of a Venezuelan “folk rocker,” I thank him for the new images of Portman he’s now put forever into my mind. The rest of the video (except for Natalie) is a mess of religion, mythology, and camp (Nina Paley did it better) and I can’t wait to see if the fundamentalists start rioting somewhere in the world.

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p>Here are the lyrics in Spanish. Now I’m just afraid to see the eventual YouTube clip of Arnold that you know is coming.

Update: Looks like Manish at Ultrabrown took the time to translate, hoping to find deeper meaning perhaps

80 thoughts on “Disturbing, yet…

  1. What. in. the. world. “Really disturbing yet oddly compelling” is exactly what I would call it. Wow.

  2. Guys, it is an amazing video. I enjoyed it. I do not think there is anything disturbing.

    It makes fun lot of older Doordarshan religious TV serials, and even older 1930-40s, religious Bollywood movies, or even later (1970s) ones like Jai Santoshi Ma. It is inspired by all of them.

    I guess if one does not know the context, then one would make coffee house intellectual like comments, and analysis. Hell with fundies, and also coffee house crowd.

  3. I am curious about the director of the video.

    Someone who made must have seen a lot (or had detailed knowledge) of campy religious fares from Doordarshan/ Indian film industry (all of them had it – Bombay, Tamil, Kannada – all of them)

  4. I guess if one does not know the context, then one would make coffee house intellectual like comments, and analysis. Hell with fundies, and also coffee house crowd.

    Don’t worry I don’t plan on making any intellectual comments. Just comments about Portman.

  5. NP is awsim! deliciously heteronormative and phallocentric!

    Aw shucks, razib. You did mean Nina Paley, didn’t you?

  6. i loved the video! thanks for sharing, abhi!

    (and nina is awesome too! i love introducing people to her site!)

  7. This video is ridiculous. And it makes me wonder again why Natalie Portman has such poor taste in boyfriends.

  8. disturbing…uh yeah…i don’t even think a video like this should be considered in the same category as nina paley’s, b/c she was trying to engage in serious social commentary…the subtitles in this video are pretty derogatory, and you can tell the creators (who are attempting to mock indian cinematic and cultural images) don’t have enough cultural knowledge to do that effectively…it’s just a hippie fest, where the hippies are rich and bored, and starving for attention, and ignorant pretending to be enlightened, and kind of jealous that they can’t be in a bollywood film too…(okay, maybe not the last one…maybe)…expected better from portman…what’s she doing with that yale education…and, is this MESS the best option she’s got?…

  9. i couldn’t even finish watching the video, it made me ill. and as an inside, outside, all around desi, i thought i could be open to things. guess not.

  10. Portman is a hardcore vegan. I think that explains everything. If you ever meet her all you have to do is talk about shoes that are completly leather free and how lettuce is awesome and she will most likely give you at least a handjob.

  11. i agree with kush, and i loved the old films and TV programs, oh ms portman you have become crazy, and i LOVE it!!

  12. some folks seem to be taking this way too seriously. take it for what it is – a music video from an eccentric and apparently very creative artist. it’s not meant to be social commentary.

    it reminds me, in a way, of the beastie boys’ sabotage video – an original and strange costumed narrative filmed to a catchy as hell song with little bearing on the lyrics. as that was, this is briliantly original video. just compare it to 95% of the cliche crap on whatever channel plays music videos these days. last time i checked (admittedly, years ago), they sucked and all melded together. also, we’re talking about this….and i don’t think i’m alone in downloading the song at this moment….

    also, holy shit – natalie portman just shot up on my celebrity hot list. and she likes dudes with long hair and beards, eh? good taste, i says.

    1. pb

    i agree completely with you. also, natalie went to harvard and not to yale. another thing about all of this is is that she’s partly from israel and the young people there have a tradition of going to india, getting stoned, taking over whole beaches in goa and being unfriendly to the locals, except when they want to sleep with one of them.

  13. not only sabotage…but because it just popped up on my playlist and i was reminded, Muse – Knights of Cydonia has a music video that’s similarly campy, purposefully silly, and poking fun at a movie genre RIPE for the poking, with title screens and random FX and all!

  14. 24 · malaika said

    14. pb i agree completely with you. also, natalie went to harvard and not to yale. another thing about all of this is is that she’s partly from israel and the young people there have a tradition of going to india, getting stoned, taking over whole beaches in goa and being unfriendly to the locals, except when they want to sleep with one of them.

    1) half the friendliness in this world is because someone wants to sleep with someone. 2) are the goan locals, uh, averse to sleeping with hot israeli chicks? 3) well maybe if the palestinians went to goa and got stoned and lounged on beaches, there’d be peace. nothing like bonding over a hash pipe.

  15. Her boyfriend is the appositely named Devendra Banhart who has included desi music in his own before. He’s Venezuelan-American and was raised in Caracas, hence the Spanish and the encounter with Bollywood through very bad Spanish subtitling.

  16. cookiebrown – you know that Keira Knightley was Natalie Portman’s “double” (the handmaiden who’d dress like her) in the first Star Wars prequel, right? A lot of people have totally forgotten about that, but that’s where I was introduced to both of them.

    This is a strange video. I can understand both sides of the debate but it feels so sloppy and not as tasteful as NP’s usual fare. I like to think she’s classier than this.

  17. That video is effin rad. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, people. Beyond that, I usually like anything that’s absurd, irreverent, subversive, blasphemous, iconoclastic, etc.

    Last week we talked about “satire.” This week can we talk about “parody?”

  18. That video is a little bit grainy, so I couldn’t really tell, but is Natalie Portman in brownface in that video? And am I right in assuming that her boyfriend isn’t actually desi at all?

