Monday, August 28, 2006

KANK Co-option

I got KANKed Sunday afternoon at the Belcourt with some new friends! Despite mediocre reviews from 80% of the blogsphere and on imdb.com, I couldn't resist seeing Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna on the big screen with my very own eyes. I'm ever so glad I did! If I hadn't, I wouldn't have seen the trailer for Dhoom2 all big and loud like it was. Yay Hrithik! *insert squeals of glee here*

Half the thrill was meeting up with a fellow blogger Susan, several of her Bollyfanatic friends and one newbie! (Oh, how we love to indoctrinate!) Hopefully for Lage Raho Munnabhai next month, we'll be joined by her friend Rachel and my two friends who bailed on me this time. That would bring us to a grand count of 8. Sweet! I think we can take up a whole row.

Anyhoo, at this point I think it would be appropriate to extend an invitation to any Indian folks in the 'Ville who would not be embarrased to accompany (babysit?) non-Indians at the next Belcourt viewing. Or better yet, perhaps we could pretend you invited us.

A silent fear grows with my ever increasing knowledge of Bollyfilm that I am turning into the cultural equivalent of the abandoned barn interview with white farmboys in Nebraska I saw on an MTV documentary years ago. They donned gansta bandannas and toted sawed-off shotguns while speaking in all too serious tones about how Colors was their favorite movie because, You know what I'm sayin', they had gangs too. I'm sure, like Kevin Federline, they were planning to be rappers when they grew up.

Additionally, I'm desperately hoping that I didn't annoy the nice Indian man sitting next to me with all my mumbling about this or that actor throughout the film OR my squealing at the sight of John Abraham's face--how did I forget he was in the film?!--OR my inability to contain myself during the Dhoom2 trailer OR singing with the marching band instrumental to Bole Churiyan OR--during the scene where Rani comes home to bouquets of flowers, a candlelit dinner and Abhishek Bachchan then has the nerve to look like she's been dealt a death sentance--my saying, "Girl, I'll take him!" rather loudly. [So I had a "black" moment.]

Since co-opt was one of the best words I learned during my one semester of grad school, what do you think? At what point does a fan's interest in a cultural art form, paired with disconnection to the culture from which it originates, become disingenuous? When does co-optation occur? You needn't direct your comments at me personally per se 'cause we all know I'm keepin' it real...

9 comments:

Beth said...

That is a seriously good question. I worry about that from time to time. Usually I'm too distracted by just how very much I love these movies, but in the cold light of day, when I'm outside and there isn't a musical number going on, or I've tried to get someone to watch one and they won't, I wonder just how crazy I seem - or, worse, offensive and/or ill-informed. But mostly I do what I can to be informed, and I try to think about why I like the movies (or don't), hence the website. I don't know. Let me know what you come up with. If it makes you feel any better, I was very worried about this while in India, but most of the time people there were benevolently amused at the least and just downright delighted at the most to find that the WASPiest memsahib they'd encountered since Lagaan had Bolly in her veins. As far as I know, no one ever implied I was a phony. But yeah, when I go see a movie in the theater, and I'm one of ten non-South Asians, I do feel a little stupid. Just for a second. But it's there.

Beth said...

So despite many, many semesters of graduate school, I don't really know what co-option means and I haven't underlined any meaningful passages in articles about it. So keep that in mind when I say this: can disconnection from the home culture of the art form be overcome? Or is it possible that one somehow resonates with the relevant points of the home culture, even if one isn't from there? (I'm not saying I do, by the way; I might, I don't know, I certainly don't know enough about Inida to say. Although there are little bits of what I glean about India that certainly make me go "right on!" - and others that make me go "knock it off!") And if the answer is no, does that mean a person can only truly "get" the cultural products of their own culture? Which would explain why I like Prairie Home Companion as much as I do, but it's a distressing notion - I mean, I work in a culture museum, so if the answer is no, then I might as well ditch it and go be a university fundraiser or something.

And then again, maybe it doesn't matter as long as you think about what you're (culturally) consuming. I think that's where I may ultimately stand on this issue. All we can ask of anyone is that they think, right?

Totally Basmatic said...

I am a disgrace to my major. I had to look up both "co-opt" and "disingenuous" just now. I've never heard of the former, and the definition of the latter has always been a little fuzzy to me, but here I go anyway.

I think I have been very lucky in this respect; never have I felt out of place or ashamed or weird about my love of Bollywood. I've always loved films, and I've always loved learning about other cultures, so it seems only natural that I love Indian films. Also, I have a large number of Indian friends who have adopted me into their culture and traditions. In many ways I relate more to Indian culture than American - for example, my moral beliefs and values are very similar to my friends, even though we come from different religious traditions. So even though I'm skin-tonally whiter than bread, I've always felt comfortable at different functions where oftentimes I'm the only white person there. My friends call me the "uh oh oreo" - you know, the ones that are white on the outside and brown on the inside. They also tell me I would have been brown but I came out of the oven underdone. I guess what I'm saying is this - I still haven't figured out what co-option means exactly. :P

t-HYPE said...

lol Beth! No worries on the grad vocab. I studied Sociology which is a great way to spend money but not a great way to make money...

I just try to remind myself that if Siddhartha aka 'Ill Hindu' can be an urban music expert--his knowledge is baffling--I can at least aspire to let my Bollyfanaticism grow without restraint. It is after all, dil se.

Beth said...

"I can at least aspire to let my Bollyfanaticism grow without restraint. It is after all, dil se."

Wah wah! That, I think, is what it boils down to.

lavanya said...

Hey guys,

I think there's a difference between co-opting Indian culture and being into bollywood. I don't think they're the same. Bollywood is already the biggest movie industry in the world, I would guess with a 50/50 split of Indian and non-Indian fans (although I don't have exact statistics). They're popular with non-Indians for reasons i obviously don't have to go into. Do you honestly think that the Russians, Algerians, and Indonesians who are obsessed with Bollywood are co-opting Indian culture? No, if anything Bollywood bridges cultures together. Hope that makes sense.

michael said...

some really good question, i am also trying to write about some equal at bollywoodbloggers, but time is less these days.
is it an question we non-desis can write about? or is it anything only indians can talk about? thinking about it i am trying to answer more soon

michael

Cathy said...

I agree with lavanya. I think there's a big difference between saying something like "I LOVE Bollywood! I think these are great films and I appreciate the music and the cultural values!" or "I love everything I've encountered that has to do with Indian culture" -- and saying "You know, I am Indian because I've watched these movies, and let me explain to you (and to actual Indian people) what being Indian is all about, because I understand it better than you do." The second is what the farmboys in the documentary were doing.

Just because I love the movies and am learning about India, I don't run around believing that I have magically become a better dancer than Sridevi. And I don't fool myself that I have any kind of insight into India beyond an outsider's perspective.

but I have to admit -- I haven't seen a movie in the theater yet, even though there's one within an hour's drive of my house, and I do feel shy about it! What if I don't understand the theater-going etiquette or something?

Susania said...

I so relate to what everyone's been saying here... I've seen about a half-dozen Bollyfilms in the theater (without even knowing that T-Hype was there!) and have always worried that I was an intruder... In the one local theater that does show BW on rare occasions, it does seem as though it is also a cultural gathering since it has such rarity, and BW is such a clearly defined part of South Asian culture. But at the same time, I met several cousins (at a friend's Indian wedding) who were so tickled that I could pronounce and even spell their names because of my BW fanaticism, that I felt that my fondness for the films and culture was validated.