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'The Avengers' & India: Critics Say Kolkata Scenes Are 'Disturbing,' Disrespectful

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 05/07/2012 1:54 pm Updated: 05/07/2012 1:57 pm

Avengers India Criticism
"Marvel's The Avengers" is drawing criticism for its portrayal of Kolkata, India.

"The Avengers" has exceeded all expectations and shattered box office records, but not everyone is pleased with the film. Some Bollywood actors and other Indians claim the Marvel release parrots the tired trope of a Westerner coming and saving beleaguered Easterners.

In the film, Mark Ruffalo's character Bruce Banner (also known as the Incredible Hulk) finds refuge in Kolkata's slums, where he serves the local population by treating lepers.

Bengali actor Rituparna Sengupta said that the scenes -- which were filmed in New Mexico -- belied a certain ignorance on the part of the filmmakers. "“Kolkata has a rich culture and heritage, and a filmmaker should respect that," he told the Hindustan Times. "There are two scenes about India and they only show slums. It could have been done in better taste."

A software professional also took issue with the plotline: "It has become a trend in the West to show Indian slums and a Westerner trying to help the poor here. When will Hollywood stop cashing in on the poverty here?"

Writing on TheWrap, Sandip Roy noted the disparity between the Kolkata in which he was watching the film in a fancy theater and the one depicted on the screen:

Calcutta looked cramped, squalid and leprous, as in "City of Joy" from 20 years ago. Then, Patrick Swayze was saving lepers. This time around, Mark Ruffalo is Dr. Bruce Banner, keeping his inner Hulk under control by saving eternally ill slum-dwellers.

This is not the reverse migration story about the West coming East in search of the future. Or even to Eat, Pray, and Love. It is a throwback to a much older idea of India: a black hole, all slumdogs, no millionaires, waiting to be saved by a foreign do-gooder.

The Hindustan Times also reported rumors that an "Avengers" sequel may be filmed in India, citing a source from the film's team who said director Joss Whedon wanted to "grab more eyeballs." The superhero film was very well-received in India, racking up 15 crore over its opening weekend (and beating out all other films).

HuffPost reached out to Disney (the parent company of Marvel that distributed the film) for comment. We'll update this post when we word arrives.

"The Avengers" rang up $207.1 million in opening weekend sales in America, which contributed to a staggering international cume of $654.5 million over about a week in a half. More money, more problems.

PHOTOS: "The Avengers" assemble -- with everyday heroes -- for the film's New York City premiere.

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