Bullets of BollywoodFariyah Nazneen Premaa and Faizul Khan Tanim writes on media imperialism of Hindi culture and tries to find the answer to the cardinal question - do we want the bullets or the palettes of Bollywood
I’m not saying the British Council, USIS as cultural hubs, advanced education like the Cambridge system, Edexcel O/A levels, International Baccalaureates, the American school system elsewhere in the world or the Western Media or Hollywood are necessarily bad influences. It is true that these systems are transferring a large amount of our liquid money abroad but at the same time, these are well thought out ventures which would not only fetch revenue from citizens of the parent country but from countries who haven’t decided on the type of media, foreign or local, which will govern them.
Cultural or Media Imperialism theory states that Western nations will dominate the media around the world or a powerful neighbouring country will control smaller bordering nations, which in return has a powerful effect on Third World or Developing Country Cultures by imposing on them Western and selective views and therefore destroying their native traditions.
And one of the biggest examples of this Imperialist movements is how we Bangladeshis, who fought for our Bangla language in 1952, are losing our culture, heritage, language to Bollywood supermarket pops and media full of cheese.
I remember the first Hindi movie I saw on our brand new VCR, actually my mother was watching and I was not permitted to view the movie as it was an “adult” one.
It was Silsila, the famous extra marital saga of Amitabh Bacchan, Rekha and Jaya Bacchan. I was hiding behind the blanket pretending to sleep while peeking time to time towards the screen. The language was foreign and though I was a kid, I knew that something wrong was going on between the two adult figures in that film.
My Hindi learning episode started from that day ever since. Though in my home my mother did not allow cable television before I finished high school, I saw the dramatic shift of language, culture and even attire in my friends and family.
My friends wanted their dream man to be like Shahrukh Khan from Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge or Amir Khan from Dil hain ke manta nahi. During eid time, Kuch kuch hota hain or Dil to pagal hain kamiz were of great demand. During our teenage years, when we all were falling in love left and right, songs from Bollywood films reigned our generation’s heart to profess their infatuation.
Neither Rabindra Sangeet nor other Bengali songs could compete with those young heart’s desires like these Hindi flirty songs. We did not have any Hindi speaking courses in Bangladesh, then how did this euphoria took over our cultural soul like this? A point to ponder upon!
There is no problem learning a new language, rather it is an added bonus for any person. Hindi is easier for a Bengali to comprehend as it has similarities with Bangla to some level since both these languages originated from Sanskrit.
We would not understand French or Japanese so well now would we? The more language one learns in this global age, the more that person will be ready to face the world with facile confidence, but not on the price of demeaning or degrading one’s own language, music or culture.
Bengal has always been famous worldwide for its Jamdani, Muslin, Nokshikatha and other grand attires. Still two three generations of most women shifted their interest in buying Indian special kamiz/ Sharee because of the heavy influence of Bollywood movies. While clothing is a personal choice, sad thing was a lot of them started looking down on Bangladeshi made products while buying Indian products with higher prices.
The behavioural patterns of young lovers also vicissitude drastically as they got brainwashed into believing on unrealistic expectations of soul mates, gender roles and such. Late eighties and early nineties, the Hindi film heroes depicted masculinity through unreal fight situations, sarcasm towards women who were not typically dressed or behaved as “ideal Indian women” and fed on revenge for social injustices. There are and always have been great Hindi movies like Tare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots or even the light-hearted Dil Chahta Hay or Zindegi Na Milegi Dobara and much to learn as it is from any good movies but most of the Bangladeshis picked up the negative attribute which served them accordingly.
There will be a thousand sceptics who will say that we need Indian media to compete and bring our productions and values to much stronger standards but If we go back to history, India itself stopped maximum imports after the British rule and developed their own Bentleys, flourished their own Hollywood, looked beautiful in their own LOREALs and most importantly, respected and cried for their flag, each time it was waved.
Bangladeshi movie industry on the other hand had a great fall during that time too thus people relied more on Hindi movies for their entertainment. The cable network with dozens of Hindi channels certainly added up to that metamorphosis of our psyche. We did not learn the heart warming patriotism from the Hindi movies nor did we learn how they showcase their music, culture and history with pride! We did not cultivate that patriotism with our Bangladesh; rather we shifted that divine love towards everything those films stood for.
Bangladeshis started using Hindi words and expressions mixed with Bangla, girls and boys started dressing up like Hindi film heroes and heroines. The worst affected are however our children, 25 years back child psychiatrists hunched on a Hindi invasion and that our children would pick up their language, more profoundly Bollywood slangs, to express them. Sadly it came true in the past ten years and Hindi music, media, apparel and cosmetics market took over a big chunk of our media, business and government moguls and their followers.
Thankfully, our Liberation War movies, songs and later Band music scene at that time really saved us and emerged as winners. Artistes like Azam Khan, Feedback, L.R.B, Nogorbaul, Miles, Renaissance, Souls saved our soul by putting our interest back in to the language Bangla during those times. Very importantly, Bangladeshi drama serials have always been the source of classy entertainment since our liberation. That also started to fade by the domination of Indian serials which again showed mostly unreal family dramas which a greater chunk of female population started devouring each and every day, not even the maids of the household delved out from it. The social situation got so confused amidst it all that even our own drama serials started faltering and the directors started making similar kinds of shows which reproduced distorted image of Bangladeshi social system and families.
Now, here is an important observation: India as a neighbour and a very powerful one, does not allow any of our TV channels or local media to be telecasted in their country on the grounds of preserving their roots. But neither our mass population, educated society let alone our governments took any initiatives to address this situation or have they tried heart and soul to promote our own culture in an attractive manner so that we can be proud of our own traditions and media and would have opted not to religiously dance to Hindi tunes predominantly.
We are now a global generation in information based system. The more language, culture and people we know, the more we have chances to succeed. What we tend to forget is that in this process, we are harming our own beautiful language, rich culture and classy sensitivity which is our main representation.
We will learn Hindi along with other languages for sure but we will not ignore or be ignorant towards our own Bangla and the Bengali aestheticism. Indians are respected worldwide because of their patriotism and adoration for their own culture. It is time we learn this positivity from them rather dwelling on the negative connotations which does not really represent either them or us.
Therefore, we must ‘think’ as the situation is already grave. What will happen to a larger population of this country if one fine day, Bollywood is unplugged from our social antenna and receivers? Will BSF killings in our borders be the only news and representation of this majestic country which once helped us? The bullets from BSF is a one-time doom for an individual or family but the bullets from Bollywood ensures a dawdling death, rather painful and shameful. Would we as a nation, which fought for our language, accept Oyeee…kya bolti tuu from our children or want them to grow up respecting our roots? It is said that one cannot fight crocodiles while residing in the marshes or ponds and when global diplomacy is becoming the new ‘sexy’, shouldn’t we learn how to dodge the bullets and take the best of Bollywood? Let this be a food for thought for our next generation and the many more generations to come.
*This article was first published in The Independent's Weekend Magazine, Friday August 10 2012 - http://www.theindependentdigital.com/index.php?opt=view&page=36&date=2012-08-10