Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Will India Get an Uncensored Lady Gaga or a Bollywood-Friendly Kumaari Gaga?

A quote from this Guardian interview with Lady Gaga caught my attention:
Gaga has now set her sights on breaking into India – a vast, untapped market.
After poking around to see if this fact picked up anywhere, it turns out she released a "desi" remix to her single "Born This Way" to fit the Indian pop market.

Turns out this is only one of two remixed singles.
Today's desi remixes are aimed at audiences in India and abroad. There are actually two new India-inspired Lady Gaga tracks: the Merchant brothers' Bollywood-style remix - also popular in the US - and an "urban desi" version, which was produced with the large British-Asian community in mind.
And following the trend in "desi remixes" will be future tours throughout the Indian subcontinent.
"India is the second largest mobile [phone] market in the world, so embracing digital strategies is going to be the key thing," she says. "But one of the big opportunities for western acts is very much touring. You're seeing more and more artists go out to India and tour." 
It pays to put in a little extra. Future Indian concerts by the likes of Spears and Gaga may well be vastly different from their shows back home, as desi versions of their tracks dominate. And as Akon proved, getting up close and personal with your fans also helps.
Lady Gaga has said in past interviews that she's excited about her own Indian tour plans and that she's fascinated with Indian song, dance and fashion.

So this sounds like a perfect match, right? Not so fast:

While India does essentially have a cross-dressing, gender-bending caste known as the hijras, the country is still very sexually-restrained and culturally-conservative, between the widespread Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and other religious communities who don't take well to explicit shock value.

For example, when director Deepa Mehta featured a lesbian relationship in her1996 film, "Fire", it provoked outraged attacks on movie theaters playing the film by Hindu fundamentalists.

And when members of the rock band The Black Lips mooned the audience and kissed each other on stage (per their usual antics) at a show during their 2009 tour, they were forced to immediately end their tour and go home out of fear of arrest.

Given Lady Gaga's outspoken advocacy of gay rights, sexually- and religiously-charged stage show imagery and theatrics, and overall message of non-conformity, I sincerely doubt she's going to bring that full persona to an Indian tour...especially looking back at a post I wrote almost a year ago about her aesthetic.

...Instead, we'll probably see a desi-fied pop persona custom-made for an Indian tour/record release marketing blitz, along with her custom-remixed, sitar and tabla-sampling singles in order to push Lady Desi Gaga (or rather, Kumaari Gaga) into the Bollywood spotlight.

But at the end of the day, people just want a performance - no matter what instruments the melodies are played on.

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