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HILDEGARD ANNE MARIA

MA ENGLISH

ST.ALOSYIUS COLLEGE

MANGALORE
Silverreeds97@gmail.com

30 SEPTEMBER 2018

MALAVIKA B.

MA ENGLISH,

SREE KERALAVARMA COLLEGE,

THRISSUR.

THE IMAGES OF NATIONALISM AND TRANSNATIONALISM IN


MALAYALAM CINEMA.

Due to globalisation and other political reasons, there has been a massive migration from

Kerala to middle east countries and America, which in fact had changed the economic strata

of the state. Even though it was a migration broadly over economic reasons; it later turned out

to have socio, economic and cultural impacts on the lives of people back in Kerala and those

residing in faraway places. Movies such as Pathemari, ABCD, Bangalore Days, English,

Arabikatha etc shows this shift of transnationalism, nationalism, diaspora, migration etc.

These movies not only shows the socio cultural momentum of the society but also explains

on the transgressions and changes adhering to the society . hence this paper explores on
nationalism and trans nationalistic motives and digressions occurring in Malayalam film

industry.

Full paper:

The term transnational is more fitting for the themes globalized. By transnational it is

referred to Ulrich Beck’s explanation of the term:

“…The local ties cancel the equation of spatial and social distance implicit in

the national picture of society, so that “transnational life worlds” come into being.

These transnational phenomena should not be thought of as being the same as “inter-

state” phenomena”. Transnational coexistence means social proximity in spite of

geographical distance – or, social distance in spite of geographical proximity.”

Further Beck explains that transnational also means transcultural, this implies that

variants of glocal cultures, i.e. a blend of local and global, will “become capable of being

experienced and recognized within the nexus of world society”.

The purpose of this paper is twofold. One is to map out what constitutes the

Transnational trend, which have done by looking at its influences, both cinematically and

ideologically and in an economic perspective. Secondly, to explore the possibility of this

trend by being a positive consequence of globalization. We do this by presenting some

theories of how elements within globalization are cosmopolitan.

This explanation is more fitting with how the films in this trend are dealing with topics

stemming from globalization than the term globalized would. There are many emotions and

issues attached to the term globalization, both negative and positive. The term globalized

does embrace the interconnectedness of the world society, but it is also more colored by

neoliberal capitalism, which is its driving force, and the associations that come with that
perception. In the film Arabhikadha one could see the same driving force that forces the so

called party of principles and their leaders. Pathemari an another Malayalam film too talks

about this driving force that attracts the protoganist to travel across shores to make money.

here arises the question of cultural change. Culture, as per the studies done in the field of

signs and symbols that can also been referred to as semiotic mediation, which defines on the

intra personal (feeling, thinking, memorizing, forgetting, and planning) or interpersonal

(people involved in chatting, fighting, persuading & avoiding each other or creation of

semiotic traps (capturing other person in the web of shame, inferiority, or guilt)). Culture as

an action which can also be studied as an option, according to Pierre Janet, Alexey N.

Leontiev and John Dewey Rogoff, culture is something that humans develop through their

participation in socio- cultural activities of their communities, which also changes. Bangalore

Days

According to Hofstede’s [7], as has been quoted by Fu [8] in his paper national Audience

Tastes in Hollywood Film Genres: Cultural Distance and Linguistic Affinity, culture is ‘the

collective programming of the mind’ and to classify national Cultures Hofstede [7] has

considered the dimensions of individualism/collectivism, power distance, uncertainty

avoidance, and masculinity/femininity.

Discussing the concept of culture in context of media, Antara [9] has opined in his paper on

News watch: in Search of a National Culture that culture is a dynamic concept and media has

a major role to play in its change. According to him, culture…..is developing, constantly

morphing set of values and symbols. ….Culture…is a dynamic system of thoughts that allow

us to distinguish between and accept or reject situations or acts. We rely on our culture for

images and vocabulary that will help us respond to our social and individual environment.
Importantly, mass media helps build that culture, besides reflecting it. Culture thus becomes a

symbolic system within which all media producers and media users (like readers or viewers)

work. Media operates within a culture and uses its symbols. That includes prejudices and

stereotypes

A very culturalist, essentialist and majoritarian view of Indian identity underlines this

assertion. Ethnic nationalism and pan-Indianism gained currency during the 1990s while the

country’s economy was being opened up after the first liberalization measures in 1991, which

benefited most the middle classes and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The

party’s slogan ‘India Shining’, a peon to urban, yuppie, capitalist growth embodied by the IT

sector, symbolized this period. Hence it is not surprising that the Non Resident Indian

(NRI),2 who is imagined to be necessarily rich and westernized but who is also known to

contribute financially to the Sangh Parivar, became a role model for a fast growing middle

class facing the challenges of globalization and its own anguish or feeling of guilt due to a

possible acculturation. Unsurprisingly, the popularity of themes related to the diaspora and

the nationalist ethnic and cultural discourse aimed at people of Indian origin living abroad

reached a peak during the period corresponding to the BJP-led governments (1998-2004).

