Beyond Bollywood in Göteborg

When Bangalore-based film director Girish Kasaravalli introduces his film Gulabi Talkies at the Göteborg International Film Festival and Museum of World Cultures in Göteborg, he very humbly describes his idea as trying to grasp three processes in India that occurred simultaneously: The war between India and Pakistan that affected the relation between Hindus and Muslims, the change in fishing regulations on the coastal villages in Karnataka, and the introduction of private and public cable TV in villages. He wanted to show the effects of these processes in the everyday life in a small village.

The film is one of the films within the theme Beyond Bollywood at the festival. It has lifted the question of independent film making as such, as well as the Bollywood film industry and the specific situation for filmmakers in India. At the seminar after the show of Gulabi Talkies, Girish Kasaravalli and film- and theatre person Prakash Belawadi discuss the situation in India and point out that a theme like ”Beyond Bollywood” creates another misunderstanding. It’s as if Bollywood films are the narrative, everything else is beyond. This is not true, they say. Bollywood might involve a lot of money (often connected to either illegal or accounted activities we learn), but seen in the number of films produced, it’s a small part of films – less than 25 procent – made in India. Yet, it’s seen by the world as the pan-India, while in fact it has very little to do with ordinary life in India.

There is a strong urge for simplicity, for stereotypes. Francis B Nyamjoh, Head of Publications and Dissemination in Senegal, quoted before on this site, writes in Cultures and Globalization: The Cultural Economy, that the global cultural entrepreneurs; the large film, music and literature companies are asking only for stereotypical stories from African scene. They don’t want to distribute alternative stories, since this is said not to sell.

At a workshop in Nairobi last September (look under Kenya) many of the participating writers were saying that if you want to sell, you need to write stories of the Big Five, the largest wild animals in the African wild life. Otherwise no one will invest money or distribute your story. Doreen Baingana, a Uganda-born writer wrote a beautiful story of three sisters growing up in modern Kampala a few years ago. The Tropical Fish has won prizes and can be found on searches on the Internet. Anjum Hasan is a Bangalore-based writer who recently published her book Neti, Neti, a wonderful story of being a young woman in modern Bangalore. So, there Is no need among young women in the world of these stories?

Who is continuously reproducing the need for stereotypical stories? The audience, customers, distribution chains, large global entrepreneurs, investors? Perhaps Internet can be an important tool to change this.

Photos and film: Leif Eriksson, Filmhögskolan Göteborg University.

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