aper presented at panel discussion on cultural impact of popular Hindi cinema and media on South Asian diaspora world wide specifically nonresident South Asians. The discussion was part of the Literary Arts segment of the Festival of South Asia in Toronto)
For my poetry kindly Visit: English: http://ignitedlines.blogspot.com
“Mera juta hai japani, Ye patloon inglistani, Sar pe lal topi rusi, Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani”
The loose translation is:
And I am a 1st generation South Asian, living in Canada. Still am influenced, adore this spirited song of 1955 when I was not even born, still am a diehard fan of Raj Kapoor, his grand films and the exotic music that he produced with his brilliant team of Shankar Jai Kishan, Shailendra, Hasarat Jaipuri and Mukesh. My, 27 years old daughter, Tia, the next generation, totally merged in Canadian system, still hums this 1955 song along with many others. She enjoys the Bollywood music from yester years till date as much as she enjoys the present Bollywood music.
Such is the overall impact of Indian Cinema from ages which passes generations. It certainly includes the Indian diaspora or the nonresidents population from South Asian subcontinent having their heritage and roots in it.
The song is an anthem to many. It is a historical reference point of “unity in diversity and nationalism” which also sums up and epitomizes the effect of Bollywood on an entire Indian diaspora which of course includes the South Asian living abroad like me. It also shows that the impact of popular Bollywood cinema in spite being uncompromising, hardcore commercial in nature, goes beyond time, generations and transcends the national boundaries to the global civilization is because it is able to sustain the artistic element in it.
Incidentally some of you might know that this Iconic song was introduced in recently released block buster Hollywood film “Deadpool” starring Hollywood super hero Ryan Reynolds. It is said that the director Tim Miller simply fell in love with the song when he heard it in a pub, just imagine where? Of all the places in New Zealand and wanted it in the film. Film started and got concluded with this song where the taxi driver, ‘a South Asian nonresident’ in the film is playing it in his car.
We also observe that the impact of Indian cinema or Bollywood cinema is not new on Indian diaspora, specifically on global South Asians. It goes back to 1950s and 60s. Now it is seen or felt more and have become matter of discussion on many academic platforms because the numbers and the South Asian diaspora has increased vastly in many countries around the world, so is the making of Bollywood films and their influence, also the thematic films that specifically revolve around and cater to, are of interest of this section of global community.
The media voice has become more vibrant, vocal and powerful, now, than before because of tech advancements and has a far reaching impact. Serials and Soap operas are a part of day to day living of a South Asian because of the easy access to the South Asian Channels. Pakistani plays are extremely popular with any South Asian for its tremendous engaging value.
Media speaks generously about the industry than before to expose it to the world. Also. Entertainment now is a part of everyday life. It is as important as having food.
The marketing structure of the Bollywood popular cinema has always been territory or region based, the newer 7th territory of nonresident South Asians represents a sizeable market for films whose protagonists some times are reaffirmation of the Indian identity transformed by globalization. Specifically for Karan Johar, Subhash Ghai, Yash Raj Chopra this is very true. Films like Kabhi alvida na Kahna, Kal ho na ho, Kabhi Khusi kabhi gam, Pardes, Dilwale dulhania and many more revolve around a nonresident protagonist.
The two major Indian flourishing communities are the constant focus of most of the Bollywood popular cinema and those are Punjabis and Gujratis. These films of course have a generic value and an appeal for all.
Quoting from Times of India, “Bollywood popular films are very wisely adapted to meet the emotional expectations of NRIs, as well as to provide Indians with guidelines to liberal modernity, are also part of the larger ambitions of India as a visible country”.
Phenomenal success of recently released SULTAN going house full in countries like Canada, England, United States, Australia and many more is a living proof that an Indian is always looking for his or her MITTI or SOIL, DHARATI MA or MOTHER LAND within him or herself. Through which he or she emotionally aspires to be connected to his or her original self. This is the ultimate human cry, the need, the longing that gives the South Asian the emotional substance and the meaning.
About Sultan I would like to quote from the experience of a fellow writer and friend Mayank Bhatt who with his wife Mahrukh saw it in Cineplex at Yonge and Dundas. He comments on facebook, “The loudest cheers flooded the hall when Sultan and Arafa greet the man on the street in Hungary, carrying a placard of an Indian restaurant. It was a moment that touched every non-resident Indian’s heart in the movie hall, without saying a word.”
Here Salman Khan departs from the well known and loved screen name PREM and becomes SULTAN a Muslim wrestler in a typical liberated Haryanvi setup. One also wonders, is his becoming “Sultan Ali Khan” a Muslim wrestler is a conscious and subtle statement by this “rebel” actor and the film makers through cinema in the present political milieu and tussle between tolerance and intolerance?
Quoting Wikipedia “Cinema actually has been the most vibrant medium for telling India its own story, the story of its struggle for independence, its constant struggle to achieve national integration and to emerge as a global presence”.
Primarily Popular Bollywood cinema is about the revenue generation model. It focuses on the emotional need of the expatriate who constantly pines for the Indian-ness in a foreign land to be connected with the Self. Research says that the cinema theatre in west London is the highest earning screen in the world for Bollywood films so is the Canadian market specifically for Punjabi films.
Whatever is the reason, this dream world of entertainment is a reality of life for nonresidents. It does provide a concrete emotional substance to the nonresidents to be linked, connected and is a constant reminder of their country of origin. Now this heritage of the biggest entertainment industry of the world is being passed on to the 2nd and 3rd generations of NRIs.
