Thursday, August 14, 2008

“Dubara mat poochna…don’t ask again…” (part 2)

To understand a nation and its people we have to look at the various culture industries and its tributaries. This is because the culture industries reflect the length and breadth of the people. Marx had other notions, placing the culture industries in the same conduit of economic forces in society. My blog yesterday put advertisements into perspective, each into a separate category. Categorization is problematic but unavoidable as well.
Advertisements form a part (some say the part that powers the media) of the media, which in turn is a part of the culture industry of the nation. So, advertisements reflect how society is moving forward (or backwards as some would like to say). To the run up to the independence day we can extract some meaning from these ads, which lead us to what India has developed into and what still remains unchanged despite all other claims.
India has been an oral culture (things have changed over the years). We do not necessarily write down what we have on mind (there are exceptions now), but we like to share it never the less. This is done through poems, songs and stories. Priyadarshan, a Malayalam director cum producer who then ventured into Hindi cinema was asked whether India could get rid of its song sequences in movies. He replied in the negative saying that songs and their cinematisation are what makes Indian cinema Indian. The vicks ad leads in this direction. We like verbal repetitions and therefore a catchy one-liner for the ad.
India despite being a country of diversity has been able to come together at times of war, calamity and sports. This is due to the patriotism which still exists in the minds of the public and how it is twisted and used by the media. Amul, the taste of India gives us an identification that we might be North Indian, North East Indian or South Indian, but we are ‘Indians’. So patriotism may have its low ebbs, but it comes back into the picture when it matters.
Globalisation has made changes the world over and similarly in India. Its negative outcome has been to sow doubts in our minds about what is good and bad. Coca-cola could be one of the companies who use marketing as a way of re-inventing concepts in the minds of the people. Doubt causes a void and the company tries to fill this void. India in this sense goes through a questioning of concepts syndrome.
In the midst of change certain things remain unchanged. Two of these are patriarchy and caste and class discrimination. The ads of Bajaj Pulsar and the like are full of male idealisms of power, strength, class and uniqueness making out the male species as ‘the’ species in the world today. What we use reflects what we believe in. Caste and class discrimination follows the same route. We may have come a long way, but certain things remain rock solid and stubborn.
What we have seen above is an India which has evolved from an oral culture (not entirely), with its patriotic sense but changing concepts and ideals, and having managed to continue with the discriminations that continue to haunt the world today.
India is trying to build a new image for itself. More participation in the affairs of the country (as being asked by Rahul Gandhi and other young political leaders) is being mooted and encouraged, but we also face a very impatient population of more than half of India, the youth. The picture is murky for the time being and therefore we cannot make grandiose statements about India as we climb the podium for the all important independence day, not yet anyway.

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