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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 3 Mediating Memories


Symbolizing the shock and chaos of immigrant arrival, the protago- nist Gibreel Farishta, in Rushdie’s controversial novel Satanic Verses, tumbles from the clouds and into the waters of the English Channel. As he plummets downward, he sings “O, my shoes are Japanese, the- se trousers are English, if you please. On my head, red Russian hat; my heart is Indian for all that.”1 These words are the English transla- tion of the well-known Hindi film song, “Mera Joota Hai Japani.” Immortalized through the film Shri 420 (1955), this song has been a popular emblem for positing an unchanging, enduring Indian spirit, underneath a superficial garb of Westernization. For instance, in the movie Purab aur Paschim (East and West, 1970), the hero recites the words of “Mera Joota Hai Japani,” to metaphorically forecast the fina- le where the heroine rejects her Western trappings, symbolized by a blonde wig and a mini-skirt, in favor of a traditional Indian sari. As Farishta gazes down, he sees mingled with the wreckage of the plane, “broken memories,” “untranslatable jokes,” “severed mother tongues,” and “sloughed off selves.”2 Through these phrases, Rushdie captures the sense of how migrants are forced to negotiate the bound- aries between their past and their present. For immigrants of Indian origin, this negotiation has often been sketched against the backdrop of Bollywood cinema. From attending community screenings in the 1960s and 70s, to watching pirated videocassettes in the 1980s, to buy- ing and renting DVDs in the 1990s, to ordering...

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