Academic journal article China Perspectives

Comparative Reflections on Hong Kong and Indian Cinema

Academic journal article China Perspectives

Comparative Reflections on Hong Kong and Indian Cinema

Article excerpt

Given the decades-long globalisation process, which has been especially pronounced over the past 20 years, the world can no longer be thought of in terms of stable and rigid structures but rather as having flow and movement. The speed of political, economic, and technological changes favours a context of displacement in which increasingly fluid, plural, and perpetually recomposing identities take shape. But while this facilitates population flow, it also leads to restlessness, rootlessness, and loss of bearings. This article attempts a comparative reflection on questions of diasporic identity and intercultural negotiations as dealt with in Hong Kong and Indian cinema since the 1980s. Some of these productions show the contexts that lead to the loss of identity bearings and then reflect on how to deal with the void in order to remake oneself. This strategy, linking everyone involved, crystallises around a cosmopolitan discourse of diasporic identity, implying a thematic of complex fuzziness (why and how identity contours become blurred in diaspora (l)), but also a tendency to withdraw into the community, finally overcome through multiculturalism and hybridity.

iHlstory and contemporary cinema: Hong Kong New Wave, Bollywood, and Indian crossover

In Hong Kong, historic events such as the 1984 Sino-British agreement on the territory's handover to China, the Tiananmen Square demonstrations of 1989, the rise of the finance and service industries following the decline of manufacturing since the late 1980s, and Hong Kong's return to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, compelled many residents to join the ranks of the Chinese diaspora in Western countries. These episodes incited cinéastes to reflect on issues of identity and of their future as Hong Kongers. In India, it was mostly for economic reasons that over the centuries many people left for Africa and other parts of Asia at first and the West later on. In 1984, the Rajiv Gandhi government led India on the path of economic liberalism, opening the country to foreign investment and favouring international trade. But real liberal policies were only ushered in with the New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1991, which overturned the economic choices made since Independence in favour of deregulation, privatisation, and the free market. Through this relative opening of its market to foreign investors and consumption goods, India was taking a major step on the world scene, while remaining on its guard. The new opportunities sparked debate over the durability of India's socio-cultural model, which was presented in high relief on the screen.

Due to economic and political reasons, India and Hong Kong have inevitably come to serve as migratory routes in Asia. Their diasporic communities spread across all continents are among the largest and most dynamic, numbering between 20 million from India and 22 million from China.® However, there are divergences in these migratory flows, some of which occurred centuries ago (between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries) and others more recently (since the 1950s). The migrations could have stemmed from economic or political reasons, and the destinations, which may have been poor or rich countries (the first group often serving as a springboard to the latter), could be temporary or permanent. The films considered deal with recent migrant communities, including disadvantaged people seeking a better life and others more privileged who went to the West for studies or to pursue a specialised career in business, information technology, health, media, or entertainment. In both cases, expatriation led to an undeniable improvement over previous socio-economic situations. In Western countries, despite disparities, the migrants enjoy a relatively high standard of living. In the United States, for instance, the average income of an Indian or Chinese household is 25 percent higher than that of Americans as a whole.

This presence of Hong Kongers and Indians abroad has fuelled the interest of filmmakers, who have themselves been often intrigued by or confronted with the porosity of borders, enjoying globalised consumption tastes but also sticking to a strong cultural particularism. …

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