Increased cultural awareness and interest in different cultures has shifted global trends of media consumption. No longer are Hollywood films the only viable mass market cinema culture. This “contra flow” against Hollywood has generally promoted industries from the South East of Asia and in particular India. Bollywood is the term to describe the Indian Film market that is concentrated in Mumbai. Its characterised by bright costuming, large choreographed song and dance scenes and an overwhelming sense of spirit.
However where this success and notoriety becomes problematic is the appropriation of Indian (and other) culture.
Iggy Azalea’s video for Bounce is rife with this cultural appropriation. Guha‘s assessment of this is spot on and prompts discussion on; cultural appropriation of the culture, how Indians are received (or not received) in western countries, co-opting Indian culture and sexualising its nature and then goes on to ask the bigger question of cultural appropriation.
Are we willing to sell someone else’s culture out to make money?
Schafer and Karan (2010) best describe this as:
Bollywoodisation appears to have been absorbed into the conglomerate multicultural marketing toolkit, prompting us to question whose economic interest actually is being served by the soft power potential of the Indian film industry and its cinematic contra-flow
This frank assessment questions who really benefits from having other influences other than American in the culture market and how might western markets be benefiting from having a strong Bollywood culture or even a Bollywood culture that they can draw upon for advertising/marketing purposes.
Exploration of the misuse of cultures in promoting and distributing products is undeniably important. It is necessary for us as western producers and consumers to realise that using specific religious and cultural isn’t ok. What we should strive for is the acceptance and proliferation of different cultural aspects and honour them, without being offensive
Karan, K and Schaefer, DJ (2010) ‘Problematizing Chindia: Hybridity and Bollywoodization of popular Indian cinema in global film flows’ Global Media and Communication, vol 6, no 3, pp. 309-316.