Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Well, Manipur doesn't want your movies anyway.

Today I want to link you to an absolutely ripping piece by Deepanjana Pal in Firstpost. She's one of the few online, filmi writers who has really hammered the production of Priyanka Chopra Starring in and as Mary Kom for their tone deafness on the role ethnicity places in the Mary Kom story.

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.

Girls' Generation!


You get the idea.


Moimeme said...

Wow, FG, this is a FABULOUS post!!! Truly global in its outlook and analysis. :) This is exactly what I was hoping for when I suggested that you try to meld all your different interests and not confine yourself to just Bollywood, whose appeal was fast waning for you.

I think you make some very valid points on the comparative appeal and success of the different cultural industries. But, as usual, the people who most need to get this input won't read or understand it. Nevertheless you should keep plugging away. Thanks very much for this. Hope for more posts like this one.

Filmi Girl said...

Thanks for the comment!! :D

The Korean pop culture explosion really has been interesting to watch. You know, ironically enough a friend turned me on to Korean dramas in like… 2005? by telling me they were like Bollywood movies. And now K-dramas and Korean movies and Korean pop are everywhere and Bollywood is losing home turf to regional industries and can't gather global interest outside the diaspora.

(I really would like to see Shahid dancing with SHINee, though.)

Moimeme said...

Well, a loong time ago (at least 20 years ago) I was in L.A. for a conference and accidentally discovered Korean soaps on the hotel TV. They had English subtitles, but I almost didn't need them, as the story lines, characterizations, even style of acting was very similar to Indian ones. Of course I was aware long before that time of the many similarities between different Asian cultures, which make the entertainments coming from those cultures more accessible to other Asians than to non-Asians, say. But still I was stunned at just how similar (or even the same) these Korean soaps were to Indian films. I mean there were scenes of romance between the hero and heroine which looked like they were directly lifted out of any commercial Telugu film, and the same with scenes of family conflict, such as mother-son or father-son arguments. It was unnerving in some ways. :)

The main point you make is one that is made by many writing instructors -- that the way to "universal appeal" lies in making your story as *specific* as you can, to give enough identifying details to make the character and his/her world come as authentically to life possible. Once readers are convinced of the "reality" of that world, they will find the commonalities between that world and its people and themselves, and recognize its universal appeal. Many beginning writers, and I was one of them, believe that, to retain the "universal appeal", they must not give any information that could definitely identify the people or places of the story. But that kind of generic approach only leads to lack of engagement and interest on the part of the reader. This is exactly what I feel with the many Poojas, Priyas, Rahuls, and Raj's of Hindi films, though nowadays they've moved on to the much more generic Aayas and Zoyas. :)

Wasn't Hrithik or Jacky Bhagnani or someone supposed to dance with Psy in one of their movies after Gagnam Style went viral? I never heard anything more on that.

And speaking of Shahid, what do you think of the rumor that he might be starring in the HIndi remake of Magadheera?

Just to get back to the original point, I think the reason why Korean movies are more popular than Boillywood ones are because they're just better made technically, but also, that they are made in the "Hollywood style" of film making, which makes it easier for western viewers to engage with them.

Apex said...

Thanx FG-a worthy post there ...agree
Also liked this "that the way to "universal appeal" lies in making your story as *specific* as you can, to give enough identifying details to make the character and his/her world come as authentically to life possible. Once readers are convinced of the "reality" of that world, they will find the commonalities between that world and its people and themselves, and recognize its universal appeal. "

However -the bottomline is that a rare sports film with a female icon is being made in Bollywood --and the largely forgotten north east will get some footage...

As for PC--I sense FG doesn't like her, innit? Lol
I don't fancy her either but here PC seems to be earnestly giving her "flesh n blood" & more visibility to the role ..Let's have the poor gal PC get some payback for all this effort -

& perhaps lets leave the trivialities & 'dry-humping' theorising for another day (n nite)-cheers lol

odadune said...

I'm with Moimeme, I think this is a really good example of using your other interests to illuminate an issue related to Bollywood/Indian pop culture.

Butting in re: Magadheera: I hadn't heard that particular rumor, but I could see Shahid working in the role. The Tapori Lite schtick he seemed to be doing in R...Rajkumar would go a long ways to defang the character's more obnoxious scenes, and the dances would be rocking. (Plus, you could translate the daddy cameo into something Pankaj could play). Ranveer, who was rumored at one time, would have been a more literal translation of Cherry's swaggering self-absorption and cute hair, IMO, and I would have been okay with that too.

Stuart Martin said...

REALLY enjoyed this post! It's been a long time since there's been a Hindi movie I wanted to see, but in the last 15 months I've watched around 80 complete K Dramas, 17 K movies, 10 TW-Dramas and a couple of TW-movies. Still can't get into K-Pop groups AT ALL, THOUGH. I like a bit of Korean Indie music, like Walrus and the balladeer duo of Davichi.

What's interesting in the context of your post is the growth of interest in K-Dramas among Indians, many of whom have made exactly the same comparison you mentioned, that K-Dramas are like Indian movies. The lead on the team fansubbing my favourite Drama at the moment, the *outstanding* Yu Na's Street, is a North Indian too who's obviously enjoyed Korean entertainment so much that he's learned the language well enough to lead a team of quite competent subbers. So it's not just in the diaspora that BW is losing market share to K-ent, but even at home, at least if the forums at are any guide.

Thelondongirl said...

how the tarnation did I miss this post, oh yeah just started a new job. Well you already know what I think. I'm currently watching four currently airing K dramas, I have two subscriptions, I watch them on my roku and my PC. Addict? yes.

I simply love them and yes there are a ton of Indian viewers on Viki and Dramafever. I posted a Gif of SRK and they commented on it. You are spot on about the failure of Bollywood to cater to it's international fans, it would take very little finagling to set up a service like Netflix that had recently released DVDs for a subscription but there is nothing and believe me I have looked.

I migrated to K dramas because there is a a huge library of licensed products for free with subs that I have easy access to on many forums. Though I can't say I love all K Pop, I find G dragon interesting and i'm gaga over EXO (they're so pretty) so I'm a complete newbie.

I never understand people like Stuart above, who can count how many dramas' they have watched, all I know is that I do marathons of whole series staying up all night if I have to ( this is something you can't do with Indian dramas as they pretty much go on for years on end with silly plot devices to drag out the run of the show) Its probably running in the hundred area or so now, and there seems to be no end in sight, and the movies of Korea are pretty accessible so I have watch a huge amount of those too. Bollywood will have to play catch up.

Stuart Martin said...

@Thelondongirl "I never understand people like Stuart above, who can count how many dramas' they have watched"

I don't really understand me either, but my count of Dramas is courtesy of I find it a great source of reviews and recommendations. By recording and rating there the Dramas and movies I've watched I can find others whose tastes are similar and/or whose judgment I can rely on to point me to Dramas I might enjoy.

Note from Filmi Girl:

I love Bollywood - and all the ridiculous things that happen in Bollywood - but it doesn't mean that I can't occasionally make fun of various celebrities and films.

If you don't like my sense of humor, please just move on by - Trolls are not appreciated and nasty comments will be deleted.

xoxo Filmi Girl
.article .article-content { word-break: normal !important; }