The recently concluded International Film Festival at Bangalore is a visual cornucopia with no part of the stage or setting not being covered with lights, flowers, backdrop or people. (Image on left) The recently concluded Berliner 2016, on the other hand, like similar global film festivals – shows restraint and minimalism in its visual style.
Indian design sensibility is shaped by the concept “More Is More”. Clothes, Jewellery and other lifestyle quotients including the Great Indian Wedding or Bollywood ; exemplify a resplendent display of this ethos. The more urban and globalized Indians, and the western world treats this style sensibility with patronizing amusement.
The truth of why “we are like this only” lies deeper. As people, we have agrarian roots from not very far back. One, two, three or at the very most – four, generations. In agrarian economies; all wealth is visible. The harvest is bountiful and when it is sold; it is realized for cash. Urban economies, in contrast, do not see visible wealth. Salaries get directly credited to bank accounts; profits are line items in a balance sheet. Wealth is mostly invisible.
It is in this contrast between the invisible and the visible, abundant wealth; that lays the causation of the ‘more is more’ behavior. We pay for the intrinsic value of things. Design, which is an intangible benefit, is not deemed worthy. So the amount of embroidery or Swarovski crystals on a dress are of much greater value than the expertise of the designer in style and cut. Indian designers follow these codes and ensure great embellishments in their creations. It is the Italian marble and high-end bathroom fittings that add value in real estate, and not the well-designed spaces by an innovative architect.
It will be a few more generations of urbanization before the minimalist sensibilities become part of the mainstream Indian design discourse. Or China’s – for that matter!
(As published in Hindu Business Line, February 19, 2016)