Lights. Camera. Action.
But where is the light really shining?
For decades, the spotlight had shone directly onto the glitzy strip upon Hollywood Boulevard engraved with globally recognized and praised stars. The global domination of Hollywood cinema has woven its way globally, subjecting silver screens all around the world to become over-saturated with American values and ways of life.
However, the competition for this spotlight has increased where Schaefer and Karan in ‘Problemetizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’ express the new found cinematic need for attention within China and India.
“Fueled by the internet, satellite networks, cable television, and DVD distribution, it is argued that Asian production centers will increasingly exploit cinematic contra-flows that draw upon structures of hybridity to meet increasing demand for glocalized content within globalized distribution networks” (Schaefer & Karan, 2010,pp.309).
Fighting to remove the homogeneous distribution and creation of films produced from Hollywood, through soft power, India and China have become advocates of cultural hybridity thus blurring cultural lines in an effort to appeal to the global audience. Hence, the birth of transnational cinema where films cannot be easily defined within a particular nation, but to many.
Film being an influential medium, India has forged the new Hollywood; Bollywood. Bollywood being the largest producer of movies globally; actively blends both Westernized culture with that of local Indian themes and values.
The film ‘3 Idiots’ released globally in 2009 went on to become the highest grossing Bollywood film to emerge from Mumbai . This film transcended borders as it “is the most successful Bollywood release ever at the North American box office“(Weigel, 2010). The reason for its global success are the themes which are explored that closely resemble that of ‘The Hangover’ or ‘The Three Stooges“. Although, in challenging the traditional values of Indian culture and blending these with American values, there is an ever growing threat of the loss of ‘pure’ Indian culture. Thus, arguing the impending emptiness of films as it no longer addresses any one community.
Juxtaposingly, movies such as this, with a strong cultural link to the lifestyle of India are used as a tool comfort for individuals of Indian background in foreign countries to seek comfort in familiarity within a film globally distributed by the means of globalization. This too also creates an acute awareness in global audiences of the values and practices of India.
The transportation of values across borders are not only subjected to that of Americanization but it too flows outward from other places of the world into America.
Directed by James Cameron in 2009, Avatar revolutionized the world with its unique concept, themes and realistic 3-D and special effects. Although, the movie is under-appreciated in respect to the Indian cultural appropriation that is interwoven into the very fabric that makes it such a cinematic film.
The iconic blue skin of the Na’vi people within the film was an appropriation of ‘the color traditionally used for depicting the religious avatars Rama and Krishna’( Schaefer & Karan, 2010, pp.312). This motif was used as a foundation to the film, however, it is astounding that this religious Indian influence upon the film has gone almost unnoticed by global audiences. This subtle transfer of cultural information thus redefines the true meaning of the blue skin in Indian culture hence the creation of a simulacra. This concept of simulacra was coined by theorist Jean Baudrillard which expresses the state in which an object or idea undergoes re-contextualization that it now stands for its own reference. (Baudrillard, J 1994). Hence blurring the line between modern and cultural (Schaefer & Karan, 2010,pp.309)
With a strong underlying Indian reference, whilst still retaining Western values—does the film belong to the Hollywood industry in its entirety?
Films produced within modern-day life for contemporary audiences no longer sit within the confines of cultures, national borders and restrictions but transcend these and evolve into avante-garde films that portray different and challenging perspectives on life rather than the recycled homogenized values of a dominant culture.
This is what the world needs.
Baudrillard, J 1994, ‘Simulation and Simulacra’, University of Michigan Press.
Joraymond 2013,’Bollywood:The New Hollywood’, Globalization from the Local, Last viewed 1 September 2015 <http://sites.davidson.edu/anthro/global/2013/05/10/bollywood-the-new-hollywood-2/>
Schaefer, DJ & Karan, K, 2010,’Problemetizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’, Sage Publications, pp. 309-314
Weigel, M 2010, ‘3 Idiots: A Bollywood films makes waves in India and America”, Wall Street Journal, 9 January, viewed 1 September, <http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2010/01/09/3-idiots-a-bollywood-film-makes-waves-in-india-and-america/>