December 2003 - January 2004
Indian Cinema: Aping America?It 'looks' like an Indian Film. People look like Indians, in fact they are Indians.
They speak 'Hindi', the national language of India. Yet, overall the product
does not look completely Indian. This is a modern Hindi film. This film like
an NRI, lives outside India most of the time, and visits its motherland occasionally.
Problem with present day Hindi cinema is, it is becoming 'rootless' and 'faceless'.
People from the film industry are very happy with this 'development' and the
'modern avataar' of the industry. But it appears they are unaware of the harm,
film industry is doing to itself.
hate to use that word, "Bollywood." This is not and should
not be a synonym for Hindi Film Industry. It is very difficult to describe
Indian film Industry, because of linguistic, regional diversity. At
the moment Hindi films are regarded as Indian Cinema, the world over.
O. K. We will accept that premise, for now. But for a long time it
was called as a 'Hindi' Film Industry. When this word (Bollywood) crept
in and exactly who introduced that word can be classic case for Sherlock
Holmes and his likes. The capital of 'Maharashtra', is Mumbai. It's
earlier name was 'Bombay'. It is also the capital of Hindi Film Industry.
So, I think somebody took 'B' from 'Bombay' and suffixed 'ollywood'
from 'Hollywood' to it. Thus a new name was 'born'. In the recent past
this name has gained much currency. One reason behind this is, fast
changing demography in Western countries. The population of Asians,
particularly of Indians, is increasing in U.K., U.S.A,(and also in
S. Korea, Australia etc.) Indians settled abroad are influential in
one way or the other. Naturally Indian Film producers are eying this
ever growing overseas market for their Films. A commercially 'Flop'
film in India can recover its money in these markets. Sometimes it
can earn handsome profits abroad. In a way Hindi cinema is charting
the way Hollywood films are treading for so long. American Films can
earn huge money, because they are released world wide. Actually Hollywood,
for years, carefully nurtured the taste for its kind of cinema, world
wide, and created a suitable market for its films or rather 'products'.
This is not the place to analyse American films, or various genre Hollywood
offers. It will suffice to say that it has created a style of story
telling, that appeals to everyone in the world.
present scenario of Indian or rather Hindi Films, we will have to take
into account some other issues, which are not directly related to cinema
or Art as per se. In the early '90's, Indian polity opened up India's
Economy. Foreign Direct Investment was and still is welcome. What was
the consequence of the 'liberalization' vis-a-vis Indian Industry, Agriculture,
Labour Market is a big subject to fill pages of a big book. But the first
industry to take advantage of this 'openness' was satellite T.V. Thus
foreign, particularly American T.V. programmes reached Indian households
to sum up briefly.
is not that because of satellite T.V. Indian media in general and Films
in particular are heading towards Globalisation or rather Westernisation
Westernisation of our culture started when western explorers and settlers
set their foot on our soil. Tempered scale entered our music when we
first accepted Harmonium. There was and still is a tendency to look
to the west for recognition. This is a colonial legacy. Impact of the
British Raj. But this westernisation was limited to a small class (often
upper). Now satellite channels bombard us 24 hours a day. They come
up with variety of programmes. Hindi film industry is well known (or
notorious) for plagarism . Plagarism takes many shapes and shades in
Hindi films. 'Rebecca' of Hitchcock 'inspired' 'Kohara' in early 60's.Bond
movies were copied in the west also , so one finds many spinoffs in
Hindi.'Namak Haram'(1973) directed by Hrishkesh Mukherjee was based
on 'Becket' but had complete Indian touch to it, no one can complain
about that.In early 80' 'Fast Forward' of Poitier became 'Dance Dance
' in Hindi, and that was a copy.In last 20 years or so 'Dial M for
Murder' is remade at least four times in Hindi. Some times it is 'loosely'based
or some times direct copy,worsening it with songs and dances. 'Sleeping
with the enemy' starring Julia Roberts became 'Agni Sakshi'and that
was one version of it Copying of scenes , dialogues are in abundance.
.Nearly 40 years ago Hollywood remade Kurosawa's 'Seven Smurai' into
'Magnifiscent Seven'.Has Hindi cinema ever offered a powerful film
to the west?
made good films but perhaps our film makers were afraid to promote them
in big way due to Cultural Difference. They,in the name of Salability
took shelter under copying western films. Globalisation is basically
reffered to the Industry and Economic affairs. But with Free trade, New
and Foreign ideas enter into the market and into consumer's minds. Satellite
T.V. brought Foreign Programmes, to India and with them, Foreign ideas
and Foreign values too. Every communication process is cultural bias.
One can clearly see, that after MTV entered Indian houses song picturisation
in Indian Films (Hindi as well as other South Indian Films too) changed
radically. Lighting and colours used, use of camera angles, fast cutting,
everything is now identical to those of western Pop or Rock music videos,
shown on MTV. Indian girls are ready to shed clothes and dance in the
streets to get a chance to show their face or body on AXN's 'Hot and
Wild' show. Thus satellite T.V. did boost the pace of so called globalisation,
in fact westernisation of our media. Indian T.V. Channels are happy to
copy British or American T.V. shows. .[ For example; Kehta Hai Dil is
a copy of 'Picket Fences' Kaun Banega Karodpati was copy of 'Who wants
to be Millionair', Tol Mol ke Bol is based on 'The Price is Right', Zaban
Sambhal Ke is based on 'Mind Your Language' ,'Yes Minister 'becameJi
Mantriji and so on.)
the top of Satellite T.V., Internet has spread, at least in urban India,
like wild fire. Anything 'latest' in the west is just a click away. This
has caught imagination of Indian youth .New Indian cinema is catering
to this youth, termed as 'The Now Generation', 'Generation Next' etc.
This generation belongs to rich class and higher middle class and middle
class, often described as 'upwardly mobile class'. Their ambition is
to settle down in U.S.A. or U.K. They have nothing to do with poverty
in India, Environmental crisis, Human Rights etc. They think only in
material terms and only for themselves. Attitude of this new affluent
audience is changing the face of Indian and particularly Hindi Cinema.
Now story (if any) revolves around rich people, living in palatial houses
and characters go abroad for no solid reason. One can not find any trace
of any social, economic problem. Situations are flimsy and characters
are of cardboard. 'Kabhi, Khushi Kabhi Gum' and "Dil Chahata Hai'
are typical examples of this new syndrom. Audience don't identify with
such stories and characters but 'aspires' to be so.
More articles by Nikhil Gajendragadkar
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