Wednesday, April 19, 2006

The Curse of Bollywood

The noted Bengali author and columnist Dr. Zafar Iqbal wrote on Bollywood influence in his column "Shada-shidhey Katha." He said something to the effect that "up to some years ago I could boast never having seen a Hindi movie, but now I cannot. I have to travel by bus from Sylhet to Dhaka, and they show these movies in the busses where you are a captive audience."

It is extremely unfortunate that despite our rich and varied culture, we in Bangladesh have allowed Bollywood to take such a hold of our imagination. Every day on my way to work I have to see pictures of Karina Kapur and Ashwariya Rai on Pepsi and Lux advertisements. (Aren't there pretty girls in this country?) I have to hear Hindi songs blaring from stores and cars. And I think about all the bus passengers being subjected to nasty doses of Hindi movies.

What's your problem, you ask? Hindi movies are great entertainment. Let the masses enjoy.

First, there is the cultural imperialism issue. We support Hindi songs and movies at the expense of our own songs and movies. So the revenues, the adulation, and the enouragement - all of that goes to Bollywood instead of local talent. In the meantime more of our local traditions face extinction every day.

But my second, stronger objection is along aesthetic lines, not patriotic (or xenophobic) ones. Bollywood movies appeal to our cheap sentiments. They aim to give us instant gratification. They require no thought, reflection or spiritual involvement from us. Instead of raising our spirit and intellect higher, they bring them lower. Contrast this against the gems of Bangla culture: the sublime spirituality of Baul songs; Tagore's veneration of nature; Nazrul's poems of angry youth; the powerful (and sometimes humorous) plays that are staged in Dhaka; even the bantering, playful songs that Momtaz belts out on lost and cheated love. These give us reason to think, to feel and often to transcend our day-to-day realities and raise us to a higher plain.

Hindi movies, on the other hand, are like an overdose of chocolate that give us constipation the next day. They cheapen us, debase us as human beings.

The formulaic predictability of Hindi movies reminds me of Harry Chapin's immortal comments about a Country and Western song: "Next the song talked about a truck because it had already covered motherhood." So the Hindi movie must address the love triangle and the twisted villain because it has already addressed the separated-at-birth-but-evil twin brother.

It is extremely important to remember that the people who create Hindi movies are very hard-working, creative people. The irony is that their creation forces us to see the world as a dumbed-down, hero-zero place, stifling our own creativity. You know that song "Margaritaville?" "Living on sponge cake/watching the sun bake" etc. Jimmy Buffett's song creates visions of a laid-back life on the beaches of the Caribbean, drenched in alcohol, whiling away the sunny days. Guess what, Buffett is an extremely creative workaholic who sometimes works 20-hour days to create his music.

Similarly Bollywood honchos, themselves very creative and energetic people, create trash to stupify the masses.

One ray of hope I see comes from watching the Dhaka crowds participating in Pohela Boishakh cultural events, the long lines I saw waiting to enter the Ekushey Boimela, and the immense popularity of local bands who write their own Bangla songs (usually with far richer meaning than Hindi movie songs) or do remixes of classic Bangla folks songs. Although Hindi culture has infiltrated Bangladesh, one hopes that the infiltration has stopped growing and may be reversed soon.

19 comments:

Razib Rashedin said...

I totally agree with you but..there is always a but. I have strong supporter of anything that is Bangladeshi. But in this age when life is so hectic and stressful, we really don't want another depressing tagore song or another art movie. People need something that uplifts them in their daily life. In Bangladesh, there no 'funky' movie for the matured audience and I tell you one thing - the most difficult part is when you search for some bangla songs that you want to dance with. There is hardly any !!

We need to compete with Indian industry by offering an alternative to Bangladeshi people. Not watching Hindi movies and not listening to Hindi songs won't solve the problem. There is a group of people (who somehow controls our cultural arena) who are so inclined towards West Bengal that they forget that we have to compete globally. Everytime I go back to BD it seems that the gateway to world for normal Bangladeshi people is India, if they do something , we just follow them. But most shocking is that the gateway to world for our cultural pundits is West Bengal ! How shocking is that. Where a normal Islamic person in BD is dancing to a hindi tune, a posh and ofcourse secular culture guru is busy entertaining the elite ones ! I have seen and felt the cultural divide myself. For this non-stop spread of Hindi culture, the media and the people who run the shows are all responsible. Lets think , for once, what the general people really want. Why is the media silent when many BD ppl at home and abroad speaks in Hindi all the time ? Did Zafar Iqbal fail to notice that ? Does he know the 'mass' don't give a shit to the preservation of Bangla language, the political parties or the constant nagging of liberation war ? All they want is some fun time and the progress of their country. In this business world, Zafar Igbal and the gang can moan and close their eyes while looking towards West bengal as long as they want but it won't bring any good for Bangladesh. While preserving Bangaliness , they have forgotten that times have changed and Bangaless don't want to be just Bangalee anymore, they want be world citizens. A global citizen with a global view can only succeed in this modern and competitive world.

there is a reason why these people are so concerned now - simple ! They are loosing their business. This is not curse, I would rather call it as a wake up call for Bangladeshis and a strong kick to all the culture geeks.

