Sunday 13 October 2019

Of Bollywood and Peru

A Radio 3 programme whose starting point was an exhibition called 'Inspired by the east: how the Islamic world influenced Western art' might not sound like an enticing listen, and I'll admit I only tuned in because the historian Tom Holland was on and I'm reading a book of his at the moment, but it turned out to be genuinely interesting and enjoyable, with Edward Said's concept of 'orientalism' coming in for some well-deserved flak. 

The best bit of all was the one that sounded least enticing:  "Plus cultural critic Fatima Bhutto argues that the days of US inspired culture dominating the world are over and art forms from the global south such as Bollywood films, K-Pop and Turkish telenovelas are taking over." 

(Yes, Fatima is one of those Bhuttos. She's the neice of the murdered Benazir.) 

I was particularly struck by the news that Peruvians, high in the Andes, love Bollywood, not Hollywood because Bollywood's values are closer to theirs. 

Indeed, swathes of the developing world (if people still call it that) have fallen out of love with Hollywood and its liberal social mores, preferring the more socially conservative worldview of Bollywood:
It is fascinating because Peru and India really have no connection. You can understand why Bollywood is popular in a country like Egypt, say, because it goes back to Gemal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru who had a close connection through the Bandung conference and the Non-Aligned Movement. You can understand why Bollywood is popular in Uganda because you've got huge numbers of Indian families that had migrated there, and lived there and traded there. But Peru has nothing, and what draws them to Indian cinematic products is essentially the message, is that these are films of a traditional morality. They are stories set in the family. They are more palatable than Hollywood in the sense that they appeal to more conservative viewers. And also, for the first time if you're an indigenous Peruvian, if you come from the Highlands, then you don't see yourself in Hollywood. You don't see people who look like you, even in Peruvian cinema itself, which really captures a sort of white Peruvian elite. But when you watch a Bollywood film there's a family and it resembles yours, except they are somehow connected to the modern world. They wear their traditional clothes, speak their language and yet are captains of industry, and that's an exciting idea for many, many people who feel left out of western culture.

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