Millennium Post

Going beyond boundaries

With Bollywood films now exploring new heights in terms of domestic and overseas incomes, which are soaring sky-high, is it hard to analyse the success and popularity of Indian film-making business? The latest example of proliferation of Bollywood films in Australia is explained by Pat Fiske, where she said that the aboriginal community of Ramingining in northern Australia <g data-gr-id="253" style="color: #444444; font-size: 14px;">are</g> familiar to the colourful scenes, melodrama and music of Bollywood.

Pat Fiske is an Australian Documentary filmmaker, who revealed in an interview to Millennium Post, during her recent visit to the national Capital, that Aboriginal people of Australia are crazy about Bollywood films. She said: “I was working on a film and we were filming in the Ramingining community of northern Australia and the kids there love Bollywood films and I loved watching Bollywood films with them because they would dance, they would get up and perform which would make me emotional because they get so happy.”

She added: “The boys, they would dress up as women sometimes. They would wear a bra and grass skirts and have great fun.” When asked why they (the Aboriginal community) are so attracted towards Bollywood films, Martin Butler, another Documentary maker ponders and says: “Probably through the DVD’s because the community of Ramingining are remote and they have few TV sets and say let’s say that one may have the access to anything they like.” He adds: “I think that Bollywood is great fun and probably that’s exactly what attracts them.”

Aboriginal Australians have inhabited the continent since 50,000 years. Martin Butler’s documentary First Footprints explores, through various heritage sites, the presence of the Aboriginal people and the possibilities of them being the most advanced community to have travelled to foreign lands from Africa. However from the time of Captain Cook’s arrival the British government acted as if Australia were uninhabited. So, instead of admitting that it was invading <g data-gr-id="191">land</g> that belonged to Aboriginal people, Britain acted as if it was settling an empty land. 

Martin Butler said: “In Australia there never was a treaty because the settlers said that the legal status was terra nullius which means empty land and that there is nobody here sufficiently advanced enough to make a treaty with.”

“That was an extraordinary <g data-gr-id="177">statement</g> but that was the legal basis upon which Australia existed. That has shaped the attitude of White Australia towards the Aboriginal community,” Martin Butler added and believes that formal acknowledgement by the White Australians would be a better idea. Bollywood, earlier existing as mere cheap entertainment and as a replacement for banned Hollywood films in different countries like Nigeria and <g data-gr-id="172" style="color: #444444; font-size: 14px;">Soviet Union</g>, the industry has  now risen and covered the globe extensively.

Bollywood comprises both Hindi movies and movies made in the regional languages. Australia also brings out a large number of feature films and documentaries in English as well as native Aboriginal <g data-gr-id="154">langauges</g> per year. Classics of Hindi cinema like Mother India, Sholay, Zanjeer and Don to the films shot in Australia like Dil Chahta Hai, Salam Namaste and others have managed to reach the core of Australia, and are loved as much as in the home country. So, how is it that Bollywood, with no geographical proximity, language or cultural connection is able to thrive in a completely different land altogether?

Bollywood in Australia: Transnationalism and Cultural Production, a research paper introduction written by MakandParajape and Andrew Hassam from the University of Wollongong explores Bollywood industry and answers the question quite clearly when it says: “Bollywood films have circulated globally among the Indian and South Asian diaspora as a shared cultural idiom. They have also been immensely popular in the erstwhile Soviet Union and on the African continent. Further, in an age when creative, information and services industries propel economic growth, Bollywood and its modalities of production, distribution and reception, are seen as important players in global culture industry networks. Countries of the developed world – Switzerland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand – go out of their way to welcome Bollywood production teams to shoot in their pristine locales. Local cinema houses in Australia, the United States (US), the United Kingdom (UK) and Europe regularly run shows <g data-gr-id="155">ofnewly</g> released Bollywood blockbusters. Many Hollywood producers now outsource their post-production work to Mumbai at costs lower than those they would incur in the US.”

The quote hence reflects upon a symbiotic relationship where culture is shared and each nation makes profits, but that is not the only reason why Aboriginal communities are introduced to films. There has to be a need for reflection upon the usage of methods of communication and other factors. With time, methods of connecting have also changed. Earlier, it was older colonial circuits that linked the two countries and now the technology which helps a user get information and cultural products.

The introduction of the research paper clearly lists out the reasons when it says: “Bollywood is not integrated with, say, the Czech Republic to the same degree as Australia. Many other factors are responsible for the kind of impact that it has on Australia. Among these are the English language and the older colonial circuits that linked India and Australia. 

The Indian diaspora finds it easier to migrate to English-speaking countries. These countries, in turn, find it easier to receive cultural products from India. In the case of Australia, its close cultural ties with the UK and the US also make its society more receptive to Bollywood.”

But the above point reflects <g data-gr-id="161">upon </g>the presence of Bollywood films in a general manner in Australia due to presence Indian diaspora but Bollywood has also entered the hearts of Aboriginal Australians. Is it not possible that Aboriginal cultural products be showcased in Indian films.

Martin Butler hoping to get the Aboriginal Australians on the international radar due to their cultural products said: “There may be the possibility, that future Bollywood movies set in Australia will portray greater political sensitivity and recognise the existence of Aboriginal Australians as part of a more inclusive Australian society.”

Hence as the whole world is witnessing exchange of cultural products, it is time that Bollywood explores not only the abundance of Hollywood films, locations and screenplays but also the cultural heritage of other nations.

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