Salam Dhaka said...

Ihtisham bhai, nice to see you have also become a fellow blogger. See if you can figure out who I am...

I just ran into your blog from NFB. Looking forward to your blogs from Bangladesh.

Rumi said...

During my recent visits to Bangladesh, I noticed this scary phenomenon, where Bangladeshi children feel comfortable speaking either English or Hindi than Bangla. (Razib Rashedin is probably someone of that generation). English comes from English medium schools and Hindi comes from ever playing Hindi TV programs in the home front.

Unfortunately while we are givig away our life shouting 71 Chetona or Pakistani influence, very few people really talk about hindi cultural imperialism. Leading newspapers are mum about it. e.g. in Prothom ALo only one Anisul Haque is vocal, rest of the senior editorial staff are either ignoring the threat or in support of Hindi-ization of Razib Rashedin generation.

Our TV front is monopolized by Indian channels and our channels are not allowed to beam into Indian territory. Everybody is quite.

Only when our intellectuals shout? When it comes to their bread and butter. That's why these class banned selling of Indian Bangla books in "Ekushey Boi Mela". Bangla culture is at stakes when it brings in competitors in literature market.

priya said...

To rumi,
Darling rumi i cant understand people like you who always yell on india for so called hindinisation.I cant understand your foolish assumption about market axis for bangladesh channels.If people from bd r not watching your faltu channels and programms on it then who will watch them in india?Same thing is about films.You bangladeshi watch our films on pirated version. Our industry looses millons of rps in revenue.And still you yell on us for so called indian imperilism.You people r realy ridiculous.If you dont like hindi movies and channels then stop watching them.Who is doing compulsion to you?

Anonymous said...

hello rumi,plz before critisizing others products[hindi movies],why dont u make your products better.we bengalis of india have no problems in watching your products,but not i,99% of your citizens doesnt like it-ften be there at bd}.how can u except indians to like that.i think compring rabindranath tagore and kaji najrul islam,against present day hindi trend is absolute stupidity.you want to show that your cultural heritage is at jeopardy.....ha ha i dont think that bengali culture is such a cheap culture that it will get endengered by hindi movies.we here watch movies entertainment.we r not so unsecured.

Sunny said...

I'm Bangladeshi but I must dissagree with you in some parts. First the INdians know entertainment and they do a good job producing it, Most, but not all, Bangladeshi movie directors produce nasty movies with fat chicks with their cheap cameras. The young people of Bangladesh don't want Tagore or Nazrul Islam songs because their works are a thing of the past.

Bollywood is so sucessful because it is modernized. I love Bangladesh's culture however I'm dissapointed at how Bangladesh's entertainment is created. The West Bengalis create songs and dramas better than most Bangladeshis. Bollywood entertainment is created for the world audience; however, Bangladesh's entertainmetn is cerated for rickshawallas and poor horny men you just want to see fat naked chicks with cheap lyrics.

It's true the young generation have forgotten 1971 and some don't even know the significance of 1952 or 1971.

DON"T BLAME THE INDIANS. They just make their movies, if you're going to blame anyone then blame the Bangladesh entertainers since they can't make good entertainment.

It's true Bangladeshis are speaking Hindi/Urdu only because the entertainment in those languages appeal to them. The Hindustani language has won over Bangla, regardless if you beleive it or not, because Tagore's, Nazrul Islam's, or any other Bangla literate's work is not as appealing to Hindi/Urdu works.

I'm 23, I know 1971, I know the 1952 language movement, at the same time I know Bangla as my first language, English as my second language, Hindi/Urdu as my third language which I am still learning.

I rather speak in Bangla than Urdu anyday; however, when it comes to music I would rather sing in Urdu than in Bangla because sounds more appealing to the ears.

Indian said...

This is really irritating. Firstly you are watching Indian movies in a pirated version. Which means you are not paying to watch the entertainment like everyone else.

On top of that, you are complaining about it also!

At least first pay for the entertainment and then complain. This is too much.

Anonymous said...

bangladesh would soon become another state of india.u have killed lakhs of hindus in the riots,u should be ashamed of urself,read taslima nasreen u morons.

Satyaki said...

As a Bengali in West Bengal I read with amusement the posts. In West Bengal we have the same raging debate about the bollywood culture overtaking us. The same anxieties of the younger generation not appreciating the true essence of Bengali culture! So my brothers in bangladesh you are not alone in this!!

And to every bangladeshi - My apologies for all the rubbish a few have written calling themselves Indians. For us the Bengalis of India a special place in our heart is always reserved for each of you. We are fellow Bengalis first, before anything else

Anonymous said...

