Bollywood Culture Talk

While on Crooks and Liars today, I came across my dream come true. (or at least one of them)

A website, where you can put your own subtitles over clips from Bollywood movies. I've made a couple and I'm posting them below, but let me give you some background first on why this is a dream for me, other than simply i guinaya-ku nu kachidon Bollywood siha.

For those familiar with those blog, for the past few years I've had a regular feature on it called "Nihi Ta Fanchat Gi Fino' Chamoru put Hindi Movies" or "Let's Chat in Chamorro About Hindi Movies." In these posts, I basically create a dialogue in Chamorro between two people who are talking about a recently released Bollywood movie.

For my first post, I used the film Swades, Ashutosh Gowariker's epic about diaspora, finding one's way back home, and the relationship between progress and culture in the "non-first" world, to create the dialogue. I'm pasting it right here for those interested:

Jofis: Lana Miget, gi painge' hu egga' Swades, ya gof ya-hu!

Miget: Guana? Pine'lo-ku na esta ma na'ma'pos ayu. Magof-hu na ya-mu, lao nu Guahu, ti ya-hu.

Jofis: Ki sa' hafa umbree na ti ya-mu? Ti ya-mu ni' kanta-na siha?

Miget: Well, guaha na ya-hu, ya guaha na ti ya-hu lokkue. Lao ti put enao na guaha chinatli'e-hu nu Guiya.

Jofis: Pues sa' hafa?

Miget: Ai atan i hinasso-na Si Mohan, i petsona-na Si Shah Rukh Khan. Taimamahlao ayu! Hunggan, dinanche gui' lokkue, lao gos tairespetu, sa' hinasso-na na i tinakhilo' ha' i kesteumbren Amerikanu.

Jofis: Hu hasso, hu hasso. Nai mandana gi i miteng despues di ma subi i nuebu na famagu'on. Ma fatta i Indians siha na maolekna siha kinu i Amerikanu siha put i ketturan-niha! Ya Si Shah Rukh ha lalatde siha, ilek-na na komo un sigi ha' fatta put este, ti un ripara i bila na problema giya Hamyo, ya i kettura ti ha hulat muna'homlo'!

Miget: Hunggan.

Jofis: Dinanche' Si Shah Rukh, hafa i problema-mu?

Miget: Gof impottante i kettura lokkue, ya dinanche i taotao i sengsong na guaha giya Siha ni' maolekna kinu i Amerikanu siha. Kao guaha un egga' i kachido, "Biko?"

Jofis: Ahe'.

Miget: Gi ayu, guaha scene nai umakuentusi un haole yan un taotao South Africa. Ilek-na i South African nu i haole, un chule' magi bula na kosas inadelanto, annok na masgaiprogress hamyo kinu Guiya, pi'ot gi fanience'an. Lao guaha lokkue gi un banda, ni' ti un danche. Put hemplo, ilek-na este na taotao, i familia.

Jofis: Pues?

Miget: Ti bai hu sangan na perfekto i taotao Indian, ya parehua ha' nu i Chamorro. Lao an un atan hafa ilekilek-na i kettura-ta put i familia, put taimanu debi di ta trata i taotao (fa'taotao, ti fa'trastes), mas gaibali i ketturan Chamorro ya sina lokkue i ketturan Indian kinu i Amerikanu.
Jofis: Okay, okay, dinanche hao nu este, lao put enao ha' ti ya-mu i mibi?

Miget: Ahe' umbre, ilek-hu na ya-hu yan ti ya-hu lokkue. Kalang todu gi lina'la' eh?

I chose this film, not just because it was popular at the time, but because so many of the issues the film tried to deal with through the context of Indians, felt so similar to what Chamorros are and have been going through for generations. For instance, the idea of "culture" plays a number of key roles in the film, both positive and negative. Naturally, the thereotical points of the film are very basic and crude, such as the obvious division it accepts between those in the diaspora as lacking culture and those in the homeland having plenty of culture. But, as with all films which are potentially horrible and unwatchable, you'll find just as much truth about a situation, as if the film was Ethnic Studies Oscar winning material.

