Submitted to: Miss. Amy Lam
Date: 08 January 2009
While watching Hindi movies, we felt like most of the Hindi movies were featuring criteria that we personally consider western. To clarify our idea about western culture and to see the degree of influence it has, on Bollywood movies we thought it is necessary to make a research, which might make a change our vision.
Culture is the cornerstone of a civilized society.1 When a group of people comprise a society with their indigenous behavior and customs like dress, music, beliefs, language and rituals then the combination of their activity is called culture. Among myriads of culture, some of the cultures have enormous power to induce the others because of its acceptance to the people. For instance, influence of western culture on the eastern culture, which can easily be seen in films.2
To label western culture it can be said that “it is a term used to generally refer to most of the cultures of European origin and most of their descendants. It comprises of the broad, geographically based, heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs such as religious beliefs and specific artifacts and technology as shared within the western sphere of influence.”3
Apart from the theoretical concept, in the real world we pay more attention on the external things like dresses, their way of living life, festivals, music, food habit and even skin tone. We are looking for these specific areas of influence in movies for our research.
“The term Bollywood is the unofficial expression widely used for the Mumbai-based Hindi-language film industry in India.”4However, these Hindi movies are considered to show us how the mentioned certain features have been influenced by the course of time. So through the research on movies, we want to analyze whether our revealed assumption is right or wrong.
This research was conducted in order to understand the extent of influence of western culture in Bollywood movies. In order to find the degree of influence of western culture, we did research in the internet to find out the real definition of Western Culture. As we found that, there does not exist an accurate definition for western culture, we searched for the main components of a culture in the internet and based on these components we asked the people what western culture is, by distributing surveys among fifty students of Access Academy which had questions about each of those components. Then, in the survey those components that were voted by more than fifty percent of the viewers as western, were listed out and these components were again listed based on their importance in determining whether a film is westernized or not. The fifteen characters that were analyzed in the survey were jeans, t-shirts, miniskirts, bikinis, skinny dresses, sleeveless tops, high heeled footwear, pointed heeled half shoes, coat and suits, boots for women, boots for men divorce and sex before marriage, remix song, ballet dances, French kisses, Drinking brandy and whisky, fair skinned actors and shooting in Western countries. These fifteen characters were the characters that are common to both Hindi films and English films that we watched and it also included the dresses which were tagged western by the famous western wear store Spencers in its website.5 The result of the survey showed us that the clothes like jeans, miniskirts, bikinis, skinny dresses, sleeveless tops, high heeled footwear, coat and suits, boots for women, divorce and sex before marriage, French kisses, remix songs and ballet dances were considered as western influences.
We were confused about the usage of the above obtained information for determining whether a movie is westernized or not. In order to solve this problem, we distributed another survey which asked the viewers the minimum criteria for determining whether a movie is westernized or not. The survey was conducted among thirty students as it was done in the vocation and most students were out of station. Thus based on the suggestions of the viewer we watched four movies. The movies on the top of the list of the block buster hit of each year from 2005 to 2008 were selected and those movies which were made on a special theme like tradition or culture were omitted.6 The omission of these movies were done because they cannot be considered as a normal Hindi movie as they are totally based on the lifestyle of a particular time in the past or on a particular tradition and do not contain a minor trace of westernization. Those four movies were No Entry, Dhoom-2, Welcome, and Race and the two movies which were omitted from the list were “Jotha Akbar” and “Mongle pande”. The movies were selected randomly to avoid bias. The movies which were watched before, with mediocre audience eyes were now scrutinized through an analytical and critical angle. Each movie was watched twice and thoroughly analyzed based on the different criteria and it was found out how many of the movies were westernized.
Many difficulties aroused while carrying out the research. The main difficulty was the troubles faced by the students in understanding the survey questions. Most of the students did not even know meaning of many of the words that we have asked in the survey, though we have tried to make it as simple as possible. Most of them were shy to ask the meaning and marked the answers just randomly. We understood this by asking some of the students the meaning of some terms like bikinis after they have returned back the surveys. So we could not get a hundred percent sincere response from most of the students. The number of films we watched was also limited to eight. As the research is based on the opinion of just fifty students who are Asian and live in the same building, there are chances for the result for being biased. But a great advantage of surveying the Access Academy students was that having representatives from six different countries, Access Academy can be seen as the microcosm of South Asia.
