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Monday, September 24, 2007

The Bollywood-Political Connection

There are 22 official languages in India. Each state, each region, even some cities-- have a culture, language, and traditions of their own. There are more than ten movie industries in India (each in a different language). Bollywood, which is the Hindi film industry, is the most popular film industry in the country.

Recently, a Bollywood film titled "Chak De India" dove into the issue of isolation among Indians. "Chak De India" stars one of the most popular actors in Bollywood-- Shahrukh Khan. Not only did the film focus on cultural differences and traditions among Indians, it was also a movie about a sport, hockey, and on top of that, it focused on the women's hockey team.

Without a doubt, the production company Yash Raj was taking a risk with this film, which is about a disgruntled coach (Shahrukh Khan) who takes a group of 16 girls and makes them hockey champions. With the star power of Shahrukh Khan, great advertising and promos, and of course, an adept script and bold dialogue, the film did remarkably well. It has been added to the Oscar library and is being used as a case study as well.

It did so well, in fact, that Bal Thakeray, the leader of the conservative and religious Shiv Sena political party, had his entire staff watch the film. If Thakeray asked his staff to watch the film for the ideal of "team spirit," to show the disconnect that exists among Indians (and the hope that this may one day change), or to see the troubles and sexism women face in the country, one doesn't know.

But it does show that these films can make a difference. We'll wait and see how much that difference turns out to be.