    I don’t know about this. A part of me understands that it may be intended as a tongue in cheek tribute, but I’m a little bit annoyed. To me it smacks of the old western exotification of desis and a little bit of a cliche. Meh. Whatevs.

  19. ShallowThinker: So, are you contemptuous of vegans, or women in general? It wasn’t clear from your comment.

  20. One would need an MFA to parse this vid. Banhart’s audience consists mostly of MFAs who live in Brooklyn and the Mission District SF. Most live a subsistence existence, burritos and ramen noodle and such, punctuated by shopping trips to Whole Foods when mummy/daddy are in town. In another ten years, Portman will become concerned about her age given the pitifully short shelf life of hollywood actresses. She will will flee into the arms of a hedge fund manager, possibly a pudgy wharton marwari hedge fund manager, as she transitions from nubile babe (early 20s) to crone (>34 +)

  21. 33 · Lizzie (greeneyed fem) said

    ShallowThinker: So, are you contemptuous of vegans, or women in general? It wasn’t clear from your comment.

    I didn’t read ShallowThinker that way. I think all he is saying is that when people are casual with your most cherished symbols they should at the very least give you a consolation prize

  22. I was thinking more along the lines of she is the closest thing to a hippie in these days and the whole free love sterotype that goes with the hippie sterotype.

    There is no need for feminism on these boreds. Must be on her period or something. Just kidding.

  23. The vid certainly wasn’t brilliant, but parts of it were funny pastiches of the Ramanand Sagar Ramayan (watch it for the first 6 minutes or so) and the Chopra Mahabharat. This is hardly exotification, it is clearly tongue-in-cheek.

    But probably funniest are the ruffled feathers of Abhi and umbrage taken by commenters of the ilk of louiecypher (who, in his froth, even forgot to mention Pomona in his comment #34), when everybody was so willing to casually bandy disparagement of Indians from India on the Africa thread. Presumably, what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

  24. how sad for natalie to be dumped by the gorgeous gael garcia bernal and to have to stoop to seeing this sorry creature

  25. 37 · Desi from desh said

    The vid certainly wasn’t brilliant, but parts of it were funny pastiches of the Ramanand Sagar Ramayan (watch it for the first 6 minutes or so) and the Chopra Mahabharat. This is hardly exotification, it is clearly tongue-in-cheek. But probably funniest are the ruffled feathers of Abhi and umbrage taken by commenters of the ilk of louiecypher (who, in his froth, even forgot to mention Pomona in his comment #34), when everybody was so willing to casually bandy disparagement of Indians from India on the Africa thread. Presumably, what’s good for the goose isn’t good for the gander.

    Thanks for poining out my omission. Pomona is the West Coast’s Bennington….heh heh

  26. 39 · louiecypher said

    Pomona is the West Coast’s Bennington

    pomona is harder to get into than bennington. respeck! louicypher, you better consult those ranking books carefully before when you brat enters sixth grade. gotta have a gameplan, innit?

    possibly a pudgy wharton marwari hedge fund manager

    uh, rob isn’t pudgy. he’s not even marwari.

  27. Awesome. Natalie’s little static shimmy set my hypothalamus afire. I’m hoping that the cephalopod didn’t go into some obscure cooking pot.

  28. 35 · louiecypher said

    I think all he is saying is that when people are casual with your most cherished symbols they should at the very least give you a consolation prize

    So if someone,uh, screws your wife, then he should blow you? give you money? lease a porsche in your name? Your dignity or cultural pride can be bought for a handjob from a hot woman? Have you learned nothing from HMF?

    I see that his prolific pontifications on self-respect are wasted on the men on these boards.

  29. So if someone,uh, screws your wife, then he should blow you?

    me: No, I’ll pass

    give you money?

    me: That’s a start

    lease a porsche in your name?

    me: Would make the betrayal sting less no doubt

    Your dignity or cultural pride can be bought for a handjob from a hot woman?

    me: I am a sad, sad man

    In case anyone is wondering, I am kidding. I find nothing offensive about the vid. I think he reached beyond Bollywood and may have a stash of Amar Chitra Katha as well

    I do dislike MFAs….fo’ real

  30. If you can overlook the singer’s hairy arm pits and extremely low cut pants (or dhotis??), the humorous video is a funny interpretation of Bollywood. The song has a very catchy tune.

  31. 40 · babymamma uh, rob isn’t pudgy. he’s not even marwari.


    True dat! ;-) I’m loving me the recession–I can finally get a reservation at Peter Luger on short notice, or swagger into Po without one!!

  32. 40 · babymamma said

    uh, rob isn’t pudgy. he’s not even marwari.

    he probably meant manju. except the marwari part doesn’t match.

  33. 48 · bootstrap bill said

    40 · babymamma said
    uh, rob isn’t pudgy. he’s not even marwari.
    he probably meant manju. except the marwari part doesn’t match.

    Manju is saving himself for Ann Coulter. He better treat her right lest he end up in Cuba wearing an orange jumpsuit

  34. Off topic, Israel’s fascination with India is interesting because the way they treat the locals while in India is nothing short of deeply offensive. One guy at an Indian store screamed in the face of a sari vendor for TWO HOURS (he left and came back repeatedly) to make him cut the price in half. The store owner later said that Israelis are dreaded in the market place. I guess 60+ years of bulldozing Palestinian homes and farms and replacing them with Jew-only villas translate to not-so-good social skills. It’s amusing to see how the Indians kissed Israeli asses, though. Must be the whole U.S.-centric adoration of all things American and American funded?

    On topic: Most excellent video, yaar. Dude should pull up his pants, though…or shave.