Perhaps it's expecting too much of Bollywood, which is ultimately a commercial film industry and not obliged to promote national integration, but a film like Mary Kom could have gone a long way to indicate to both Northeast Indian as well as mainland Indian audiences that differences need to respected and accepted; embraced even.
Instead, Kom is being paraded around the country as part of the film's publicity campaign, possibly because the publicity team is well aware that whether or not the film releases in Manipur, Mary Kom needs the stamp of legitimacy from the real person. It's not just because the film is Kom's life. The decision to cast Chopra as Kom suggests the distorted view that Manipur needs to conform to a mainland vision of what makes an Indian, even after winning the country an Olympic medal.
The entire piece is worth reading but what really caught my attention in Pal's piece is the fact that Korean pop culture is much more popular in Mary Kom's Manipur than Bollywood is. As somebody who has delved deeply into Japanese pop culture, watching the Korean cultural juggernaut has been fascinating. Japan, the island nation, is a self-contained market. Much like some of the regional industries, they don't mind if outsiders like me enjoy the films and music but they are making product for the home market and the home market only. There are no subtitles, no concessions to anybody not already steeped in Japanese pop culture. Meanwhile, Korea has done what some in the Hindi film industry would like to do--export their products globally, outside the diaspora. And ironically, Korea has done it in markets that "Bollywood," to use the phrase to represent Hindi pop culture, has neglected. Places like Indonesia, Burma… Manipur. While Bollywood has been chasing after American and British dollars and pounds, Korea has taken over Bollywood's former strongholds and Bollywood seemingly hasn't even noticed.
The difference between Japan and Korean industries is two-fold. Firstly, Japan has recently become the number one music market in the world and really doesn't need money from exports (although I give my money up every month to CDJapan for the latest pop singles) while Korea is a small nation and really did need to expand beyond its own borders. Secondly, Japan has a massive cultural superiority complex really doesn't give two fucks about what the rest of the world thinks but Korea, like certain English language sections of the Hindi pop culture industry, has more of an inferiority-superiority complex. They proclaim their awesomeness while still somehow craving outside validation. And Korea has gotten a lot more outside, non-diaspora validation than Bollywood has in recent years.
It's a fascinating story to watch unfold… at least from as outsider who has gravitated away from the export-heavy wings of Hollywood, Bollywood, and, yes, Korea (I used to watch K-dramas back in the day) to industries that deal in specifics. South Indian cinema, Japanese pop, and certain segments of English-language pop culture.
To finish up, if you're interested in Korea's coolmaker status, somebody e-mailed me this book review the other day. I'm really dying to read it. And if any Bollywood execs are reading, maybe they'll get a few ideas for taking back Manipur.
And I'll leave you with a few Korean pop PVs. Just in case anybody is looking for ideas for that Shahid Kapoor has a dance-off with an SM boy band movie that the world has been waiting for.
Here's a new one:
Taemin from SHINee is putting out a solo album this week and I've totally been feeling it.
But then I'm a massive SHINee fan. See, American and Bollywood, while you give us One Direction and dumb club songs, Korea is giving the world sparkly male dancing. THE WORLD WANTS THIS STUFF!
BIG BANG ARE THE KINGS THOUGH. Look how many views this video has.
T.O.P. from Big Bang put out this solo PV last year and it really made me think he'd been watching old Hindi movies.
There's EXO but they're babies so I don't know too much about them.
You get the idea.