The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

August § The Common Test / 2016-02-16 21:04:46
Robin § Unforgotten / 2016-01-08 21:19:16
MsFitNZ § Towards A Theory of Secondary Literacy / 2015-11-03 21:23:21
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 18:39:56
Jon Schultz § Bless the toolmakers / 2015-05-04 16:32:50
Matt § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-05 01:49:12
Greg Linch § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 18:05:52
Robin § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 05:11:02
P. Renaud § A leaky rocketship / 2014-11-04 04:13:09
Jay H § Matching cuts / 2014-10-02 02:41:13

'Titanic Emergent'
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I love this assessment of Bollywood stars from, of all people, Bruce Sterling:

[On Twitter you] really get a feeling for Bollywood stars as a semi-solid, political-feudal caste from a massively populated, deeply troubled, hugely resilient, titanic emergent world power.

They’re all Indian patriots. Every one of ’em. They’re not pollyannas about it, but you never hear a cynical or dismissive or despairing remark from them. About the press, certainly, but about the Indian government or Indian civil society, never. Tremendous work ethic. Even the ones who come across like half-naked decadent femmes fatale are complete Type A overachievers. Very bouncy, very focussed. Educated. World travellers. It’s impressive.

This weekend, I saw 3 Idiots at the big Bollywood theater here in the Bay Area. It was a blast; it always is, both because the audience is so loud and appreciative and because the movies are simply so huge. The sheer amount of stuff they pack into them is audacious, even ridiculous, but somehow it works. There simply aren’t American movies like this; somehow there can’t be. (Also, there’s a simple delight to a movie with an intermission, you know? Every Bollywood movie has an intermission.)

But “3 Idiots” is actually noteworthy for its subject matter, too. It’s set at a fictionalized version of IIT-Delhi, and it takes on India’s culture of school and success. So it’s not by chance, I think, that it had the biggest-ever opening weekend of any Hindi film in the US and Canada. I’m pretty sure there were some graduates of the IITs sitting there in the darkness of the Naz 8 with us. I wonder what they thought.

I’m trying to track down stats for Bollywood audiences outside India. I don’t know if they’re truly significant (more than, say, 10% of the audience inside India) but I’m sure they’re growing fast—in Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Persian Gulf, and Indonesia. Many former Soviet states, believe it or not. And of course America, too. This is one of the reasons I’d bet on India in the 21st century: it’s a net exporter of media. Really, there are only a few countries with that distinction, right? The U.S. is one (mostly movies and TV); Japan is another (mostly anime, manga, and video games). Now India’s in the club. See you at the Naz 8.

Update: Over on Boing Boing, Xeni does the “3 Idiots” OMG-how-is-this-all-in-the-same-movie enumeration:

Bollywood movies somehow manage to cram in more sheer total stuff than US pics, and this one’s no exception: there’s a hot “wet sari” scene, a dance number with aerial toilet steadicam shots, a climax of of parental drama that involves comparison shopping between laptops and SLR cameras, an obviously fake rubber baby, beautiful Himalayan scenery. Blogs, webcams, and aerial surveillance drones glide effortlessly through the script. And not once, but twice, a homemade penis-electrocution hardware hack serves for comic (and bladder) relief.

I just want to underscore: aerial toilet steadicam shots.

4 comments

Don’t forget about South Korea and its TV dramas!

I’ve always felt that one of the sad effects of authoritarian countries is its stifling effect on the arts, and especially on art export. Aside from a few kung fu movies here and there, China has a relative dearth of cultural exports. The same is true for the former Soviet Union.

I was thinking about the latter the other day while I was watching a couple of episodes of From the Earth to the Moon… I wish there were a good movie about or documentary about the Soviet space program, but, as far as I know, there kind of isn’t. There aren’t even that many books about it. :

When I was doing research on Mother India to show my students during my Bollywood film festival workshop, I discovered that there are places its been showing in Africa almost continuously–I believe Nigeria. And when I watched it, that made sense. I found out it was once deeply popular in Romania. On one level it is very Indian, but on another it’s almost not about India at all, but about the still fairly universal plight of the impoverished farmer who has meager access to capital, about the protracted psychology of trauma, and about the dilemmas faced by poor women. When my parents lived in Africa, truck drivers would name their elaborately painted lorries after Bollywood starlets. I’m not sure how the new India’s Bollywood plays to that once loyal African audience, though.

BJuarez says…

A bit late to the post, but just wanted to add Mexico to the mix (for exporting telenovelas around the world).

Robin, shortly after you posted this yet another person (@iamsrk) joined Twitter, and so far, I’m hoping he’s real. Same for @juniorbacchan (Abhishek), @FarOutAkhtar (Farhan), @ShahidKapoor, and @kjohar25 (Karan). Only Karan Johar is verified, and everyone else’s verification seems to be resting on his. So who knows, I might be buying into a giant elaborate hoax. But they fun to get tweets from–totally hyper, 12 hours off (of course. . . how much India’s media power lies in that perfect chronic complement to California’s?), exuberant, exhausted and ever grateful. In between the usual thank yous there are charming shoutouts to the joys of drinking coffee with their mothers, passing each other on the streets of Mumbai, and random deep thoughts that are just goofy enough to feel real.

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