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Indian Culture fading in the English Language

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Rohan Gupta:

For a long time now (or at least what seems to be a long time) people in India ranging from intellectuals, authors, historians, teachers, parents, (disturbingly enough) students and even aficionados of ‘Indian culture’ have been worrying about the ‘cultural colonization’ of India. Various reasons such as a slight colonial hangover (which embedded in our social psyche makes us accept the cultural and intellectual superiority of the west unquestioningly), grave importance of the English language in the job market, etc have led many, specially the youth of the country, at least in metropolitan cities (Delhi, Mumbai, if not Calcutta too), to have a greater command over English than their native languages. Also along with various cosmopolitan influences they tend to grow up on English pop culture, embodied in shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S, South park, and movies like Iron Man, The Hulk and artists like Jay Z, Eminem, Green Day, etc, more than ‘Indian culture’.

This trend is clearly visible in the clear distinctions of the profiles and target audience of various TV channels. While channels like Star world, Zee Café, etc telecast shows specifically meant for this ‘urban elite’ audiences who identify themselves more with the lifestyle of the west than India, Indian channels like Zee TV, Colours, etc have shows which are more specifically meant a slightly older audience but definitely not for the fans of shows like F.R.I.E.N.D.S. Certain channels may be seen as those representing the consciousness of the youth but are more reflective of their social conditioning than active in generating a cultural awareness. It is obvious that exposure to western media will lead to an understanding and acceptance of their culture and society which automatically distances us from our own indigenous cultural milieu. As a consequence a large part of the youth finds itself (well as they say) ‘Indian in flesh and blood but western in spirit’. The disconnection of the youth with its cultural roots may not be extreme in status quo but nonetheless needs to taken care of.

Now this article is not meant to be a rant against the growing influence of English which is killing our culture but it aims to give a suggestion so as to successfully preserve both — the English language for all its economic importance and the Indian culture for all its historical and social significance. It is important to note that despite there being a market for shows in English language in India, which is proved by the successful run of Star World, Zee Café, etc, there are no Indian English shows i.e. shows in English made in India. While American shows condition one with American culture, Indian shows will influence one with Indian culture. The story is as simple as that. By making more Indian shows in English we will be able to communicate references of our own culture, while tapping into probably a fast growing market.

The idea is to affect the social conditioning of the individual i.e. the element of nurture (nature vs. nurture). We cannot get rid of English and its growth and spread in India is inevitable and hence to preserve our culture we need to find ways complimentary to this fact . It is only when we start producing our own movies, shows; ads etc in English that we can say that we have truly adopted the English language and it is by truly adopting this western creation only can we save our heritage from fading into oblivion.

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  1. Manoj Juyal

    I like the idea of making Indian shows in English. This way we can reach those teenagers who’ve been fed with FRIENDS and other western shows. If these channels can penetrate the non-English speaking audience by dubbing Hannah Montana, etc., in Hindi, then our Indian channels should not miss on this opportunity to reach the English speaking youth, who are getting sidelined from Indian culture. I’m sure this would be a rewarding move.

  2. IndianCulture

    I fear though that India’s diversity is today at some risk. It is painful for me to visit India these days and see Indians my age attempting to mimic the Western culture portrayed in movies rather than embracing their own varied cultures. It’s even harder to reconcile how Indian cinema, in a matter of two decades, went from making great films like Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Anjali to Dhoom and Dhoom 2. Indeed, it’s hard to pinpoint one unique aspect of India worth preserving that has been preserved. The nation marches toward a view of modernity shared by shortsighted leaders of industry and media. In their pursuits, the uniqueness of the various regions of India is an obstacle, not a boon.

  3. Anupama

    I love the idea of making INDIAN movies and TV shows in english. Its a great way to giving relevant entertainment to Indian youth. To some extent it has been done by Indian english literature and Indie movies. I would love to see Malgudi days turned into an English play or Mulk raj Anand’s stories adapted to an English movie with Indian actors.
    Its pitiful that some kid in Indian town sees shows about a kind of society that he will never ever be part of even if they settle down in USA. I think Its a waste time during the formative years.The sad irony is that, the same kid will yearn for Indian culture in any form after he/she movies to a western country for jobs.
    I also see that the most banal and overrated American shows and movies become famous in India and the real good thought provoking ones are royally ignored. FRIENDS was an overrated sitcom which was not true to the real New York culture. It was a bunch of very californian actors pretending to act like Newyorkers. otoh The West Wing, 6 feet under, arrested development are so well-written and thought provoking, not to mention amazingly acted by a stellar cast. Indian youth is still not following the real american culture. If so, we would have seen American literature, jazz, blues, great American songbook classics, playwrights instead of pulp fictions and bubblegum music. America will sell whatever we will buy. We should choose the good ones and reject junk.
    Another thing to consider is, youthful minds seek to explore new things. That doesn’t mean they have rejected their own culture. For example, I used to love pop music and hollywood movies when I was in college but i never stopped loving Indian culture. I still pursued classical music, read hindi books, watched Indian movies.

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