Culture is like a flowing river,and in these days of information flowing at a breakneck speed,only the best will survive. It is nogood crying over that. When Aparna Sen makes movies, the whites in London watch them.You cannot force people to watch something they do not like. There are some very promising drama actors and actresses in bangladesh, and we like them, but to be honest,most of the bangldeshi films are useless.

my world said...

west bengal is also facing the same probs..here also movies are made for lower class people and few for so called "BUDDHIJIBIS'but i heardly understand that. but we cant blame bollywood for that bcoz they deliver better products, we cant compare with them, coz they are multi millionaire projects. shahrukh khan charges 16 crores for a single movie, which is the budget of 16 indian bengali movie. hindi movies are made for global market so and they are contemporary so no doubt they will appeal mass. and i have done my graduation and post graduation from south india so i know tollywood (telugu)and kollywood (tamil) industry too, now a days 60% of successful hindi movies are remake of south indian movies, they are so innovative, creative, action packed u cant imagine, tamil & telugu movies are better than bollywood movies both in budget and storyline. but when it comes to song its bollywood. so tollywood (kolkata)is no where. so bangladeshi people dont loose heart , we too facing the same fate, so dont criticize indian movies, take initiative and make ur industry better, but there is lot of things u can learn from bollywood, which is going to be 3rd biggest movie industry in the world.

Anonymous said...

The author certainly doesn't have any problem with the language but its the culture which the generation is getting exposed to.Islamic countries are traditionally very narrow minded and Bangladesh is no different.
Instead of the author criticizing Bollywood movies,he should first consider the state of his cinema.It seems Bangladeshi cinema is so bland that the public have no option but to watch Hindi movies.Consider this India's coutesy that she is allowing your entertainment starved audience to watch pirated version of Bollywood movies.
Your citizens have executed so many Hindus,tried to kill their culture and now you shamelessly insult Hindi movies.If you talk about 1971,more than people of your faith,its the Hindus who bore the brunt.It was the Hindi speaking soldiers of India who fought on your side to keep Bengali language alive in your land.Nobody is forcing you to watch your Indian movies/channels.As far as legalizing Bangladeshi channel is concerned,raise the quality first so that your people watch and then expect it to be aired in India.

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Bradly Jones said...

Well, i don't know which is more endorsed, but a start will be by not comparing the two movie industries and teaching the young one's to appreciate tradition and culture of their people. this should be done while they are very young, the pride should be inbuilt.


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call Bangladesh

siddharth said...

bangladesh must improve their entertaining options . let me tell u guyz one thing, its now impossible to cease the influence of hindi films in Indian subcontinent or south asia. its the second biggest film industry in the world after hollywood. ami ekjon bangali amader ekhaneo tollywood ache nd we do make some good films. let me remind u guyz one thing that Satyajit Ray won Oscar for pather panchali which till now no indians have won yet. so my point is that we bengali's hane the spark, we have the potential to rule the film industry in fact on every issue i can say. i am actually a bangladeshi. my ancestors r from mymensing . so i support bangladesh and makes me happy on every achievement of it. we dont compare our industry with bollywood coz we know that we cant so its useless to think about it. but we know one thing.... there is still a bengali name who holds the title of Oscar which the other film industries strives for. so amar mool boktobyo je bangalire chaile ki na korte pare. shamanyo cinema diye byaparta jachai kora ta mone hochhe bokami hobe.

Sourav said...

why you hate bollywood.just enjoy them.if indian respect tagore then u should also respect boolywood.their is holyday in india on tagore birthday.

Dissertation Editing said...

must improve their entertaining options . let me tell u one thing,

FRANKLY INDIAN said...

TO RUMI....I THINK YOU SHOULD IMMEDIATELY STOP WATCHING INDIAN MOVIES/TV SERIALS AND ALSO SEVERE ALL TIES WITH INDIA AND ALSO BENGAL. THEN YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR NATIONAL SONG TOO, BECAUSE IT WAS WRITTEN BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE, WHO WAS AN INDIAN. IT SEEMS YOU ARE YOUNG AND THEREFORE DO NOT HAVE SLIGHTEST IDEA ABOUT THE HISTORY OF BANGLADESH, HOW IT WAS FORMED, WHO HELPED YOU TO GET YOUR INDEPENDENCE. ASK YOUR PARENTS. SO INSTEAD OF ABUSING INDIAN CINEMAS/TV SERIALS OR INDIANS YOU SHOULD MAKE EFFORTS TO MAKE CHANGES IN YOUR OWN ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY. INSPITE OF HINDI FILMS IN BENGAL GOOD BENGALI MOVIES ARE ALSO BEING MADE. SATYAJIT RAY WON LIFETIME OSCAR, WHO WAS FROM BENGAL. SOME HINDI MOVIES SCRIPTS ARE BASED ON BENGALI NOVELS. MANY BENGALIS ARE THERE IN BOLLYWOOD, LIKE SUSMITA SEN, BIPASHA, ETC. YET DEV OR PRASENJIT OF BENGALI CINEMA HAVE THEIR OWN PRESENCE & FAN FOLLOWING. AS A CITIZENS OF YOUR COUNTRY YOU CAN ALWAYS FORM A GROUP AND PUT PRESSURE ON YOUR GOVT. TO BAN INDIAN PRODUCTS. BUT WILL THAT BENEFIT YOU? IF YES. YOU ARE MOST WELCOME. INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY IS A BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY, SO IF YOU SEVERE TIES WITH US, IT WILL HURT US EMOTIONALLY BUT NOT FINANCIALLY. REST ASSURED.