India’s cultural ethos and spiritual richness have transcended many societies worldwide in such a way that its essence is vividly apparent and felt in their social fabrics, most particularly among the Indian Diaspora. Its cultural and spiritual heritage provide an inspirational source, guiding principles/techniques for the art of living. (Just to mention the Bhagavad Gita and other sacred shastras abound in yoga abhias (practice), meditation for health, wellness…).
This eastern awakening brings in its wave a myriad of cultural values and rituals – arts, music, dance, etc which further encapsulates the linguistic realm – Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Telegu, Marathi, etc.
In that vein, the Bollywood cinema which emerged in Mauritius in the early 50s (approximately) has been a cultural catalyst in the promotion of Hindustani (Hindi, Urdu, etc).
Those were the days when films like Raja Haris Chandra, Anarkali, Sangam, an Evening in Paris, Guide, Yadon Ki Baraat, Sholay, etc, were projected houseful island wide. For every debut, there were long queues, who were enthusiastic to watch their favourite stars eg. Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Rajesh Khanna, Amitabh Batchan….
That filmi motivation (Bollywood masala) has laid the foundation of a cultural chemistry between Indian cinema and the audience (society). It has transgressed, mostly all ethnic “fence”.
I still remember our Mauritian brothers and sisters who were so eager to watch Hindi films at Cinema Mahé. Every Thursday at night everybody in the neighbourhood gathered to watch Hindi movies on T.V.
In each village weekly/monthly cultural programs were held on the premises of sugar factories – Sugar Time… Who doesn’t remember Sholay’s dialogue: Arey O Samba …. (Calling Samba), Sangam’s melody: Dost Dost na raha (No friend’s support…)
I was surprised to hear the President of Uzbekistan singing “Awara houn (I am a roamer) with so much passion recently (ref You Tube).
The Indian Cinema has been a social learning medium and has ultimately transgressed the borders, but require a holistic revisiting, with the advent of the state-of-art and digitalization of our society. It has consolidated social harmony and unity and has been a building block to our nation building. It has enhanced interpersonal skills, communication and knowledge in Hindi to the mass – learning by watching and listening. The cultural emancipation of the Indian Diaspora (immigrants and migrants) is largely attributed to Indian Cinema.
The Indian Cinema (Bollywood) is a cultural window which gives lots of exposure on the Indian ethos – the mosaic of the Indian cultures, mix of traditions, creativity, lifestyle, beliefs, gastronomy, dress styles …. In brief, it strengthens the cultural diversity.
The promotion of Hindi should be viewed from a cultural and linguistic perspective and not from a religious one. Since decades Indian cinema has succeeded to affirm and establish its artistic and cultural identity.
Though benchmarking is crucial to foster competitiveness, Bollywood should continue to maintain its cultural core and values vis-à-vis other cinemas, for example, Hollywood.