The 1990s and early 2000s could in fact be considered the Golden Age of the NRI, heralded

as the emblem of the emerging middle class and the new material aspirations of an India in

the midst of economic liberalization

In this context, Indian culture is portrayed as family-oriented, the preserve of women within

the home and yet ‘portable’ (Uberoi 1998: 306) thus possibly transnational. Cinema, more

than other media like television, mobile phones or the Internet, constitutes a medium for the

enacting, teaching and dissemination of this nationalist discourse heralding the combined

virtues of consumerism and devotion and of cosmopolitanism and roots. Chopra confirms this

when he confides that ‘Indian films teach in a subtle way, they teach the social conventions, a
sense of duty’ (Chopra 2002). Hence we shall therefore go beyond the synoptic description

and focus on the lessons in Indian identity and desirable conduct given in the last fifteen

years through one of the seminal movies in Malayalam cinema Take Off. This movie

simultaneously provides insights on plight of Indian nurses in Kuwait and also questions of

primarily assigned morals of being an Indian woman.

Since the discussion in this paper is restricted to Indian transnational films, so the cultural

ethos communicated by transnational cinema have been treated as a ‘national culture’, this

detailed elucidation of culture has created a ground for the discussion on multiculturalism,

which in itself is a complex concept and its description can include numerous factors like

race, language, religion, culture, etc. However, as per the limited scope of this research, race

and culture are the only two issues of multiculturalism that are being discussed in this paper

with respect to how these two characteristics find their place in cinema in terms of visual

representations, as lately good amount of work has been done by Indian filmmakers to

represent the life and cultural conflicts of NRI’s settled in UK, USA, and Canada. To explain

the importance of racial aspects of multiculturalism, Valsiner has quoted Schutz, a well-

known sociologist, who once wrote an article ‘stranger’ in which he highlighted the dilemmas

of an immigrant. He argued that so long as the immigrant does not accept the culture of host

society, he remains a stranger. According to him, The moment an immigrant adopts the way

of life of the host society, he no longer remains a stranger, though the argument is valid for

the white European immigrants of the USA. For an Asian and African immigrant the reality

is different. The difference in the colour of skin acquires paramount importance in spite of the

fact that the myth of superiority of certain races with regard to certain characteristics, like

intelligence, courage, inventiveness, etc. has been demolished in biological sciences. In the

Western societies, the differences on the basis of the colour of the skin are so obvious and
visible that the issue of social inclusion through merging with the way of life of the host

society in the phenomenological sense can never work.

According to Valsiner [5], Society is collectively created, and shared, myth story that

functions as a sign. Society acts as a semiotic mediator- a sign-in human communication

process, both between persons and institutions, and as an intra- psychological regulator. As a

sign, the society is a hyper-generalized field of significance and such signs are widely used as

promoters of our feelings and thinking, as we transverse the myriad of real life settings that

we inhabit. They not only provide us with generalized, abstracted knowledge about our

worlds, but also carry with them affective suggestions that we use in our everyday ways of

living. Our individual selves use not only different assumed needs or duties given to us by

society but also notions like justice, love, success, profit and sin, to regulate our relations

with others (and with ourselves) in the settings. The society operates in human discourse as a

meta-sign that regulates other meanings used in everyday life, by attributing personified

agency to an abstract socially constructed entity. Society comprises of social units which are

individualistic and collectivistic and these opposites are dynamically related.

Nevertheless to note, Most examples of the ‘cinema of globalisation’ are also ‘films with

multiple locations’; however, the use of a number of geographical sites does not necessarily

equate with cinema of globalisation. Borders crossings are frequently instrumental in terms of

plot and aesthetics, and depend for commercial success on harnessing a tourist gaze;

nevertheless, they are often not used predominantly to make social and political points about

the nature of globalisation.


While earlier theorizing on the transnational (most notably Higson 2000) has tended to focus

on the movement of films and film-makers in relation to production, distribution and

exhibition, more recent scholarship has explored the individual and collective narratives of

migration, exile and displacement that are a central component of transnational cinemas

(Ezra and Rowden 2006b, Higbee 2007). While they may well focus on an individual

protagonist, the consequences of these uprootings and re-groundings are also frequently

considered in the collective context of diaspora. Indeed, many of these transnational

productions emerge from within a specifically diasporic configuration that, implicitly or

explicitly, articulates the relationship between the host and home cultures, and is aware, at

same time, of the interconnectedness between the local and the global within diasporic

communities. Such a cinema can be defined as transnational in the sense that it brings into

question how fixed ideas of a national film culture are constantly being transformed by the

presence of protagonists (and indeed film-makers) who have a presence within the nation,

even if they exist on its margins, but find their origins quite clearly beyond it. Naficy argues

that this transnational exchange has given a voice to diasporic film-makers in the West while

transforming the national by framing their difference or accent within the discursive of the

national cinemas and traditional genres of their home and adopted lands (Naficy 1996: 120).
Here we might point to the extensive use of popular comedy by Algerian émigré film-makers

in France during the 1990s and 2000s to explore questions of migration, integration and

multiculturalism; drawing on the traditions of satire and placing comedy in a concrete social

context commonly found in Arab cinema, while simultaneously acknowledging comedy as

the pre-eminent popular genre in France par excellence (Higbee 2007: 58). In this respect,

transnational cinema has the potential to both reveal the diasporic experience and challenge

the privileged site of the national as the space in which cultural identity and imagined

communities are formed.