Culture

For those who have been living under a rock, or out of the sphere of anything related to media, chances are you have heard of Bollywood. No, I didn’t spell Hollywood wrong. Bollywood is an actual word, and it’s now officially defined in the Oxford English dictionary.

After years of attempting to compete against its western counterpart Hollywood, India’s Mumbai housed film industry can stand firm on the morals of its own achieved global success.

Deriving from its former British colonial city name of Bombay, Bollywood has amassed an international following, catapulting its reach of producing almost three times as many movies a year than Hollywood, and allowing to call itself the largest film industry in the world.

The Status

India has its own breed of mega stars who now have the global clout, fame, and a buzz to rival those from America. With its presence at almost all International Film Festivals, Bollywood celebrities are now in a league of their own.

They have massive social media followings, make lucrative endorsement deals with top global brands, and have cash earnings that set them in similar brackets as top Hollywood celebrities. Their reach is not only in India, but their reach abroad is growing as many are choosing to branch outside traditional roles within the Hindi film industry and gain further exposure in the west.

Priyanka Chopra, a former Miss World, is India’s latest global export who launched her foreign fame from Bollywood to crossover and become a recording artist to produce hit singles with Pitbull and Will. i. am. for NFL’s Thursday Night Football theme song. In addition, she has also become the first ethnic face of Guess, and landed a new ABC talent television show deal in Los Angeles where she is currently based. With a heavy media push, her team is attempting to introduce a stronger South Asian presence into the American media market. Among other global Bollywood stars with massive fame include Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Aamir Khan, Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Katarina Kaif, Akshay Kumar, and Kareena Kapoor.

The Reach

From Cape Town to Canberra, Rio De Janerio to Riyadh, the sheer appeal to audiences and demographics showcase how India’s Hindi film industry position now rivals Hollywood’s reach. The past 20 years have progressed the popularity of Hindi film, in turn allowing for Bollywood to become more of household name in several parts of the emerging world. In addition, the massively clean cut and conservative family approach of no nudity have allowed for its films to amass loyal fans not just in its diaspora communities, but throughout Africa, Latin America, Australia, Europe, and the Middle East.

The Appeal

With its grand sets, exotic destinations, love stories, and iconic song and dance routines, many have dubbed the unique and drastically different format to western media part of its international success. Bollywood films have stayed close to traditional Indian values, but in recent times have become a creative playground to showcase a rising and rapidly westernizing population, home to 1.2+ billion people.

The Influence

With Bollywood paving the way for the western world to gain further exposure into Indian cultural values, art, and dialogues, the influence of it reach is massive. With its heavy hitting presence at every major international film festival – including Cannes – established Indian Industry award shows, and the trickling in of more Indian music, fashion, and media personalities into the daily lives of more westerners, it no longer remains a thriving industry.

Dubai Parks and Resorts is even developing the Emirate’s and world’s first Bollywood mega theme park project aimed at capturing the essence of Hindi cinema, covering a total of three million square feet. With a massive three phase development plan for construction in Dubai, the park will recreate for tourists and residents the extravagance and fantasy that is the world of Bollywood.

Have you seen any Bollywood films?

Image: Wikipedia

CultureHealth

“Beauty comes at a price.” There’s a sentence we have all heard, without doubt. Physical beauty, especially, comes at such a price. Waxing, bleaching, plucking, shaving, and threading…things all us ladies (and some men) have spent countless hours at the salon doing.  But as Americans, what’s our take on beauty? What’s physically attractive, and what’s not physically attractive? Who decides these rules? How do American standards of pulchritude compare to those of the Eastern world?

I am currently in India, and I had the chance to interview several people about what they believe is beautiful in a woman.  Here are a few perspectives from the East:

“When I marry the girl of my dreams, I want her to be as fair as the moon…lips as red as cherries, and very black hair. I think a girl like that would be very attractive.”

“Milky white skin. Like Kareena Kapoor and Tammanah Bhatia, the Bollywood actresses. Intellect would be a great addition to those looks, though.”

“As a girl, I’ve always been told to use fairness products. They’re supposed to elicit the true beauty out of me or something. I don’t know though, they don’t really work. But that’s what everyone wants: whiteness.”

