This becomes symbolic of globalisation itself, or, more specifically, the effects it has; elements and influences of different cultures all converging in one place. Bollywood films may be considered to be ‘Indian’ but rather they are a medley of various types of films. Bollywood films could be seen to be breaking down cultural barriers. By being distributed to ‘more than one hundred countries around the world’ (Iyer 1988: 246) they allow global audiences access to an Indian world; one different to their own. This transcendence of cultural barriers to become known the world over is an example of postmodernism.
This effect of postmodernism on films is creating new or modified identities. However, what is transported is not ‘real India’ but a unified cinematic image. In reality ‘there is probably no country in the world more diverse than India’ (Iyer 1988: 248). This means that in order to attract a large audience they need to create a formula which can be understood and enjoyed by everyone. Bollywood films do not represent India’s diversity or multiculturality as all the films are basically the same. In British cinema a formulaic film is considered to be inartistic and uninventive.
In Britain films are made of different genres about working classes, middle classes, ethnic minorities, using regional accents, and set in a variety of locations. Through watching a wealth of British cinema a person could achieve a complex understanding of British society and culture; far more than by watching the same number or variety of Bombay films. So whereas we may feel that the cultural barriers between India and the West are being broken down the understanding we are achieving and the knowledge that is transcending is not one that is of authentic Indian culture.
Rather, it is what they want the rest of the world to see. As knowing subjects we can only be as knowing as our culture allows us to be as we are both products of culture as well as being the producers. However, as we are only producers of our own culture we cannot fully interpret the extent and authenticity of that of another nation. According to Lyotard the result of this unity always puts something at stake. Here we a risking homogenisation. In The Postmodern Explained to Children (1992) he declares ‘everywhere we are being urged to give up experimentation, in the arts and elsewhere’.
This certainly seems true when applied to Bollywood. Rather than risk alienating part of their audience and experimenting with filmmaking they prefer to create unity. However, it can be said that our cultures are becoming more integrated as they move around the world. The term ‘deterritorialisation’ was used by Arjun Appadurai (1990: 301-303) to describe how people, media, technology, money and ideology are moving increasingly freely between nations. It is becoming progressively more difficult to identify oneself with a nation.
Does being born in Britain make you British? Cliff Richard was born in India, does that make him Indian? This free flow of the ‘ethnoscapes’ Appadurai identifies, therefore, destablises the knowing subject position. You may be British but if you watch Japanese films and eat Chinese food and listen to American music does that make you less British, or could you just be postmodern? This illustrates the effect globalisation can have on our cultural boundaries. However, globalisation can be interpreted as only breaking down cultural barriers to a certain degree.
This is not how much culture is transcended; as we have seen there is no shortage of this given how easy it now is. What is limited is what is being distributed. It does not seem that we are becoming knowing subjects in all cultures around the world as what we are receiving is not genuine, authentic culture. Instead what we get is a diluted, reshaped version. All we see from Bollywood films is the image of India represented in them; one which is not representative of real India. Similarly, the ‘Indian’ dish Chicken Tikka Masala is one which has been created by merging two food cultures together.
The effect of this is the alteration of an existing nation’s culture with fragments of others’. We take the bits we want and absorb them into our culture, a choice given to us by globalisation. British people want to eat Italian food but choose not to take part in Italy’s tradition of siestas. We drive German cars but do not watch their television programmes. This is another trend often applied to the postmodern. Therefore, globalisation can break down the barriers allowing access to different cultures and for different cultures to flow and mix together but the extent to which this occurs is selective.