India has still not used its soft powers wisely
A few days back, I was watching this movie called 'Karate Kid'. No doubt that the movie is a masterpiece. However, what caught my fancy was not merely the plot or the way it was shot but actually the place it was shot. The movie subtly showcased China’s scenic beauty in the most picturesque manner possible. Be it the way they shot the Great Wall of China or the Forbidden City or the Taoist temple in Wudang Mountain or just that small play depicting a Chinese folk tale. Apparently, it was the beauty of China and the portrayal of Kung-fu that forced me to plan a short vacation to China, in may be near future. What is the lesser known fact about the movie is that it is not a sole Columbia Pictures production but a joint production of China Film Group Corporation and Columbia Pictures!
Interestingly, countries nowadays are strategically using movies and other forms of art to showcase their nation, or shall I say brand themselves. Almost all movies shot in China (with collaboration from Chinese production houses) flaunt Chinese skyline, their culture, food or their lifestyle – thus enabling a window for the world to have a feel of China. Indian production houses on the other hand have done a lot to increase Indian tourist traffic to Switzerland and similar other destinations in Europe. Many Bollywood celebrities are today cultural ambassadors of various nations. So much so that, numerous South Asian countries are also devising strategies to lure movie-makers. The Singapore Tourism Board invested $6.5 million under its ‘Film in Singapore’ scheme and will subsidise international film productions by up to 50%. Fiji is ready to give a payback of 35%. Unfortunately, Incredible India continues to lag in this regard. Just around 90 foreign fi lm productions have been cleared for shooting in India over the last three years. The biggest predicament is the lengthy paper work required by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. Multiple clearances with diff erent departments continue to discourage foreign film producers. Also, local authorities create hurdles and ask for bribes before giving clearance at local levels.
Like China, the sparkling image of Uncle Sam has been achieved by the most effective use of soft power. The ‘American dream’ and ‘American way of life’ galvanised the entire world. Its products like Lucky Strike cigarettes, Coca-Cola, and other mass production brands have been instrumental in beating the Soviets in the cold war. In recent Hollywood movie MIB3, the lead actors were found driving American cars (Ford) and not non-American cars. Similarly, in most of the American movies, the production houses use American products, American stores, American tourist spots, American technology and even warfare, unlike India that rarely features their domestic brands in the movies or books.
It’s sheer waste of opportunity and resources when it comes to promote our nation through movies and various other similar domains, given the fact that more than 14 million viewers visit theatres daily to watch Bollywood movies all over the world. Not only Bollywood should voluntarily feature domestic brands and promote Indian culture through their lenses, but even the ministries involved should exploit it. Till now, we have only fortified the way the world views us – a land of mosquitoes and snake charmers. That is where the difference lies between a Slumdog Millionaire and a Shanghai Dream.