Indian Cinema’s Soft Power Misses the Mark in Nirmala Sitharaman’s Maiden Budget Speech

By Pickle  July 9, 2019

India’s soft power was the spotlight of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s maiden budget speech but India’s showbiz and films did not find a place in her speech on India’s growing soft power.

International Yoga Day was the focus of India’s soft power and she went on to mention that International Yoga Day gets celebrated on June 21 and yoga has been practiced in 192 countries.

The FM highlighted that artists in 40 countries sang Mahatma Gandhi’s bhajan “Vaishnav Jan To, Tene Kahiye Je”. “Bharat ko Jaano” quiz competition is not only a hot favorite of Non-Resident Indians but also foreign participants. Sitharaman also spoke about the mission to help traditional artisans and their products in global markets and expand global footprint.

In her speech, the Finance Minister also mentioned the development of a digital repository focusing solely on preservation of tribal cultural heritage — folk songs, photos, and videos regarding their evolution, place of origin, lifestyle, architecture, traditional art, folk dances and anthropological details of the tribes in India.

But it was puzzling why Indian cinema’s global footprint did not find a mention in the speech by Finance Minister as the country’s soft power.

There is a steady growth in the visibility, volume and cultural visibility of India — from Bollywood to Bhangra music. India has revolutionized in the production, distribution, and consumption of images and ideas.

Indian films are exported to over 35 global territories. China alone accounted for a $272 million box office collection for 10 Indian films in 2018.

The warm-up to any bilateral discussion or any business meeting with Indian corporates begins with an Indian film narrative.

Shah Rukh Khan is known to bring traffic to a halt in the streets of Berlin (during Berlinale). Aamir Khan is now officially the most famous international star in China. Even today, Rajinikanth is a cultural phenomenon in Japan, where local fans dubbed him ‘Dancing Maharajah”.

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