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"My art is my search for the moments beyond the ones of self knowledge. It is the rhythmic fantasy; a restless streak which looks for its own fulfillment! A stillness that moves within! An intense search for my origin and ultimate identity". - Meena
THIS IS HILARIOUS - A Saturday thing Visionary artist Alex Grey began his career as a medical illustrator at Harvard Medical School, but is best known for paintings that present the physical and subtle anatomy of an individual in the context of cosmic, biological and technological evolution. His work has been featured in Time and Newsweek, on the Discovery Channel, and as album art for TOOL, the Beastie Boys and Nirvana.
(Paper 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)
“Mera juta hai japani,
Ye patloon inglistani, Sar pe lal topi rusi, Phir bhi dil hai Hindustani”
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.
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.
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 It is a historical reference point of “unity in diversity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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Quoting Wikipedia “Cinema
actually has been the most vibrant medium for tellingIndiaits own story, the story of its struggle
for independence, its constant struggle to achieve national integration and to
emerge as a global presence”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.”
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)
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)
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