Mar 27, 2010

Tonight, 6.10 pm at FunX radio!

Hi everyone,
The multicultural station FunX radio is doing a special on the fast growing entertainment industry in India, at around 6 pm. And i have the honour to be invited for a phone interview during the show!
If you'd like to listen, their website is (for an online stream)

Mar 15, 2010

metal versus bollywood in India

I recently saw a cool documentary on the globalization of metal music, called Global Metal. A metalhead and anthropology graduate travels all over the world (except for Africa unfortunately) to visit the local metal scene. His conclusion is that, although it is a 'product of globalization', metal is different for everyone, and still a single community. Metal is mixed with local influences, but for everyone it is a revolt against authorities. Be it religious, political, or whatever.
This is the superb conclusion to the documentary, when he visits an Iron Maiden show in Bangalore in 2007. (Shit, I was there at the moment!!!)

Below you can see the part on Mumbai. A few metalheads talk about their love of metal, and how they can't identify with the main culture in India, yes, of course, Bollywood.

But I have to disagree with them. I even felt a little pissed off by these upperclass, highly educated city boys. To them Bollywood is nothing more than the stereotype, dancing around trees, etc. etc.
But I think it would be interesting for them to check their film culture again, and notice that, probably since the same time metal is becoming huge, the films also have started changing.
Perhaps they could identify more with a movie like DevD. Sure, it's commercial, not metal, but definitely sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

Metal and Bollywood? I'd love to see a future in that..

Mar 9, 2010

What happened to the little slumdogs?

Exactly one year after Slumdog Millionaire won 8 oscars, Dutch journalist Wilma van der Maten, based in Delhi, decided to visit the two children that played the small Latika and Salim. The question is: How are they doing now? You would assume 8 oscars and a bunch of millions profit would improve their circumstances. Besides that, Danny Boyle has created a fund that provides money for their education and a bonus for finishing their studies once they reach their 18th birthday.

In this small video she shows how the girl still lives in the slum, with her stepmother. She doesn't go to school. All she dreams of is being a moviestar. Her father doesn't want to move to the flat that was offered, since it is too far away from his sources of income.
The boy does considerably better. He lives in a reasonable flat (with a lot of family), and goes to school now and then. That is, unless one of the plenty journalists offers them some money for an interview. He also dreams of a life as a moviestar, so he can one day afford a house with a swimming pool.
Now, the relation between the little stars (their managers/families) and the director hasn't improved, since the media attention seems to have made them a little greedy.

Can we draw conclusions? Not really. I guess it merely shows that improvement of life in the slums (or of a few of its inhabitants) is an extremely complex issue, and is not done by making a movie in the West. Indians in India hardly watched the movie anyway. So improvement is something we shouldn't expect of Danny Boyle, already enough criticized on his assumed neglect of the actors.

Please enjoy this video if you like. It's mostly in Dutch, but if you speak both Hindi and English, you should be able to get the points.

Feb 25, 2010

Feb 5, 2010

Lecture on Rang de Basanti

Well well well.. Everyone knows Bollywood these days! But more than that, I think it is increasingly taken more seriously. People seem to become aware that Indian cinema has more to offer than masala.

And lo behold! What do you know...
I have been asked by a group of young alternative thinkers and artists to come and speak on Rang de Basanti on the 13th of feb in an art gallery in Amsterdam. The evening will begin with me talking on how movies might lead to political activism amongst youth, and after that we will watch RdB, which perfectly illustrates the theme ofcourse.

And to make things better than ever, Kriti and I are gonna spin the wheels of steel, and make people dance to the latest Bollywood tracks! How i'm looking forward to that night...

