Bolly gets pwned by the Mouse

Bollywood must be reeling from the disrespect paid to it by its smaller cousin in California. It’s not bad enough that the Hindi version of Spiderman 3 broke box office records in India, outgrossing domestic productions with a clear ripoff of Indian cinema complete with Tobey Maguire’s Bollystyle costumes, dancing, and hair acting. But to make matters worse, Disney has been muscling in on Bolly’s home turf, the absurd movie musical.

In an audacious move akin to bringing coals to Newcastle, Disney released High School Musical (1) with songs and dialogue dubbed into Hindi in 2006. The new release involved a few subtle changes that revealed how well Disney understands Indian film audiences:

Consider “Bop to the Top,” the title of a song from the first movie. In India, one of Disney’s most important foreign markets, the phrase was changed to “Pa Pa Pa Paye Yeh Dil,” which the company said roughly translates to “the heart is full of happiness” in Hindi. A Hindi translator contacted by The New York Times said: “It’s sort of like a Duran Duran song. The words sound sexy but mean nothing…” [Link]

The dubbed version of HSM did well enough that now Disney is releasing the sequel, High School Musical 2, with an entirely Indian cast. It’s just one of many versions of HSM2 with local casts – you can see them displayed in this medley of different adaptations of HSM2 from around the world.

Below is the climatic song in the all-desi HSM2, Aaja Nachle, the replacement for “All for One” in the American version of HSM2:

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p>The song is a hit worldwide:

According to Nielsen Media Research, more than 1.5 million children age 6 to 11 watched “Aaja Nachle.” Even in a foreign language, children “can feel what they’re saying,” Ms. Sweeney said. [Link]

The Indian film industry is taking Disney’s blatant neo-imperialism very seriously, and is launching a counter-strike. They have announced that SRK will star in a completely naturalistic biopic of Dalip Singh Saund‘s life to be released for American markets, saying that anything Miramax can do, they can do better.

28 thoughts on “Bolly gets pwned by the Mouse

  1. But to make matters worse, Disney has been muscling in on Bolly’s home turf, the absurd movie musical.

    But Bollywood seems to be welcoming the Mouse. After all, Disney has just signed up for a series of collaborative projects with Yash Raj, including an animated version of Dhoom 3 and the upcoming Roadside Romeo (starring Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan as cartoon dogs — trailer is here).

  2. Some Rajas welcomed the British too. We all know how that ended up. Is Disney no less formidable than the British East India Company?

  3. It isn’t a cross-cultural collaboration between two of the biggest “family-friendly” film giants in cinema history? ;)

  4. Color me dumb, but the video you linked to has a fully Indian cast in it. Is that just a music video of the Aaja Nachle song separate from the movie, while the movie still has the original people mouthing Hindi lyrics, or have they refilmed the movie for India?

    If so, who is the desi Vanessa Anne Hudgens? Maybe they should get that Nishabd girl (Jiah Khan?), who can then try to restore her career as an innocent mouseketeer.

  5. That song sucked a**.

    It’s sad that a lot of Hollywood movies get dubbed in India nowadays. I would rather they remake them and limit the dubbing. People complain about Americans dubbing foreign movies. Sometimes I wonder if Americans actually watch more subtitled movies than Europe and now, India?

  6. I really wish Holly and Bolly would stay entirely separate and never speak to one another……Bollywood has been my haven of escape and relief from the utter hogwash coming out of California.

    Stories like this make me worry that Bollywood will one day disappear, like almost every other awesome thing I find and fall in love with…..

  7. YES! disney channel = the love of my life.

    And actually, all they did was dub the movie into hindi,and resing the songs in hindi. They actually sound better than the english version, because they add like tablas, and somewhere in there is a dhol, I’m pretty sure.

  8. Oh yeah, and I guess that nobody’s heard that the Cheetah Girl’s next movie is going to be filmed in India? Maybe it’s old news…

  9. Bolly’s home turf, the absurd movie musical.

    In India, those are still called just “movies”. If Disney was really encroaching, they’d be pushing High School Movie, not High School Musical.

    Ennis, don’t impose your vestern walues on us by labeling a movie a musical just because it has a third of its length in songs.

  10. My 9 year old daughter whole life is High School Musical. Her room is covered with posters, she always play the CD in the car and she watches the DVD’s non-stop.

    So parents in India, your next.

  11. One of my pet-peeve. What’s up with the cheerleaders in movies and songs. Does any high school in India have cheerleaders ? Same with SRK going to prom in Main Hoon Na. It looks very silly.

  12. Color me dumb, but the video you linked to has a fully Indian cast in it. Is that just a music video of the Aaja Nachle song separate from the movie, while the movie still has the original people mouthing Hindi lyrics, or have they refilmed the movie for India?

    The video is from HSM2, the sequel to HSM. HSM was the one which they merely dubbed, HSM2 is one where they did original versions in multiple countries. I’ve linked to a medley of the different songs from HSM2 above which is kind of cute.

  13. 13 · Sridhar said

    O Same with SRK going to prom in Main Hoon Na. It looks very silly.

    we had something similar: we called them college fete instead of prom.

  14. Disney is really the best when it comes to dubbing into the local taste, like how the genie often transforms into Dharam paji Or Amitabh & other bollywood actors in Alladdin, definitely more humorous than the english version.

  15. I wonder if they change the silly high pitch squeals in Hollywood teen movies to the fake giggling by heroines you find in Indian movies.

