Bollywood's Soft Power
February 2, 2012 12:54 PM   Subscribe

What might help defeat Muslim extremists in Pakistan for good? Bollywood!
posted by reenum (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, definitely. There is apparently more debate about Jackson Pollock's CIA backing than I'd realized, but certainly the NEA's funding got cut by religious conservatives fairly shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We could clearly undermine Islamists by promoting artistic expression favoring feminist, sexual, gay, etc. themes worldwide, occasionally within an Islamic context. I'd expect Bollywood could do so more effectively than Hollywood given they understand the audience better.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:31 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Related TED talk, Cynthia Schneider: The surprising spread of "Idol" TV.

When I was living in Berlin last year, I often heard how Michael Jackson's 1988 concert was perhaps the final straw in bringing down the wall.
posted by wanderingstan at 1:34 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, I sure hope this is true. I also hope that we start pumping some money into Bollywood via our defense budget. It's got to be better than dropping leaflets from airplanes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:48 PM on February 2, 2012

Exposure to the rest of the world and education are two things that repressive regimes hate because they know people will compare their lives to the rest of the world and try to emulate what they see.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:11 PM on February 2, 2012

"A typical Bollywood movie ends with lovers returning home after tying the knot. They fall at their parents’ feet, begging for their blessings, which the weeping parents, moved by the power of their love, finally bestow."

Er - yes, up through the late 1990s, when filmmakers like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar were catering chiefly to the new cash cow -- diasporic audience willing to pay steep ticket prices to see new releases in the theater. These NRI-targeted films tend to espouse the "global Indian" model. Think: a guy in an Armani suit, a girl who can switch effortlessly from miniskirt to lehnga, who believes in democracy and freedom and choosing his or her own partner, BUT somehow always ends up choosing the partner that Mummy-Daddy secretly selected beforehand!

Then come the 2000s, the rise of multiplexes in Indian metros, and the related formation of a new crowd of English-speaking, highly educated, urbanite moviegoers who aren't so fond of the NRI/diaspora's nostalgia-filmed vision of what it means to be Indian. This new urban elite audience, and new upscale (read: profitable) venues that cater to them, have led to a serious shift in the industry. You see the splintering of audiences and films into three categories: non-metro (an example from 2011: Dabanng), NRI/diasporic (e.g., Dostana), and metro audiences (e.g., Delhi Belly). This fragmentation and proliferation of tastes and a consequent revamping of the distribution model has changed what kind of movies get made, and the budgets on which they do get made. When describing popular Bombay cinema, you just can't oversimplify anymore. There is no longer any formula.

Maybe I should stop myself here, because otherwise I will leap into deconstructing the amazingly facile assertion, "It is not possible to emulate—and adulate—a cultural form while simultaneously rejecting its message." Employing choreography by Farah Khan while dancing to Bollywood hits is not an act that brings with it an accompanying worldview, or even respect for Farah and Bollywood. You know, even in India, it's REALLY not hard to find someone who will tell you most Bollywood actresses prostitute themselves on the side for rich Arab businessmen. I can't count how many times I've heard this ridiculous rumor - from film fans, no less.
posted by artemisia at 2:51 PM on February 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

NRI/diasporic (e.g., Dostana)

I am 100% in favor of promoting cultural exchange through remixing crappy American movies into subversive Bollywood musicals. World peace for everyone through fierce kicklines and John Abraham's smile!
posted by nicebookrack at 3:27 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ha! Yes, maybe Dostana wasn't the best choice for NRI movie. Let's say... Anjaana Anjaani instead. (Still Priyanka Chopra, so...)
posted by artemisia at 3:28 PM on February 2, 2012

I'd expect Bollywood could do so more effectively than Hollywood given they understand the audience better.

Yes, but ... what about the deep nationalistic suspicion and hatred between India and Pakistan?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:00 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about the fact that your average Taliban/Wahabbi/ type isn't going to buy into films with a lot of dancing, Hindu deities, and so on?
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:52 PM on February 2, 2012

I want to live in a world where the US invested a trillion dollars in Bollywood movies rather than wars.
posted by Harald74 at 2:04 AM on February 3, 2012

Damn Utne site is down. Must have attracted more attention than usual with that article.
posted by ironjelly at 5:25 AM on February 3, 2012

« Older Happinness Takes (A Little) Magic   |   A restored apprentice's copy reveals what what the... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments