story: always two steps ahead
Western, mostly American,
influence has been most conspicuous in the Northeast much before the rest
of India started imitating the Yankees in the mid-80s. The region may be
backward in terms of economic development but when it comes to dressing
well, acquiring the latest gadgets and living it up, its people are perhaps
two steps ahead of their counterparts in the rest of the country. Fashion
shows and beauty contests are an accepted part of the social calendar here.
No one frowns upon these shows. And the desire to look good, flaunt bodies,
keep up with the latest American fashion is all-pervasive here.
Meets East: Valentine’s Day in the Northeast photo by s. mahanta
The image of the Northeast of course is the usual cliched one that the region
is full of primitive tribals, attired in their traditional dresses. No assumption
could be so wide off the mark. As Sriprakash Goenka, owner of a leading
clothing store in Guwahati says: “The people here follow the latest
fashion trends. In fact, I would say in Shillong and Guwahati we are just
about six months behind the fashion in Europe and the US.” Indeed,
Shillong is known as the fashion capital of the east.
you happen to take a stroll on the streets of Shillong, Aizawl or Kohima,
don’t be surprised to find boys clad in Levi’s and Lee clothing,
sporting haircuts of rock stars. Girls in mini skirts and trendy dresses
are also not a rare sight. As Mapuii, who runs a beauty salon in Aizawl,
says: “Everyone follows the latest haircuts. Obviously most of them
watch Fashion TV and follow the newest magazines.” Most bookstores
in the region do brisk business selling Vogue and foreign editions of Cosmopolitan
Fashion is of course not limited to clothes alone. Like movies. Most state
Capitals do not have proper cinema halls, so video parlours screen all kinds
of Hollywood movies here. The British may have ruled the Northeast but most
of the current influences come from Hollywood, thanks also to television
channels. Cable networks in Kohima, Aizawl, Itanagar and Imphal telecast
mtv Asia or the original American mtv rather than the Indian mtv. Influence
of western pop and rock music is all pervasive and even if popular singers
have lyrics in Mizo, the music is mostly borrowed from the West. No wonder,
a Madonna or a Britney Spears is more popular here than a Shaan or a Sunidhi
Pool is the latest craze in the Northeast. Take the husband-wife team of
Anupam and Sushmita Choudhury in Assam. For them life is a big celebration,
to be lived to the full. So they are regulars at the new pool parlours in
Guwahati or parties in posh hotels where the music is on full-blast and
the strobelights are flashing. Perhaps this new fad prompted P. Dutta to
open a Sports Bar in the heart of Guwahati combining a pool parlour and
a cybercafe. Spread over 1,500 square feet, this parlour has four pool tables
and several terminals.
Nitin A. Gokhale
American Movies Everyone Has Seen
Godfather: Don Vito Corleone inspired various versions
in almost all Indian languages.
Titanic: A Hindi movie with Caucasian actors.
Pretty Woman: She walked into our hearts with
Roy Orbison’s help.
Rocky series: The story of the underdog —
down and out — ready for a fight to redeem himself. Rocky
became every tough guy’s name.
ET: Spielberg’s biggest hit. Saw a Hindi
version almost 20 years later with Hrithik and Jadoo..