August 8, 2012 by marissapags
Only last week I returned back to Melbourne after a fabulous and fascinating three weeks in Mauritius. I was immersed in a rich and colourful culture buzzing with gracious people and booming with commotion. Indians dominate the country to the point where most of time I felt as though I was travelling through a little India. I’ve explored the sights and sounds of India a few years back and sometimes when scuffling through the bustling streets of Mauritius it was hard not to imagine I was back in the heaving, sweaty streets of Mumbai. We stayed with some family members in a worn down, tatty little suburb called San Qua known as the “Ghetto of Mauritius”, so naturally I was scared to death. I would come home day after day to a stuffy, suffocating room feeling like I just walked into a sauna all because I refused to leave the window open incase a few unexpected ghetto visitors decided to pop in. However after a week I grew to quiet like the neighborhood and befriended most of the locals, even attending some of their friendly gatherings. But this is beside the point. What really struck me about this country is the incredible influence Bollywood has on their lives. They truly live and breath Bollywood. This is no exaggeration. Every morning I woke up to the lively sounds of Bollywood tunes blaring down the street from someone’s house or someone’s car. Posters of Bollywood stars adorned every wall, every poll, and every fence through the streets. Even in the house we stayed in, enormous posters of esteemed Bollywood hunks such as Raj Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan and idolized Indian beauties like Aishwarya Rai decorated the walls in the living room, even the kitchen!
Almost every night we gathered around the television and watched a Bollywood flick. And if we weren’t doing that we were tuning in to their music station, channel Zee, captivated by the Bollywood film clips showing off pastoral landscapes, shimmering lakes, bravura costumes, specular dances and drop-dead gorgeous actors. After some time the lyrics came naturally to me and I was soon singing along in Hindi to the catchy song numbers of the latest films. Bollywood celeb gossip was always the hot topic around the dinner table. In the mornings the family would quickly gather around the television once again to catch the any latest goss on their favourite celebs and then rush off to work. Bollywood isn’t only a major attraction in India and other surrounding countries the industry seduces audiences across the globe with its vibrant colours, sensational costumes, melodramatic plots and constant outbursts of song and dance. It has truly become one of the world’s leading film industries and is no doubt going to continue to flourish as a cultural phenomenon. The Indian glamour city of Mumbai produces more than 800 films per year, projected onto more than 12,000 screens, seen by an average of 11 million people per day and finally exported to over 100 countries and it stands as one of the fastest growing among many other film making industries in the world. One of the most important things about Bollywood film and the key success to its popularity in India is the fact that many modern Bollywood films still display the exuberant array of traditional Indian garments, include Hindi tunes and maintain traditional narratives based on cultural aspects of Indian life. The industry still retains its pivotal cultural important and continues to ignite a sense of cultural identity across the country aswell as the Diaspora.
Bollywood is pivotal to their pop culture and my experience at the cinema in Mauritius surely confirmed their absolute adulation for the Bollywood actors. It was a dull and rainy day thus we decided to go to the cinema in the city, Port Louis, to see yet another Bollywood flick. There was an overwhelming number of Indians swarming in the theatre, crouching in the isles and even standing against the walls at the very back. Before the film started the cinema was echoing with chatter and laugher from every corner. We heard pots and pans clattering as families brought their own food with them to share around. The smell of rice, curry and exotic flavours pervaded the confined space. When the movie finally began the crowd erupted in an animated applause and suddenly the raucous noises came to a deafening halt. When the first actor appeared on the screen I felt as though I was no longer at the cinema but I was at a live concert. The crowd simultaneously stood up and cheered as if their favourite sporting team just ran on to a field, or their favourite artist just stepped out on stage. Cheering, whistling, screaming, clapping, dancing, embracing, singing, you name it. We too have a strong adoration for our celebs however I couldn’t imagine going to the cinema in Australia to see the whole cinema explode in a wild roar every time Leonardo Dicaprio or Johnny Depp appeared on the big screen. Every new Indian actor that popped up on screen received the same spectacular ovation. I could have sworn confetti was being thrown at one point. The experience was unbelievable, humorous but truly unbelievable. Indian stars are highly valued and embody a sense of power, command and admiration that even Hollywood stars cannot compare to. I saw this for myself not only in India but in Mauritius the way most people literally worship the actors. We will defiantly be seeing more of Bollywood in the western pop culture as the Indian film industry has already joined forces with global businesses in order to internationalize their film industry. Even Bollywood producers such as Yash chopra and Subsadah Ghandi have established offices in the UK ad US. We have already seen a Bollywood inspired film hit the Hollywood cinemas “Bride and prejudice”. There is no doubt Bollywood and Hindi-films will continue to circulate and influence some more Hollywood flicks! I was astounded, amazed but mostly excited to see a culture so deeply involved and immersed in their pop culture that it fills almost every aspect of their day, even their lives. Bollywood is a beautiful thing and I can’t wait to see more of it here.