Author: Neeraja Panchapakesan
What meanings does the use of western musical traits in Bollywood convey the blending of eastern and western cultures?
Panchapakesan’s main research is on the globalization of Bollywood. Music has always been extremely important in Bollywood movies, musicians and dancers are just as important to Bollywood movies as actors and directors, and are often secured first.
In the 1990’s western ideas began to influence Bollywood – we saw this incorporated through characters, costumes and music. In the music, we saw this manifested through an addition of a general western style of music including: instrumentation orchestration, ornamentation and mode. For example, the use of keyboards was first introduced to Bollywood during that time.
Panchapakesan used clips from three Bollywood movies to display her research findings:
Lagan, Mohabbatein and Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gham
Lagan was an example of very little blending of cultures. Traditional Indian music was used with the Indian characters and traditional western music was used for the western characters. In Mohabbatien, there were three couples with different levels of blended cultures displayed through costumes, dance style and music. It is clear in these examples that the eastern style is seen as more superior and the west is seen as more corrupt. The “rebel” Indian couple is dressed in western clothing and dances to western style music while the sweet Indian couple is completely traditional. However, Panchapakesan notes that it is not so black and white, and usually by the end everyone gets along. I took a little video of Kabhi Khushi Khabie Gham. You’ll notice there are two families celebrating: the small village family and the rich city family. Notice the difference between styles of dance and clothing and music. All three movies use of western traits highlight the effect of globalization of western culture, but there are varying degrees of blending and are not necessarily always negative or positive.