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Until this morning, I had never seen an Indian documentary that really impressed me. I love-hate Bollywood, enjoy some Indian drama, and while Tamil and Hindi cinema is hit-or-miss, I can't say that it bores me. Indian docs have tended to.
The docu looks at the Indian idea of beauty and how it relates to the Hollywood ideal, and then it goes broader, and into areas I had no seen coming. The depth is there, and there's nothing here that's not been said a thousand times before in docs around the world, but it uses a very stylish technique, coupled with well-done interviews. That much is easy, where it gets more difficult is in the details.
The examination of Barbie's effect on young girls is really the key to the early portion of the doc and sets up all the other ideals, because it really exemplifies what beauty means, but also what American consumer culture means around the world. A fair bit of the footage about the Barbie section is from Japan or Korea (and, of course, the song Barbie Girl) and there's also the effect on Indian girls. It's something I never thought of, because I grew up in the US during the peak of the Barbie craze, that Barbie would be exporting our cultural form of beauty to the entire world. I never in a million years would have pegged it to the rise of the New Bollywood form of beautiful, away from the traditional standards, or even the 50s ideal represented by actresses like Madhubala. It's such an interesting lesson and a doc that anyone interested in understanding how modern India arrived at the beauty concepts of the now.
Klaus at Gunpoint
A Film Journal dedicated to all film.A segment of Office Supply Publishing.