May 28, 2008

Bombay TV

An interesting website is this one: Bombay TV, by the French communication bureau Grapheine. They provide you with 30 second clips from classic Hindi movies, like Deewaar and Sholay, under which you can put your own subtitles. I have to admit, very funny to do, but also a nice insight in the western attitude towards bollywood. Some people have put their results on YouTube, and it seems that turning the characters in gays is especially popular. And, as one youtuber says, 'stupid subtitles for stupid movies'.

bollywood as cultural citizenship

It's been a long time. Basically because I have been watching loads of movies and endulged myself in theory, theory and.. theory. I felt lost in bollywoods. That what i thought was 'just Indian cinema' turned out to be a culture in itself. Slowly I'm creeping out and trying to see things from a distance again. What was it I wanted to find out about this huge world? And what is it now?
Things are still not as clear as a research design should be, but there is something emerging on the horizon. Cultural citizenship is it's name. Thanks to the work of Joke Hermes, which I had 'accidently' picked up a long time before dreaming of Indian moviestars, my thoughts on popular culture are getting direction. Cultural citizenship in her view basically stands for the 'positive' powers of popular culture. There is always a lot of attention for the possibly negative side of movies (and glossy magazines, internet, etc.); they would be putting the wrong values in the heads of our kids, and maybe even the grown-ups!
But, since some time now we realize that these kids (and even the grown-ups) are actively processing and interpreting those movies. This means that everyone 'reads' different values and different messages. This is a very complex proces, especially if we take into account that a lot of things might be happening unconsciously and subtly.
However, it might also mean that the products of popular culture could have a 'positive' aspect. Not in the sense that they can form kids into 'good citizens', but in the sense that they can help in shaping our identities and our sense of who we are and which groups we belong to. It is very thinkable that popular culture is playing this role more and more, in these postmodern days where no-one knows exactly who he or she is anymore. Am I Dutch? A little Indian maybe after such a long time? Or just Mark?
In this light, Bollywood has complex stories to tell. Some movies might show a very strong patriotism, like Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, or the more recent Rang de Basanti. But does the watcher identify with this message? Or does it stimulate them to have more complex opinions?
Questions I have to ask the watchers themselves. And if you are one, please let me know what you think. For example about the clip below. Does watching this make one nationalistic?
Btw, from now on, expect some more contributions from my side. How about a weekly movie-review to start with?