Cultural Political System: Popular Culture and Films in Indian Election Campaigns

Cultural Political System: Popular Culture and Films in Indian Election Campaigns

Kavita Karan (Southern Illinois University, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 17
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1986-7.ch012
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The use of popular culture of music, dance, songs, theatre, videos and films for electioneering has been part of the Indian election process. Politics has been the narrative of Indian cinema since the beginning of century where political themes, political roles and political issues were exemplified through lead roles of politicians, enactment of political scenes, political satires and songs. This chapter examines the role of film artists in politics, popular political songs in films and campaign films that have expanded the levels of traditional and new media campaigning in India. Films and songs in the films glorify the country, arouse patriotism and whenever needed expose social issues such as high prices, corruption, feudalism, and other political issues. In the process, political campaign films became a way of marketing parties and candidates. This further characterizes the future of the political cultural system and the political economy of Indian cinema.
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Citizens gain political knowledge, develop partisan affiliations, and acquire a more compelling sense of civic duty as a result of political campaign messages. Political communication has been extensively studied and researchers have examined the multiple creative and media strategies that political parties across the world are using, and spending millions of dollars to reach their ultimate goal of getting elected to the highest positions (Adamic & Glance, 2005; Chun & Author, 2014; Diamond & Bates, 1988; Dyson, 2016; Kluver, 2007; Park et al., 2000; Takeshita & Makami, 1995; Karan, 2009; Rice & Atkin, 2013; Wang, 2010; Willnat & Aw, 2009).

Schoening and Kasper (2012) have studied the use of music in the context of American political campaigns and state a number of reasons why music is popularly used to arouse voter interest and gather support for candidates during elections. Going beyond campaigns, they also discuss the inevitable relationship between politics and music, and argue that one of the foremost reasons for using music in election campaigns is that “[music] creates emotional states within us, and it can even serve as a mnemonic device to aid our memories” (p. 1). The context of studying music and songs in films is well classified by Byerley (2013), who provides three main reasons why music is deployed in social and political protest: the ability of music to transcend barriers of communication; the ability of music to incorporate a variety of moods and tones, ranging from conciliatory to “confrontational” (p. 231); and its ability to “outwit censors” through the use of complex language and poetry (p. 231).

Providing a scientific basis for the use of music in political campaigns, Schoening and Kasper (2012) further state that “music is one of the key connections we have to the emotional center of our brain” (p. 4). The authors quote several studies to show how listening to music leads to physiological changes in the body, and can also induce emotional states such as happiness or sadness. Thus, the use of music is not merely an advertising tool that candidates use during elections but also a powerful medium of forming deep-seated emotional connections with their electorate. In the political context, Schoening and Kasper (2012) state that music can be used as an effective tool for the public to recognize who the candidates are and possibly even sway one’s vote. In essence, music can help foster an emotional connection between a candidate and the electorate, thus creating a “bond” between them (p. 19).

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