The next generation also enjoys seeing these films which connect them with the language, music, lyrics, dance and through them they get linked with fashion, trends, styles and much more that is typically South Asian to modern Indian subcontinent and part of Indian heritage and culture.
The Bollywood industry seems to have thrived because of its balanced combination of music, songs with power full lyrics and visuals of choreographed dance sequences. These are amalgamated within the storyline. Choreographed song sequences have been the back bone of this industry which Hollywood started in 1910s and shunned in 1930s. This is what makes Bollywood industry unique and makes it everlasting in the minds, giving the viewer an exceptional, sensually fulfilling experience. These songs though independently appreciated are also like cues and clues to the narrative structure of the story.
Again historically the influence and impact of this Bollywood music is manifold and far more reaching than any other medium. And NRI factor is not untouched by its lasting appeal. They say the language of music goes beyond the limitations of words.
Popular music, Bollywood singing, dancing and trendy Bollywood fashions overpower and have made a place in the everyday life of the expatriate almost next to the religion. This unique Bollywood brand works and surprisingly without any insignia or a logo with a huge mindshare of nonresident community.
Even today when NRIs watch or listen to the song Chtthi aayee hai chitthi aai hai, Watan se chitthi ayee hai from the movie Naam sung by Pankaj Udhas most of them have tears in their eyes. Such is the impact. Mera Juta hai japani still gives one goose bumps giving a feeling of nationalism, duty and unity. Songs picturized on Shammi Kapoor still invoke foot tapping and raw sensual emotions in these far off lands. The pop music of then has become classic now.
The Bollywood pop music of today is making a history for coming years. “Jai ho”, a salute to the Oscar winning directors like AR Rahman and Bollywood music who are playing an important role in the making of the global South Asian, the intrinsic role model of global civilization.”
Hollywood actors like Kevin Spacey going beyond the popularity of “House of Cards” are dancing on the tracks of much popular LUNGI DANCE with Indian actors during IIFA Awards 2014 in US is a sure shot example of the important role of nonresident South Asian population in the making the
Bollywood story a further success with a healthy crossover. (LINK) On the same stage the legendary Hollywood actor John Travolta which he shared with Bollywood Superstar Hrithik Roshan, complemented the uniting role of Bollywood and said, “I believe that as human beings we are more alike than we are different also as evidenced by the global embrace of Bollywood films, there is no more powerful a medium to celebrate our similarities than films.” (LINK)
The entertainer superstar actor Shah Rukh Khan’s popular "Chammak Challo Dance" performance at Yale, United States on April 12, 2012 as a prestigious Chubb Fellow in his first visit to an American university, with Yale sophomore Natalia Khosla after his serious, somber, thoughtful and down to earth speech again substantiates the powerful role of nonresident South Asian and the popular Bollywood cinema are playing on the world scene.(LINK) So was his popular Lungi Dance performance and its overwhelming acceptance by the students and the university fraternity as Dr. Shah Rukh to celebrated his honorary doctorate at The University of Edinburgh. The degree was given to him in recognition of his success as an actor with a global reach and his outstanding record of philanthropy, altruism and humanitarianism. (LINK)
Famous Bollywood singers like Sonu Nigam, Shreya Ghoshal Sunidhi Chauhan and the list goes on always draw full house crowds when performing worldwide. So are the actors for their Bollywood dancing.
Going beyond the NRI factor these days even celebrities from Hollywood like Lady Gaga and Uma Thurman are donning South Asian garments. All of us know, Oprah Winfrey made a much-publicized visit to India where she socialized with Bollywood's royal family, the Bachchans. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he wants a career in the Hindi film industry. Julia Roberts has already acted in Bollywood and the list is growing. And it is vice versa with Hollywood films. Now this crossover is definitely creating a mosaic and of which South Asian nonresident is a sure part in the making of a “global culture”. The entire world is on the threshold of this newness.
Noticeability and recognition of Bollywood cinema by the western world is opening a dialogue between the cultures of east and west. It is a dialogue of appreciating and understanding each other, a dialogue of “unity in diversity”. In turn this is impacting the entire up and coming generations and giving an emergence to a new way of thinking and co-existence.
A film like Gaddar which did very well commercially in India and did not become popular with nonresident South Asian because of its anti-Pakistani and divisive content.
This cultural crossover can be observed now in the making of hybrid cinema which is a mix of Bollywood and Hollywood. There are many examples. On a serious note I quote films like Leela, American Desi, Deepa Mehta’s films, Gurinder Chaddha’s films etc. And then hilarious and light entertainment films like “Loins of Punjab” Meet the Patels and so forth.
Not to mention hugely successful films like “Bombay dreams” the Andrew Lloyd Weber production which revolves around Bollywood film industry, was very successful with western main stream audience as well.
American Author and scholar Jigna Desai of University of Minnesota, United States and author of Beyond Bollywood, in one of her articles on the subject states, “productions like American Desi and Bombay Dreams attest to the ways in which these texts suggest that Bollywood plays a feature role in not only constructing South Asian and diasporic identities, but also significantly participate in structuring the pleasures and desires of these subjects as well.”
With this note I would like to thank you all for listening to me.
And again as a nonresident Indian, I would like to quote poet Shailendra in the voice of Mukesh, visualizing Raj Kapoor with the lilting music of Shankar Jaikishan
Mera juta hai Japani, Ye patloon inglistani, Sar pe lal topi rusi, Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani.
-Artist and Author Meena Chopra
#Bollywood #Literature #Toronto
For my poetry kindly Visit: English: http://ignitedlines.blogspot.com