In the film we see culture as a positive, healing force in the case of the main character, Mohan. He returns home, after having lost his culture and becoming thoroughly modern while living in the United States (and working for NASA). During his stay there, he encounters a negative definition of culture which we find in the "developing" or "primitive" world. Not as something which heals or stimulates growth or progress, but something which restricts progress and development. In the elders of the village who dismiss the Mohan's calls to change their ways, we see culture as a mire in which the formerly and currently colonized world wallows in. Something which holds them back, and as Mohan articulates explicitly in the film, becomes an excuse for why things are so terrible. The defense of their "culture" keeps them from fighting for better education, better utilities, but just becomes this illusion through which they can say they are better than the English or the Americans, but in reality, they are just fools. At the film's end, by assisting a village in India in building a hydroelectric dam to ensure that their power supply is stable, Mohan appears to have found a way to balance the conflicts between modernity, progress and culture, and decides to return to India and live there (while still working for NASA)

I am not endorsing specifically the message of this film, but only want to point out that these very discussions and ideas are just as present in Guam and in the Chamorro diaspora. One of the most important things we can draw from this film, is that the power dynamics around the naming of something as "cultural" or "culture." Culture talk, in the film (and elsewhere) is always made in reference or relation to things which are modern or things which the colonizer is or isn't. Yet despite this clear link to the colonizer, the discussion and assertion of what is or isn't "our culture" is always paradoxically meant to describe something which is autonomous to, not affected by or not supposed to be affected by the colonizer and his "modern ways."

The problems with this, are that the decisions or the frameworks through which people decide what is "culture" and what is not "our culture" aren't innocent or often even closely related to reality. These frameworks are soaked heavily with dominant ideas, and in the case of all colonies, that means alot of influence coming from precisely the people who you shouldn't want telling you what is what in your lives. The impact of this, as we can see in too many discussions on Guam, is that the way we talk about our culture is obsessed with purity and finding that which is "unique." What happens everyday on Guam is that Chamorros are denied the right to have a culture, even by Chamorros themselves because what they do and what they are, doesn't match these requirements. It is a "hybrid" mix of different cultures, and far too similar to other cultures colonized by the Spainish, and so therefore doesn't exist.

So as you can see there is more to this, than simply Bollywood orientalism. When I wrote this first edition of "Let's Chat in Chamorro About Hindi Movies," I wrote a small blurd in front of it, to explain where I was coming from:

In the spirit of coalition building and opening up new forums and types of dialogue, I dedicate the following to building an important bridge between Hindi movies and the Chamorro language...

Part of why I wrote this was simply to be silly, but there were deeper, more thought out reasons for it. As I wrote above, I saw connections between representations of Indian culture, diaspora in Bollywood films and the way Chamorros (who sadly don't have much of cinema) represent these things in their everyday speech, letters to the editor and blogs. Another reason at the time, was my own explorations in terms of what decolonization is or can be.

Firstly, in terms of decolonization, and making another world possible, the connection to India is a historically important one.

In the Cold War Era, India represented or at least appeared to represent a state which could help actualize the hope that Fanon's Wretched of the Earth ends with, namely that those who have been oppressed and colonized, can in their fights for decolonization, prove to be the more human, prove to be the true heirs to the ideas which Europe used to conquer the world and assert itself as the bearer of universal reason and ideas. As we can see in documents such as the Constitution of the United States, which propses to create and protect a universal national subject, the reality was that millions of indigenous people, slaves and women were not included in this glorious universality. For Fanon, it was through the violence of decolonization and the refusal of the order the colonizer proposed to prop himself up, that the formerly colonized, could create a truly more universal world.

India, a key member of the Non-Aligned Movement, played a huge role in the first few decades after World War II, in keeping this hope alive. Although this role for India is largely dead now, considering the way India is integrating itself and is being integrated into the global order today, there are still traces of hope.

As a person from one of the world's last official colonies, the occasional anti-colonial spirit that we find in Bollywood films such as Lagaan or Rang De Basanti, is so heart-warming. Furthermore, there could be something said about the way that Bollywood is trying to surpass the United States as the home of the "blockbuster film" and contesting its role as the center of the world's imagination and desiring. Most of the films that I've chosen over the years to create dialogues for are actually amongst these blockbusters. Here's a list of all those I've done so far. (Nina'hahasso yu' ni' este, na taya' nai manuge' yu' gi este na sakkan)

1. January 4, 2005 - Swades

2. January 25, 2005 - Hum Tum
3. May 10, 2005 - The Rising

4. October 17, 2005 - Salaam Namaste

5. November 13, 2005 - Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham

6. June 24, 2006 - Raja Hindustani

7. November 21, 2006 - Lage Raho Munna Bhai

8. July 21, 2007 - Dhoom 2

9. October 30, 2007 - Gandhi

There was another theoretical reason why I began writing these dialogues, but its already late here in Georgia where I'm writing this post, and so it'll have to be saved for another time.

But before I go, let me share with you the vidoes that I've made is (true to form) in Chamorro and related to the military buildup on Guam and Liberation Day. The second is one made for i hagga'-hu Sumahi who will be turning one in a week. Siempre bei post mas put este sen maolek na ukashon, bai hu falak Guahan gi i otro na simana, pues Hita na dos, sina ta silebra este fine'nina na kumpleanos-na!


Angie said…
Oh that picture of Sumahi is so precious, she is so beautiful.
Nirmal Simon said…
I love hindi songs!Check out it has awesome lyrics from thousands of songs.

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