It would be na?ve to assume that films exist in a vacuum, unaffected by the society. As a matter of fact, films, at many levels, are reflective of the socio-political and economic context that they are made in. Not just the stories they narrate, but also the production, finance, cast, scenes, style of narration, cinematography and many other aspects of films are influenced by the social, political, and economic backdrop of the times.
In present day, when globalization is perhaps the prime determinant of almost everything under the sun, Bollywood films are bound to be influenced by the forces of globalization.
Roots of globalization in Bollywood films
While it is true that globalization is a feature of the late 20th and 21st century, Bollywood films have been influenced by global factors since long. A case in point is the legendary filmmaker Raj Kapoor?s depiction of a multinational and multicultural identity in the famous song ?Mera joota hai Japani, Yeh patloon Englishtani, sar pe lal topi Roosi, phir bhi dil hai Hindustani?, which translates into ?My shoes are Japanese, my trousers English, the red hat on my head is Russian, But my heart remains Indian.? It soon became a symbol for asserting one?s Indian identity in the face of global consumerism. This was perhaps the beginning of an identity that was in sync with the world outside and yet Indian at heart.
Effect of Economic Reforms of 1991
With the economic reforms of 1991 that resulted in liberalization, privatization, and globalization of the Indian economy, the Hindi film industry saw remarkable changes. There began to be an increase in the total budget of films, as also in the number of local, international and joint production houses. International studios made investments on Bollywood films. There began to be increasing worldwide releases of films. Conversely, the number of international releases has gone up in India. Moreover, there was an emerging trend of individual co-productions with direct investments. Because of the advent of highly advanced information technology, Bollywood films have widened their reach. The worldwide releases of films increased the size of the film market and massive growth of revenue.
Manifestations of globalization in recent movies
Perhaps the most visible impact that globalization has had on Bollywood films is the depiction of changed lifestyles and values. In the 90s, there were a string of Bollywood films that catered to the aspirational middle class and the diasporic Indian audiences. More and more films started narrating urban stories, through glossy and glamorous frames. They aimed to appeal to the fantasies of the newly emergent Indian middle class. The NRI factor loomed large both on screen and behind the making of the films. Nevertheless, Indian culture was presented in enchanting, beautiful ways, with the celebration of Indian festivals being shown in full grandeur in films like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham. Films like these reflected a happy blend of deeply-rooted Indian values and Western lifestyles. A whole new conception of ?Indianness? began to be created. Bollywood films began to be more youth-centric, universal in appeal and Indian in traditions and customs.
The most striking feature of the globalization of Bollywood films has been their influence on audiences all across the globe. What has come to be known as the ?Bollywood culture? spread its wings far beyond the Hindi film industry and the country. The increase in viewership of Bollywood films also led to the consumption of other related cultural including the extremely popular Bollywood film music, film magazines, and the countless number of sites on the Internet that promise a sneak peak into the lives of Bollywood stars and celebrities. These bear testimony to not just the broadened appeal of Bollywood films, but to the ease in availability of information at the click of a button.
More recently, Bollywood films have begun to depict coming of age and delves into the minds and choices of the youth of today. This is reflected through the lifestyles of the characters. More films take on the theme of friendships, a departure from the traditional family bond that formed the core of most films earlier. Films like Wake up Sid and Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, in a sense, mirror the kind of relationships the youth of today live and the dilemmas they face. Also, the use of foreign locales and the incorporation of images of traveling and exploring reflect the larger changes that have accompanied globalization. The attraction of newness and unfamiliarity find resonance with the spirit of emerging global trends. Moreover, jobs in MNCs and a life outside one?s place of birth have been normalized in Bollywood films, owing to the trends of globalization.
There have been more nuances that have been brought to light in new-age Bollywood films. For instance, films in recent times have begun to illustrate the prevalence of live-in relationships. Many films today do not hesitate to experiment with issues that were left untouched by past films. This can be seen in the light of an emerging global culture, where individuality and choice are respected more than ever before.
Opening doors to a new horizon
The trends that have accompanied the advent of globalization are believed to have, in many ways, changed the course of Bollywood films. There are innumerable examples of this change. Moreover, it is being anticipated that Bollywood films in the future are going to scale up this leaning towards amalgamating local and global cultures, much like it is in real life. It is also the age of new media of reaching out to audiences, like the release of films online. While there is an increase in magnitude of budget and production of films, there is also a rise in the number of options available to filmmakers that may not have the means or intent to make large-scale films.
-Contributed by Anushna
Picture Credits: campusdiaries.com