Bollywood and The West

The colourful scenes of a Bollywood production made for a tour of the Western theatre circuit

Since the early 1990’s, and arguably even earlier, the nature of films produced by India’s film industry, dubbed Bollywood, has shifted. This change has occurred in the form of greater westinisation, which is not only a reflection of the more globalised nature of the world, but represents an almost harmony between the Western and Eastern cultures. The real question to ask is if this shift is due to co-opting or hybridisation of the cultures.

Cultures are “co-opted” when pieces of the culture are used by an external source, whether a company, person or another culture, which benefits the user but not the culture that is being used. Hybridisation is when both parties benefit from the cultural elements being “borrowed”.

The problem is it becomes difficult to distinguish between co-opting and hybridisation when looking at the westernisation of the Bollywood industry. There are three sides to argue, the first view being from the outlook of cultural imperialism, which shows that only by conforming to Western expectations can the Bollywood industry gain traction in Western countries, which blurs cultural lines and may diminish the richness of the Indian filmic culture. The second, rarely considered angle is that Western culture is being co-opted by Bollywood. The Bollywood industry takes sections of Western culture to expand its audience, which has arguably no benefit to western culture itself, rather shifting cinematic profit away from its own countries. Thus, it is possible to argue that as the use of western elements has no financial benefit for the west, the culture must have been co-opted by the east. This however would be ignoring the cultural gain the west receives from in influx of a new cinema industry. Therefore, the most accurate view would be the third, that the western culture is forming a hybrid with Indian culture, leading to the more universal themes. Western culture would benefit from this by the new forms of entertainment, colour and style that the Indian culture can offer to the big screen, and Bollywood would benefit by gaining an international audience, with greater revenue per film produced, and a greater awareness of the Indian filmic culture (which is similar to, but not to be mistaken for the actual Indian culture itself) in other countries. However, this may not lead to deterioration of Bollywood, rather is greater permeation on a global scale.

The greatest benefit of all however is the increased sense of unity and understanding embedded in both populations of the global community, which fosters a pro-multicultural environment which is arguably endlessly more valuable than financial gain. As a result, whilst it is possible to argue any of the three points from a segmented view, in whole it would appear that the westernisation of Bollywood is an act of hybridisation in the most part.

Introduction into the differences the exist between eastern and western cultures:


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