Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Gap Between Bollywood and the Real India

I was reading Set Apart, and it was talking about the impact of the media on culture and 'norms'. India is an interesting example of the same.

Ex 1) Dress style
There are many dress styles in India, but you'll see a few trends: kurtas for the boys who dress traditionally, trousers and shirts for male office workers. For the ladies, either Western-style office dress, or kameez... sometimes a saree, but that's rare to see a saree at work.

On Fridays, you'll see jeans and t-shirts in the office, no shorts, no skirts above the knee.

In the media, there is a lot of West love going, even as far as having Hindi rap. Of all things! There will be some traditional clothes for sure, but you feel the general direction to be away from there.

Ex 2) Modestry
When I was at the corporate picnic, I found something interesting: nearly noone was wearing a swimsuit at the beach, and only guys were showing any flesh. Girls were dressed as if they were in a park, frankly.

Not so in the Hindi movie arena. The girls are sexy, very sexy, wear short skirts, show a lot of cleavage, show off in bikinis, you name it, its all fair game! The guys have mandatory 'six pack' moments, it sometimes feels.

Ex 3) Music
At that party, I noticed one thing... domination of the Hindi movie songs. The games we played, the songs sang in the bus, it was all bollywood. The movie music directors have more or less hijacked today's Indian culture.

Now, what's happening to the young generation? Go to a college in Mumbai, and you'll see folks that will make you feel as if you're in Montreal. The teens at church could be NRIs attending the Montreal church in many cases.
Many colleagues (a large chunk barely out of college) are a bit 'in between', where they'll be glad to switch to jeans and t-shirt on Friday, but really don't mind dressing more traditionally.
It seems like that, for ever 5 years of age difference, you see less Indian and more Western in a person...

There are a few lessons from this: don't rely on the media's corporate, profit-making arm to show you what real life is all about. Also, what you watch with your kids is likely to be what your kids will become like. The example is powerful in North America, but its crazy and saddening here.

And so, the gap between Bollywood and the Real India is very wide in a way, but very narrow in another, for better and for worse.

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