‘Black Panther’ – Two thoughts

I watched Black Panther again today. Two things came to mind.

First: When by the end of the film T’Challa and Wakanda realise that they can’t keep their technology a secret anymore, it is – among many things – an act of taking charge of their nation’s narrative. By doing so, T’Challa and his advisers ensure that others may not tell Wakanda’s story in a way the state does not wish to be told. This is valuable advice, especially for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). This organisation’s exploits are blown out of proportion more often than any other governmental institution in India, except perhaps the Army’s. However, ISRO’s dysfunctional public outreach enterprise has never raised a finger against those who would misrepresent its activities or intentions. It must do so, and take charge of the narrative so that those less informed don’t.

Second: In the first half of the film, Erik Stevens (later, N’Jadaka) casually reveals that he has spiked the coffee being sipped by the curator of a museum in London. In most English and Tamil films till date, the nitty-gritty of heists are spelled out to the audience by featuring the scenes in which each step of the heist was performed. However, Black Panther doesn’t bother, probably because it is not a heist film but largely because it could bank on its audience to piece together what might have happened, and for which it could thank all the heist films released thus far (esp. the Ocean’s trilogy). From my POV, the film used ‘tell’, not ‘show’ – which is, coming from a journalist, a bad way to write a story – to good effect. The first Tamil film I saw that was similarly innocuous about the details of its caper was Aayirathil Oruvan (‘One man in a thousand’), 2010.

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