Friday, October 30, 2009

Peeking behind the veil of appropriation.

'Jai Ho (You are my destiny)' performed by Pussycat Dolls. Music video by A.R. Rahman.

A.R. Rahman is one of India's most successful composer/performers. He syncretizes Western classical with Hindustani and Carnatic music to invent new styles for film scores. A.R. Rahman wrote the song 'Jai Ho' for the film Slumdog Millionaire (2008). It became a huge hit and won an Academy Award in 2009 for Best original song.

"Jai Ho" is a Hindi word that means 'May you be victorious.' The song was given a new interpretation when it was given English lyrics and released by the Pussycat Dolls on February 23, 2009. This version was titled Jai Ho (You are my destiny). It occupied number one on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart from April 27 - May 10, 2009. The music video was shot at a tramway Museum in Vienna, Austria and is directed by Thomas Kloss. It is inspired by the final scene from Slumdog Millionaire.

The fan activity with this music video has been extensive and varied. From cultural dance performances....
Choreographed dance,
Fitness routines,
Alternative film with superimposed lyrics,
to VJ Remixes
and DJ Remixes.

Matt Hills argues that the 'use-value' and 'exchange value' of an object can never be fully separated from one another. Even though fans appear to find new uses for a text that appear to depart from commercial value; these new forms can always be converted back to an item of exchange value.(35)

Many fans seem to be aware of this possibility. Many of the videos above are an advertisement for the fan's services - as a DJ, VJ, Choreographer, Dancer or Fitness Instructor. Some of them even display the fan's email address. This means that fan activity cannot be classified as a binary of commercial or utopian. It is fluid and can move between the two at any time.

It's also interesting to note that Jai Ho (You are my destiny) is an appropriation of the original song by A.R. Rahman. The fan activity further emphasizes the simulacrum effect. The issue of copyright infringement regarding fan activity was discussed in Tuesdays tutorial. The abovementioned videos illustrate one of the questions that arose from this discussion "Where is the boundary of copyright infringement?"

Matt Hills, "Fan Cultures Between Consumerism and 'Resistance'," in Fan Cultures. London: Routledge, 2002, pp.27-45.