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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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6. Gendered Transitions: From Mythic Nation to Consumer Nation

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← 144 | 145 → Chapter 6

Gendered Transitions From Mythic Nation to Consumer Nation

Much has been written about the iconic image of the all-suffering, every sacrificing, and ultimately sanctified image of Indian womanhood as exemplified in the 1950s film Mother India. In the previous chapter, I discussed at length this particular narration of the nation as gendered that has been a persistent theme across Bollywood cinema. Through the early 2000s this rhetorical conflation of women’s bodies as signs for the nation continued to find currency. Typically, these images of feminine virtue in Bollywood were maintained by chaste, virtuous heroines whose sexuality was carefully regulated within the regime of heterosexual marriage. As I have discussed previously, this imagery serves a useful purpose for the diasporic women readers of Indian cinema. The presence of reified, culturally essentialized images of Indian-ness can be particularly appealing to immigrants besieged by the stress and chaos of dislocation and dispersal. Unmoored from the comfort of the familiar, immigrants are forced to chart the uncertain and strange waters of a new and alien present. In the context of the United States, the diasporic present for Indian immigrants is often laced with racial hostilities and cultural prejudices. The ruptures created by migration are temporarily and fleetingly restored and stabilized by Bollywood imagery that present the “home” culture as stable, unified, and markedly different from the alienating and hostile “host” culture. Much of this cultural reassurance is written through women’s bodies that serve as sites for...

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