Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Eastern Culture/ Identity in Globalized World
There is an interesting quote on culture by Mahatma Gandhi whom I don’t think anyone would require an introduction.

“I do not want my house to be walled in on all sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.”

It is very clear from the statement that this mighty man of truth and ahimsa from Indian sub-continent had foreseen the idea of globalization much before and at the same time understood the value of preserving and preaching own culture.

All most all the third world countries from the east are facing the issue of their culture being eaten up by the Western Post-modern nations, who claims themselves to be developed, on the backdrop of the idea of globalization. Of course, it is an acceptable fact that today’s technology and trade had sucked the entire world together shadowed under single umbrella. Globalization not only made visibility on anything and everything from one corner to another but also resulted in the cultural give and take too. But the sad fact is that most of the poor lot of eastern world has some kind of dependency towards a developed nation from the west who remains the warehouse of wealth. Naturally there aroused a mental slavery towards the west and hence an idea that the east need to change themselves to match the culture of the west. Kolapuri slippers thus lost a battle to Nike and Reebock and dhothis to the Jeans. Origin of a human society and its culture has a lot to do with its geography and heritage that may not have any relevance to another social set-up.

If we consider the area of filmmaking as an example, the worst scenario we are facing is the trend of imitation. In India we had already seen the formation of quite a lot distant cousins to Hollywood…Bollywood, Kollywood, Tollywood, Mollywood….god knows how many more to come… These names itself suggest how much we are blindly bind to the film culture of a nation on the other side of globe. Coming days Indian audience might end up watching Indian Jurassic Parks and Meet the Fockers more often than Lagaan or Rudali.

All the art forms, whether it is painting, poetry, music or filmmaking, should definitely have an aesthetic identity of the region from which they are getting molded. The greatness of art is not in the imitation of an alien style but the imagination in own style. Nobody has the right to say that a classic Victorian painting is of high standard than the traditional temple mural from Kerala. There is no point in judging both based on the same parameters, as long as the medium and mode of creation as well as the target viewers are totally different. The same way, in music Rock and Pop can never be of greater importance to Hindustani or Carnatic. Each cannot substitute of the other. Even the traditional African tribal Blues that lacks a defined form or lyric pattern is of equal importance to any other branch of music.

Many of the young generation filmmakers of India have this attitude that until they create a new version of Matrix they would not be able to reach the level of world class cinema and that their creation could never be showcased and marketed to the world audience. This thought is like an Indian sculptor creating an imitation of Michael Angelo’s “Thinker” and trying to sell it to the European world who has no new fancy towards it. At the same time they prefer buying a simple “Nataraja” statue from our very own countryside. Recently while checking a clay model as a wedding gift for my friend, I was shocked to see not even a single piece that has the look and feel of an Indian man or woman. Almost all of them are crafted with “gentleman caps” and European physique.

Art is the cultural ambassador of a nation and until it reflects the true fragrance and flavour of its originality, it is of no class or standard. East and West are two different horizons. It is time to understand that West is no more interested in watching themselves in an imitation worked out from the East. So what is the need of East trying to become west??? Rather it must show its beauty and diversity to the west. Losing own cultural identity is like living without a surname. Globalization is not a process of changing us to another US or Europe. It is the process of sharing of knowledge, ideas and culture along with the business aspect of it. As Gandhi said let us enjoy the breeze coming in, standing strong on our own feet.