The charectors that were opined to be western by the viewers in the first survey( see appendix survey1) are clothes like jeans, miniskirts, bikinis, skinny dresses, sleeveless tops, high heeled footwear, coat and suits, boots for women, divorce and sex before marriage, French kisses, remix songs and ballet dances. According to the second survey which asked the viewers the minimum criteria to tag a movie to showed that three of the charectors were the minimum necessity for a movie to have western influence. We watched four movies as a part of our survey. The movies were No Entry, Dhoom-2, Welcome, and Race. Even the titles of three movies out of the movies we watched are in English. This shows that seventy five percentage of the Hindi movies have English titles.
The movie No Entry represents the life of three Indians Kishan, Prem and Sunny who are friends. Kishan has a conservative wife who always suspects her husband for having another affair. The ladies working in Kishan’s Newspaper office wear western dresses like miniskirts and skinny dresses and Kishen who is a fully committed husband, admonishes them for being so revealing, as he is afraid of his wife. Prem on the other hand is a man who has several affairs with different women. But he pretends to be a faithful husband in front of his wife, and thus cheats up on his wife, who reposes complete trust on him. Sunny is the photographer for Kishan’s newspaper press, and he is like Kishan’s brother and he is ready to do whatever Kishan asks him to do. Sunny marries a modern girl in the story who too wears the so called western dresses as found in the survey. Sunny’s marriage was a love marriage. Except Kishan’s and Prem’s wife, all the female charectors wear the dresses suggested to be western by the AUW student spectators. Several parts of the movie are shot in western countries and some of the songs film Prem dancing with western women in bikinis.
The movie Dhoom 2 is also a movie which is terribly westernized, according to the research criteria. The movie’s main character is a thief who is known as Mr. A and has committed major thefts including the robbery of “a priceless English Crown” without being caught by the police. The police inspector appoints a female thief for tracing him and she succeeds to allure him with her beauty. Though she succeeds in doing so, she finally falls in love with him and both of them decides to get married. In the story the heroine wears short and skinny dresses and they use English dialogues too often. There are parts in the story where the conversations are totally in English for a few minutes. A totally western style dinner is arranged by the hero for the heroine. The movie too has several hit remix songs.
The movie Welcome shows an underground king named Uday who loves his one and only sister Sanjana so much and is in search of a good groom for her. Due to the criminal background of her brother, no one is ready to marry her. The heroine Sanjana wears miniskirts bikinis and all other dresses labeled western in the survey. Sanjana fall in love with a guy named Rajiv and both of them together tries to bring her brother to the right path.
The movie Race is totally shot abroad and it has an overwhelming use of English dialogue in most of the scenes. Race also shows sex before marriage between the hero and heroine. In the Race movie the main female stars wear dresses that are western in the list. The movie is also notably western for having English lyrics in all of its nine songs. The movie represents the life of two brothers Ranvir Singh and Rajiv Singh who are exceedingly rich from the family property. The elder brother Ranvir Singh loves his brother while his brother Rajiv Singh is plans to kill his brother for getting the whole hereditary possessions. Ranvir Singh is crazy for horse race and he is an honest man who is ready to sacrifice everything for his brother. The movie also shows western ways of marriage proposal and even it picturises a funeral which is fully western in style with everyone wearing black dress.
Indian film Industry has progressed a lot in the past century in economy, audience, accessibility and popularity as the country itself has assimilated into the course of Globalization. Globalization has widened the audience spectrum and has made it accessible to viewers all over the world beyond the conventional South Asian audience.7 But the same Globalization has led to the westernization of Bollywood movies and thus perhaps to the loss of the distinguished Indian culture in future.
