Hollywood. Known for its blockbuster movies and overly excessive box office profits. Although, little known to the western world, there are other film industries. Two of the larger are India (Best known as Bollywood) and China. Of these two, Bollywood is essentially the most well known outside of Hollywood. Academic, D. Bose affirmed India as the 2nd biggest film industry, stating that ‘the best chance of challenging Hollywood’s hegemony in the movie making world’ (2006: 195).
The manipulation of culture is essential when making movies for your country. Producers must convey their culture in such a way that it is relatable and easy to digest. This post will briefly explore how film industries use their culture to appeal to audiences locally (such as China). As well as how industries (such as India/Bollywood) sell their culture internationally, and how international film industries appropriate these cultural specifics.
Bollywood, by definition is a “Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India. [Combining film industries;] Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada.” The plots are often melodramatic and have major song and dance sequences, mostly all revolving around central issues such as love, and conflictual struggles involving the parents. (http://www.bollywoodnewsworld.com/whatisbollywood/) (You can read more about Bollywood Here: http://www.bollywoodnewsworld.com/whatisbollywood/)
The reason I have explored the context of Bollywood, is so I can explain Nye’s notion of ‘soft power’ (Nye: 2004) and the way that India culturally exerts this power (affirmed by Shashi Tharoor). The concept of soft power (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/soft-power) is the way in which India influences the US and UK. Through culture. Indian culture is fundimentally different, so when producers change Bollywood movies to suit a western audience, they are by extension changing Indian culture. This change is either known as co-optation or appropriation.
What is the difference between the two? When is it hybridity and when is it theft.
An example of Bollywood appropriation is the film ‘Bend it like Beckham’ (2002). It follows themes common to Bollywood; star-crossed lovers and conflicts fuelled by family members. It also includes Indian music, and an extravagant dance number at the end. However, it is appropriated through the use of the English language, and sexual contact between characters. This is a quality which is strictly explicit in Bollywood Films. So to appeal to the western audience, while drawing on Indian culture, producers had to include concepts appealing to both cultures. Which essentially, is appropriation in practice. Although, this also raises questions. How far is too far? Is it ok to use Indian culture, but add western specifics which oppose indian traditions, just to appeal to the audience?
American films appeal to audience who are accustomed to a certain type of film. Short, at about 90 minutes (compared to 3 hour Bollywood films), involving romantic and sometimes intimate scenes, and sensationalized plots. So how can American films, and Bollywood films – two fundamentally different genres – combine? Does this combination result in the fair appropriation of Indian cultures, creating a hybrid genre? Or are the American producers exploiting India culture?
I encourage you to leave comments in the sections below. Giving your opinions on the questions I have raised.
End of text reference list:
Nye, J. (2004) Soft Power: The Means to Success in World Politics. New York: Public Affairs.
Bose, D. (2006) Brand Bollywood: A New Global Entertainment Order. New Delhi: Sage.
Goldsmith, B., Ward, S., & O’Regan, T. (Eds.). (2010). Local Hollywood: global film production and the Gold Coast. Univ. of Queensland Press.
Ahn, S. (2012). The Pusan International Film Festival, South Korean Cinema and Globalization. Hong Kong University Press.