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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 5 Gender and Viewing Pleasures


At the 43rd annual Filmfare Awards ceremony, held in Mumbai in 1997, Rekha, the celebrated film star who rose into prominence in the late 1970s and 1980s, performed a dance medley of songs. Broadcast through various recordings in the Indian diaspora and digitized on the web, her presentation included slices and sequences from all her well-known movies. She held the audience rapt and was later eulo- gized as the “demi-goddess of Hindi film” by an actor colleague.1 At the age of 50-plus, Rekha has been perhaps the only actress of her generation who continues to flamboyantly flaunt her star presence in blazes of glamour and glitter by performing at various media award events and making news entertainment headlines. Feted by a series of film and art awards, Rekha recently received the Padma Shri, one of the highest civilian awards in India, as a testimony to her contribution to Indian cinema. At a more recent film award ceremony, the so-called King of Bollywood, Shah Rukh Khan appeared with Rekha. As a younger male superstar, Shah Rukh Khan paid homage to Rekha’s reputation as a timeless, seductive icon through a mock performance as a love-struck admirer. Various Indian film gossip news networks played the scene and it lives on in the interminable loop of YouTube video clips as evidence of the monumental star appeal of these two Bollywood actors.2 Observers and scholars of Indian cinema have commented on the enormous power of the male star system represented by actors such as Raj...

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