The life of an original Indian is poles apart from the life of a westerner. The Bollywood movies shot in the affluent cities like Mauritius and Vancouver never show the dirty streets or the polluted cities that a common Indian citizen is exposed to, in his daily life. Thus this Westernization of the Hindi films has distanced reality from the films and has generated “a recognizable disconnection between the content of the films and the lives of the audiences”.8
The results of the research shows that hundred percent of the Hindi movies are westernized, if specially produced Hindi movies which represent a particular legend or cultural aspect is omitted. For instance, The movies like Lagaan and Jodha Akbar comes under this category. These results may imply the spread of a hip-hop culture in the Indian society as well. As the four movies that were watched were taken from the top of the list of box office hits, it is clear that these westernized movies are widely accepted by the viewers. Another reason for this wide spread Westernization in the Hindi movies and its wide acceptance among the viewers may be the general notion among the Asians that modernization is same as westernization. Westernization is often considered synonymous to modernization by Asians. 9 Therefore, the Indian youth in the quest for modernization, imitates western culture often forgetting gradual erosion of their unique culture and traditions.
Apart from the cultural impacts of westernization on Indian culture due to the westernized Hindi movies, the overwhelmed use of English language in Hindi movies may gradually take away pure Hindi language from the Indian tongues. This English usage in Hindi films along with the excessive use of English by urban Indians has together lead to the development of new “contact languages” like Indlish and Hinglish among which Hinglish is found to be excessively used in the Bollywood films.10 This foreshadows the loss of Hindi language along with its culture and traditions in the future.
Thus, from the research it may be concluded that the culture and lifestyle represented in Hindi movies represent Western rather than Indian and that this may lead to the loss of culture in the future.
In this world of globalization a variety of factors of our life has been commercialized; from industries, to culture nothing remains unscathed from globalization.11 Being a part of our culture, movies are also attacked globalization.12 Although, movies are supposed to represent our culture and distinctiveness, we don’t see it because of the money making objectives of some of the film producers.
Instead of uniqueness of culture, they are focusing on their own money making purpose.13 Even, for making money they are not thinking about providing messages.14 They know without critical eye, people just watch movies for having fun.
Moreover, they target youths to materialize their dream as they can be convinced easily15,16. Their parents are also influenced because of them. Also, producers analyze mentality of the viewers.17 As they know by showing for several times, something can be lasted longer in the mind of the viewers, they use the same theme in most of the movies.18
The manufacturer of the movies can emphasize on their distinctiveness in movies instead of being worried about western culture. Moreover, they can create movies based on history, religion, ethnicity, festivals, patriotism, and their traditional activities. That can also be as popular as the movies with foreign features. As example, Jodha Akbar and (Lagan, Mongle Pande), Swadesh which are based on the history and patriotism, but they were popular and awarded. 19,20,21
Moreover, they are including English lyrics and dialogue.22 Also they are being seen exaggerating some features like trifle expressions.23 They should be respectful and proud to their culture and ethnicity, instead of misunderstanding. Once each film producer starts concentrating on their own ethnicity and background, most of the other producers will also follow them and the forerunner will get acknowledgement. To take such initiatives, a courageous and confident mind is needed only. Along with producers, the viewers have to have the same feelings and have to use critical thinking and analytical skill while watching movies.
Culture is an inseparable part of a Society. According to Edward B. Tylor (a pioneer English anthropologist in his book “primitive culture”), “culture is a complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, law, morals, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.”24 Differently, it is the combination of our thoughts, deeds, and feelings.25
The definition of culture differs with personality and community.26 We can share our culture and learn from others’ culture which helps us enriching our own one.27 But it is not acceptable when one culture starts to dominate the others or when one culture starts to intimate other one.28 Western culture has created a clash of culture in Indian society through influencing Bollywood.29
From our research, survey and observation we came to know that the Hindi movies are getting westernized gradually. This is alarming for the future of the Hindi movies as individuality and eccentricity are being lost. Likewise the movies; this is shocking for their culture because movies are reflection of a particular culture. Also, movies are the representative of a typical ethnicity and society. 30
As a citizen of a particular country, everyone should be respectful and considerate to what they have in their own culture and ethnicity. No matter if a person is a film producer or a viewer; everyone has to have the same mentality towards their country, culture and ethnicity.
