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Consuming Bollywood

Gender, Globalization and Media in the Indian Diaspora

Anjali Ram

Consuming Bollywood is a major activity in the Indian diaspora and the revenue generated from diasporic audiences is growing exponentially. By combining extended qualitative interviews and textual analysis, this book provides an insightful analysis of how the women who are socially located in the Indian diaspora use the spectacle of Bollywood cinema to renegotiate cultural meanings of home, gender, belonging, and identity. By taking the experiences and interpretations of diasporic women as central, this book substantially adds to the literature on gendered and transnational identity in the context of migration and globalization. Furthermore, it considers the emergence of Bollywood as a potent global brand that is reconstituting cultural identities within a transnational, neoliberal, market-driven economy.


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Chapter 1 Introduction


Somewhere between 2012 and 2013, the Indian cinema industry reached its 100th anniversary. The sticking point about the date is with regard to whether Shree Pundalik (1912) or Raja Harishchandra (1913) deserves the honor of being the very first Indian movie made.1 The latter made by Dadasaheb Phalke is widely regarded as the first fea- ture film to be made in India. Regardless, of the debate, the fact that Indian cinema is as old, if not older, than Hollywood, whose first fea- ture length film is dated to 1914, is testimony to the power, longevity, and scope of Bollywood.2 To add to the commemorations, Bolly- wood’s star player, Shah Rukh Khan, completed two decades in the industry in 2012 and celebrated his command over the silver screen by playing DJ for the day on a BBC Asian Network Special radio broad- cast much to the delight of his Asian British fans.3 Another more som- ber commemorative moment in 2012 was marked by the passing away of Rajesh Khanna, the iconic superstar of the 1960s and 70s. Mu- sical tributes and film retrospectives celebrating his work materialized over the summer across India. Even the Indian Congress took a mo- ment to mourn Khanna’s passing during their monsoon session.4 I allude to these recent commemorative events to underscore the fact that Bollywood is hardly a newcomer on the mass media stage. It has wielded considerable media might for a century. Beyond its mon- umental domestic presence, audiences in the Global South and...

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