Who knows.. one day we might even make a living off this hobby ;-)

Jan 12, 2010

Bollywood cosmopolitanism

1,5 years of books, libraries, lots of films and great conversations have ended. For now at least. A few months ago i finished my masters dissertation called: Bollywood cosmopolitanism. An exploration of belonging through popular culture. If interested, it is fully downloadable here. (don't mind the Dutch, the dissertation is in English)

Roughly, what i've done is the following. I have studied the recent history of popular Hindi film, for a broad context of what i'm talking about. Especially the changes since the early nineties, when the term Bollywood was 'invented' worldwide, where the movies have become more cosmopolitan. The movies deal often with NRI's struggling with their identity, and Indians fly all over the world to do business.
Then instead of focussing on the changes in movies (tons of people have written about it), I thought it would be interesting to write about the experience of of the viewers of films. I wanted to know if Bollywood helps young viewers in Bangalore to construct a sense of cosmopolitanism. In other words, if it gives them a feeling of belonging to a local and a global community at the same time.

Most analysts think that Bollywood is not able to help in catering a new lifestyle for the globalized youngsters in big Indian cities, because most of the typical Bollywood movies show a sort of 'Hindu conservative cosmopolitanism'. This means that on the outside Indians can be 'global', they have all the material luxuries of the Western life, but on the inside, the heart, the values are Indian. So, it is Indian in global clothes. (phir bhi dil hai hindustani!) This is a construction that is not threatening to viewers. Because the Western and Indian values are not really conflicting; in the end it is the Indian pride (Hindu mostly) that matters.

My interviews with youngsters in Bangalore shows that this view is too simple. When talking about movies they see recognize this morale in movies, but they themselves think of it in more complicated terms. Today's youngsters know that movies are just that, constructed images, and not the same as reality. Instead it helps them to think about their lives in new ways. And this is sometimes indeed a matter of conflicting values. They would also like to wear clothes like in the movies, but they understand perfectly that they have to fight with parents over that. And this is not always resolved as in the movies.

Living in the Indian city is a juggling of values (in the villages probably as well). Modern values, traditional values, traditional versions of modern values or modern interpretations of traditional values. Etcetera.
And Bollywood is a buddy to help thinking and laughing about this complex process.

Water (2005), by Deepa Mehta

In The Netherlands i thank god for Belgian state-run television. They still show good film in its entirety, no commercial breaks, and with full end credits. Whereas here in Holland you have to work your way through diapers and insurances every 20 minutes in order to watch a good film.
Last Sunday, Belgian channel Ketnet/Canvas showed the film Water, the third in Deepa Mehta's elements-series (after the other must-sees Fire (1996) and Earth (1998)).
Water deals with the life of widows in India, who, according to the ancient lawbooks of Manu, have to stay single and 'pure' in order to achieve salvation. This literally means that these women live in extremely poor and dingy ashrams, doing nothing but waiting to die. (at least, that's what the movie shows) It is believed that when they, or their shadow, touches another person, this brings bad luck. Besides that it was common for little girls to be married off to an older man, and then have a life without childhood.
Water beautifully shows the loneliness and isolation these women suffer. Water, the holy element for many a Hindu, the bringer of life, is also the seperation between the poor woman and the rich man who uses them for prositution. And it is the element that can make a beautiful woman drown herself out of despair.
Of course, things have changed. The movie is set against the backdrop of Ghandi coming to rise against the British, and Raja Ram Mohan Roy passing the widow- remarriage act. But if it was up to many a reactionary Hindu in India right now, time is to be turned back to the golden days of Manu, where women were still men's property. Not surprisingly, a group of fundamentalist Hindus have put Deepa Mehta on their 'hitlist'. (although this was mainly because of Fire, which supposedly dealt with lesbianism)
The film left me moved by the great acting of the little girl Chuyia, and her interaction with none other than John Abraham (whom we now know as a six-packed Bollywood star from Goal). But I think the main character was the ashram's moral centre Shakuntala. She was the only one divided in her faith, confused between tradition and modernity. It is her indicisiveness, stubbornness sometimes, which is the best representation of India's society. Choosing for individual freedom can not come without pain, without loss.