People have to be objective while evaluating a culture. Often they are not so.31 People should be careful by being active viewer. By avoiding watching programs with mediocre angle they will be able to do it. As a film producer they should focus on the history and culture. A careful spectator and a patriotic film producer can bring the solutions for our mentioned issue.
Background information about the movies.
Director: Anees Bazmee
Writer: Anees Bazmee
Release date: 26 August 2006
Film Stars Roles
Anil Kapoor Kishen
Salman Khan Prem
Fardeen Khan Sunny
Bipasha Basu Bobby
Lara Dutta Kaajal
Esha Deol Pooja
Celina Jaitley Sanjana
Boman Irani Minister P.K. Gupta
The movie is a remake of the Tamil movie Charlie Chaplin.
Genre: Action/ Thriller
Director: Sanjay Gadhvi
Writer: Vijay Krishna Acharya
Release Date: 24 November 2006
Film Stars Roles
Hrithik Roshan Aryan Singh
Aishwarya Rai Sunehri
Abhishek Bachchan A.C.P. Jai Dixit
Bipasha Basu A.C.P Sonali Bose
Uday Chopra Ali Akbar Fateh Khan
Rimi Sen Sweet J. Dixit
Genre: Comedy/ Crime
Director: Anees Bazmee
Writer: Anees Bazmee
Release Date: 21 December 2007
Film Stars Roles
Akshay Kumar Rajiv
Nana Patekar Uday Shankar Shetty
Anil Kapoor Sagar ‘Majnu’ Pandey
Mallika Sherawat Ishika/ Isha
Katrina Kaif Sanjana S. Shetty
Feroz Khan Ranvir ‘RDX’ Dhanraj Xaja
Paresh Rawal Dr. Ghunghroo
Malaika Arora Dancer com singer
Director: Abbas Alibhai Burmawalla and Mastan Alibhai Burmawalla
Release Date: 20 March 2008
Film Stars Roles
Bipasha Basu Sonia
Katrina Kaif Sophia
Anil Kapoor Robert C’costa
Akshaye Khanna Rajiv Singh
Saif Ali Khan Ranvir Singh
Johnny Lever Man at marriage registry
Sameera Reddy Mini
Survey(1): What is Western Culture?
1. Which of the following dresses do you think have come to the Hindi films from western culture?
Coat and Suit for men
Pointed heeled half shoes
Pointed heeled footwear
Boots for women
Boots for men
2. Do you think that divorces and sex before marriage is western?
3. Do you think French kisses are western?
4. Can the high bass music and the remix songs in Hindi films be considered as a result of western influence?
5. Do you think Ballet dances are a western ?
6. The filmstars in bollywood have fair skin. Is it an imitation of Western people?
7. Majority of the Hindi movies have many scenes shot in Western countries. Does it show that the viewers prefer western culture to eastern culture?
8. Drinking Whisky and Brandy in the films. Is it western influence?
9. Do you think the Hindi films:
are totally westernized
maintain their unique traditions
have a mixed culture which is neither purely western nor purely Indian.
10. What do you think about the influence of western culture?
Its excess influence has led to the loss of the unique Bollywood styles.
It has helped in the combination of cultures.
Survey(2); How to discern westernized Hindi movies?
From the previous survey that we have distributed it is found that Western dresses, overwhelmed use of English dialogues, divorce and sex before marriage, French kisses, remix songs and ballet dances are considered western by the viewers. Now we would like to know how many of the criteria to label a Hindi film to be westernized.
What is the minimum number of the above mentioned characteristics that should be present in a movie for it to be called “a movie influenced by western culture”?
Are there any other suggested criteria for discerning the westernized Bollywood movies?
Graph 2 a
Percentages of students to lebel criteri westernized:
Graph 2 b
Percentages of students giving different suggestion:
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