I interviewed 12 people, but I had to stop because everyone said the same thing: fairness, whiteness, and lightness. Everybody seemed to be in love with the concept of being light-skinned. In fact, what I like to call the “Fairness Industry,” is booming not only in India, but in Asia as well. Take a look at these creams and their purpose:

beauty cream

Phrases like “healthy white” and “fair and lovely” capsize the mind at first glance. It almost seems as though being white and fair is associated with being “healthy” and “lovely.” Is this a social stigma? Do young Asian girls have to be fair-skinned to be beautiful? Skin bleaching products such as creams and gels certainly do exist in the USA, but they are nowhere near as popular there as they are in Asia as a whole. Where does the idea of equating attractiveness to fairness stem from?

Back in the day, those who toiled in the fields and struggled in blistering heat possessed a darker skin tone than those who remained indoors, living in luxury and royalty. Having darker pigmentation became easily associated with being poor or part of the working class. Skin color became associated with wealth, and those who were more affluent were also seen as more desirable.

Let’s zoom forward to present-day Bollywood. Recently, the Hindi film “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein” came out. The title literally translates to “In your love, fair-skinned girl.” Why not make a film called “Kali Tere Pyaar Mein,” or “In your love, dark-skinned girl?” Once again, movies in India emphasize the glowing fairness of girl as beautiful, leaving no room for the majority of the olive to tan to dark-complexioned people. With subliminal messages like this, those of us who are not fair are almost forced to believe that we are not as attractive to our white counterparts. I can provide a personal example of this, as one of my North Indian friends (who is quite fair in complexion) teased me for being a dark-toned South Indian (we inhabit areas closer to the equator, so what do you expect?) once. Since when is being more pigmented a sin? Why are fair people automatically deemed beautiful, while darker skinned girls struggle to earn that title?

What about America? What do American girls believe will make them look beautiful? The answer is essentially the opposite of Asia’s: America wants tan girls. The tanning industry prospers in America: fake tans, tanning beds, and other “tan-in-a-can” products are quite the profitable investment. When summer comes around, millions of girls rush to the beach to bronze themselves. I’ve seen girls from my high school spend their paychecks on tanning beds in the winter…yes, in the winter, when there’s barely any sun and being slightly pale is a commonplace occurrence. It’s ludicrous to see what our young girls do their skin…whether they want to bleach it or bronze it. I had several Caucasian friends tell me “Wow, I wish I was tan like you. Your tan lasts year-round.” It feels weird to be castigated by one community for being tan, and complimented by another for the same thing. Why can’t we all just be proud of our original skin color?

However, there is one characteristic of beauty that seemed to be popular in India and America: skinniness. Perhaps the struggle to be slim is a global epidemic, as well. Dieting pills, weight-loss programs, V-shapers…they’re everywhere. Magazines, movies, retweets made by several of my guy friends that I follow on Twitter all depict skinny actresses and models. As girls, we are constantly surrounded by sources that tell us that skinny is right and that people need to see our collarbones…or else we are just not beautiful.

And once we gain that skinny body through hours at gym and spent dieting, we need to show it off, don’t we? Let’s take a detour and play the skin game. The more skin you reveal, the sexier you are. That sentence should’ve made most of us feel somewhat uncomfortable. We live in a society where the female body is such a weird object: people want to see girls naked, but once they do, certain girls who exposed their bodies are slut-shamed. Girls are heavily imposed with a double standard in this sense. What do you want her to do? Take her clothes off? Will you still respect her after? These are the relevant questions that you should ask yourself if you’re interested in a particular girl. Find those answers and don’t dive into a cesspool of hypocrisy.

So girls, what makes you beautiful? Your complexion? Your weight? The amount of clothes you wear? Truly, there is no right answer. Society tries to oppress you with what it believes to be beautiful. Certain people assume that there is only one ideal look for beauty, whereas in reality, that’s just not that case. We need to celebrate our diversity. We can do so by not succumbing to a certain weight and pigmentation. If you want to wear a religious veil and cover your body, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to keep your original skin color, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to eat that juicy sandwich from McDonald’s, you should be allowed to do so. If you want to embrace your originality and the looks you were born with, you should be allowed to do so.

Your youth shouldn’t be spent on altering yourself physically to gain acceptance from society. It should be more about educating yourself and being happy. Society will always say one thing or the other, but it’s up to us to choose what we want to listen to.

Image: The Resurgence