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DDLJ and Cultural Identity November 12, 2009

Posted by Prof. RR in Uncategorized.

There might be two ways of thinking about cultural identity: either it is fixed and unchanging or it is dynamic, portable, and ready to adapt to historical changes. How does DDLJ represent the notion of Indian cultural identity? At a time when people, goods, and ideas move rapidly across the globe, is the film saying that Indianness resides only in India? Or can it be taken with you, so to speak? What are the implications of thinking about cultural identity as either fixed or fluid for the various characters of DDLJ?

Related question: DDLJ was a huge hit, not only in India but also worldwide. What makes this film so popular with Indian audiences as well as Western audiences?



1. annabethsanford - November 12, 2009

I don’t believe the film necessarily suggests that Indianness only resides in India, but it does suggest that sticking to traditional Indian customs and practices in a place like London is very difficult. The idea of an arranged marriage seems very old-fashioned in the film, especially against the backdrop of the skyscrapers and modern setting revealed in the beginning of the film. It almost seems as if Simran’s family has to overly display their Indianness in order to remind themselves of where they are from. Raj seems much more westernized, or less Indian, than Simran even though he actually lives in India. He does express his loyalty to the Hindustani, which coincided with the morals and beliefs of Simran, but his use of “Senorita” and his rebellious behavior make him seem less old-fashioned Indian than Simran and her family.

2. kellyparry111 - November 12, 2009

I was doing a little research and found this synopsis of the film:

“Raj is a rich, carefree, happy-go-lucky second generation NRI. Simran is the daughter of Chaudhary Baldev Singh, who in spite of being an NRI is very strict about adherence to Indian values. The two meet on a month long Eurotrip, and what began as pranks and fun and games, ends in love. But by the time they realize it, it is already too late, as Simran has left for India to be married to her childhood fiancé. Raj leaves for India with a mission at his hands, to claim his lady love under the noses of her whole family. Thus begins a saga.”

I think that this synopsis’ use of “NRI” (a term I had to look up!) shows a great deal about this concept of cultural identity. When describing Raj, one of the key elements to his character (it must be important enough to make it into his one-line description) is that he is a “non-resident Indian.” Then, when this is again used to describe the strict father, the implication is made that USUALLY non-resident Indians are NOT “strict about adherance to Indian values.” This further implies that living in India makes you more Indian, or at least compels you to stay true to Indian values and practices. While living away from India gives more of an opportunity to waver from Indian values.

3. jasdev00 - November 12, 2009

I think DDLJ shows that one can take their indianness with them wherever they go. Raj’s father who is in Western clothes tells Baldev that even though he doesn’t look like he is close to India, he keeps India in his heart. Baldev has been living in India for over 20 years but he has still kept India, or Punjab, with him and instilled Indian values and beliefs into his daughters. Simran may have grown up in London, but she doesn’t drink or party and obeys her father in everything. When she stops reading the letter from Punjab, Baldev is overjoyed that he hasn’t failed, he has kept India alive in his daughter. She accepts the arranged marriage because she knows her father would do what is best for her and as her father he must know best. At the beginning it seems like Raj isn’t very Indian, he is very westernized and comes off as a bit of a slacker. He shows his indianness when he tells Simran that he knows how much an Indian woman’s honor means to her and that he would never do anything to hurt her. He then twice reiterates that he is a true Indian and will take his bride away. He really wins the audience over when he tells Simran that these are our elders, our parents, they have raised us and so they must do as they wish. In the end because they have done everything the right way, the Indian way, they can be together.

4. bri66 - November 16, 2009

I agree with Jasdev. Raj continually says that he is “Hindustani” in his heart.This implies that he may live in England, or travel to Switzerland, but he follows the rules or morals of the Indian culture. Instead of eloping with Simran, which both Simran and her mother push for, Raj stands firm in his decision to take his bride away with her father’s permission, not steal her.
I think it is interesting, however, that Simran’s fiance (though living in India) is more Westernized than Raj. I think this brings into question a whole new line of issues, perhaps redefining the NRI. Is it saying that NRI’s are like Raj (an almost idealized version of the NRI) or are like the fiance (perhaps a more realistic portrayal)? Or that those living in India do not feel the need, or as much pressure, to prove their Indian-ness; thus, the fiance’s more Westernized behavior.

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