What Was the Indian Response to “Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom” Upon Release?

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) was largely shot in Sri Lanka and London. This wasn’t by choice, it was because the Indian government wouldn’t allow it to be shot there, finding the material racist and offensive.

Upon release, the film was originally banned in the country. It turns out a vastly populated country (primarily comprised of vegetarians) didn’t like being represented as a culture who eats monkey brains, snakes, beetles, and eyeball soup. The inaccurate depiction of the Goddess Kali also caused quite a stir, as Kali is not a destructive symbol of the underworld and evil as shown in the film. Kali is the Goddess of Change and Empowerment who only acts in the interest of overall positive change.

The cinematic trope of “The White Savior” also received backlash. This device is the idea that a white messiah character comes out of nowhere to save a nonwhite group from some terrible fate. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) falls from the sky into this Indian village to find he’s tasked as the only person capable of saving them all. Some view this as setting up a troubling Christian vs. Hindu dichotomy where Chrstianity is placed above Hinduism in importance. The village “couldn’t survive” without Jones’ help, placing the power of the white Christian westerner above that of the native Indian Hindus.