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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 2 Reading out of Place: Global Media and Diasporic Identity


On January 17, 2012, passengers on the Finnair Flight AY201 from Helsinki to New Delhi were caught by surprise as the flight atten- dants, mostly dressed in salwar kameezes came dancing through the aisles as the Bollywood song, Deewangi Deewangi played through the cabin loud speakers. Apparently, this was a rehearsed and choreo- graphed affair by Finnair to commemorate the Indian Republic Day. Helena Kaartinen, the flight attendant who allegedly came up with the idea, was quoted as saying that “it was a good way to show re- spect,” and to express to Finnair’s Indian passengers “that we do know some things about them.”1 From barely registering on the Western media and marketing radar, Bollywood has in recent years become highly visible. The ubiquity with which Bollywood has be- come a representative sign for India in general was revealed in all its absurdity at a 2009 trade fair organized by India’s Ministry of De- fense. An Israeli arms maker, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, displayed a marketing video on large screen televisions featuring a Bollywood-style song-and-dance number performed by Israeli art- ists singing about Indo-Israeli defense trade relationships.2 Consider how for both Finnair and Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, Bolly- wood becomes a stand-in symbol for Indian culture. If the Western imagination of India in the 1970s revolved around gurus, god-men, and Ravi Shankar jamming with the Beatles, it seems that Bollywood and outsourcing circumscribe global definitions of India in the 21st century. As Bollywood registers more loudly and insistently on...

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