  16. hahahaha…

    too funny…

    although I find Disney in India to be sort of fascinating phenomena… my little cousin actually cried when they started dubbing “Lizzie McGuire” in Hindi and then promptly refused to watch it. but then again… when they dubbed “The Lion King” into Hindi she loved it… i guess she had issues hearing fluent Hindi come out of a 12 year old Hilary Duff’s mouth.

    who knows?

  17. They’re ruining Bollywood!!

    …I always wondered why my little cousins in India were so obsessed with this stuff and it just clicked, Walt Disney is commanding them from beyond the grave to have horribe taste in music.

  18. vacuous Hillary Duff clones

    The threat is overstated. If there’s one thing that’s NOT in short supply in India, it’s vacuous women on-screen :(

    But you could be onto something. Has anyone noticed the increase in white stripper-esque backup dancers in bollywood productions these days? Do our local girls no longer aspire to the bright lights and stardom of being in the background of big bollywood productions?

    It’s a pity that this noble profession is no longer held in the same high regard by our girls and that the field is slowly being encroached on by under-qualified foreigners.

  19. It is 2008, and industry after industry is becoming globalized. There is no reason why entertainment shouldn’t or, given the fait accompli, wouldn’t go global.

    Globalization has two components, a)”foreign” investment in completely indigenous products and markets, and b)some degree of homogenization or internationalization of products so that the same feature set can be offered to various markets with minimal adaptation. Think cars!

    Companies such as Nissan, Hyundai, Ford, and others are heavily engaged in both aspects of globalization without drawing any criticism from the cultural nationalists of any country. No “pucca” Indian would demand that Mahindra not sell a vehicle as grotesquely American as the Jeep, which, incidentally, is one of the few vehicles capable of negotiating the tough terrains that pass for roads in my beloved country. I am waiting for some reverse brain drain when Tata’s “one lakh car” is sold by the truckload to Americans as the ultimate high-mileage, easy-to-park eco-friendly automobile for two.

    Entertainment, however, tends to be visceral in nature, and one does feel betrayed, if not downright violated, by its rampant globalization. I find Ennis’s concerns quite understandable. But what is remarkable about the entertainment industry is that it has been global long before the term was even coined.

    Since intellectual assets are easily portable and invisible to customs inspectors, Indian music, movies and books have freely absorbed and even plagiarized American and western content. Kishore Kumar, the absolute king of Bollywood music, sang literally hundreds of Rock n’ Roll and Latin tunes set to Hindi lyrics with great skill, and he is no less Indian for it. “Eena, Meena, Deeka” is still a fun Hindi song to me, just as “Omkara” is an absolutely riveting Hindi movie and, quite candidly, very different from the original, the great Bard’s “Othello.” Going back in time, Pankaj Mullick, the great singer from the Forties, broke musical ground by using the piano as his accompaniment. Piano must have sounded as strange to Indian ears in the Forties as sitar must have to western ears in the Sixties. Thanks, Beatles.

    Therefore, what is unprecedented is not the globalization of content but rather the sheer magnitude of it facilitated by technology and travel in modern times. The question still remains. Is that good for a country’s artistic sensibility? Is that healthy for a people?

    Obviously, human beings have limited time, energy and resources to devote to entertainment products, and the influx of more global content will definitely displace some traditional Indian content. You can feel that in Indian pop music already. Less and less Hindi songs these days are set to raag, bhajan, qawaali and geet, the traditional musical forms of India, (though historians would argue that many raagas and qawaali have “foreign” origins), and whatever classical music is tried in the name of innovation by the likes of A. R. Rahman, is as amusing as fusion cuisine. On the other hand, thanks to the same evil technology responsible for the so-called rape of Indian art forms, one can now enjoy classical Indian music in India 24X7 on satellite radio, and the stock of classical CD’s in the bazaars of India is growing exponentially. So it cuts both ways.

    There is another point in defense of Disney besides the long tradition of globalization. Indian children today have the necessary awareness of western mores, primarily due to television and the internet, to accept a Disney product as quite naturally their own, just as my dad’s generation grew up on tea and mine on coffee, a highly western drink at least in the Northern India of my days. Aside from coffee, we had very little verbal or visual connection with the West, and a simple western nursery rhyme like “Georgie Porgie pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry” was absolutely horrifying to us. What depravity! Yet, these out-of-cultural-context nursery rhymes were forced upon us. That is no longer the case with Indian children consuming a diet of Disney and Harry Potter.

    There is one aspect of globalization in the entertainment industry I purposely did not address – “Foreign Direct Investment” (FDI) in the Indian entertainment industry. It is coming. The latest Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, “Saanvariya,” is a Sony product just like the Playstation. To the multinationals, a Bollywood movie is just another product with a target market and, hence, just another investment. Their money is probably a lot cleaner than the ill gotten gains poured into Bollywood by the likes of Daood Ibrahim.

    If my comment seems to be pro-American, it is not by design, Entertainment is one industry where American capital and technology enjoys a distinct advantage over others for numerous reasons, most of them obvious. Expect more Americanization of content all over the world, just like you can expect a lot of Indianization of global IT, global CRM (customer relations management), global finance, and global medicine. Let Americans have their little mouse. We are going to operate on their hearts, replace their knees, build their networks and manage their customers. Happy?

  20. Wait, WHAT? since when did a youtube video of a kiddie movie turn into conspiracy theories involving comparisons between disney and the british east india company and an essay on globalization? it’s a bunch of people yelling “AAJA NACHLE!” and you all are intellectualizing something as simple as this? god, i was expecting some funnyass comments, but nothing as weird as these.

  21. let’s have a little faith in bollywood, shall we ? ladies clad in scanty saris and singing in the rain will always have a place in my heart ! ;)