Chapter 5: Indian cinema and Bollywood

Indian Cinema and Bollywood 

◉  “For nearly four decades, Indian cinema has been a strong presence on the world stage largely due to the strength of its numbers alone. With a nearly consistent annual output of over 1,000 films, India remains the most prolific film-producing country in the world, also claiming the largest film audience. The impressive numbers have constituted their own logic, so much so that the idea of Indian cinema often begins and ends with the mention of its massive output. In critical and scholarly circles in the West, little attention was paid to its films in the past, with the exception of masters such a Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen… The issue of size, however, is complicated and misleading. Indian cinema is indeed prolific, but its international presence has been dominated by its recent moniker of ‘Bollywood.’ Though Bollywood gives the film industry a spectacular global presence, it happens to be a small component of the industry, masking the rich diversity not only of other strands of Hindi cinema–long a culturally dominant form with nationwide distribution–but also cinemas emerging from multiple languages” (Deshpande and Mazaj 135).

◉  “An account of Bollywood’s influence and place in Indian and world cinema can be based on Rajadhyaksha’s seminal argument that Indian cinema itself has been ‘Bollywoodized,’  overshadowed and influenced by a recent discursive construction in the neoliberal economic age of globalization (2003). Extending this insight, we propose that they process of ‘Bollywoodization’ can be best understood in three phases” (136)

First Phase

◉  Bollywood cinema emerges in the early 1990s as a cultural industry due to various factors at home and abroad

◉  The support and involvement of Indians abroad was the single most powerful force that shaped Bollywood in the 1990s, complemented by India’s adoption of liberal economic policies in 1992 that opened up its state-controlled economy to global capital

Second Phase 

◉  Marked by the marketing of Bollywood abroad, embedding it as a commodity on several levels, both as a film industry and as the consumer products attached to it

◉  Brand Bollywood was born, which ‘was not the content of cinema–as constituted by film narrative–but a certain kind of allure produced by a characteristic visual excess brought in by spectacle, choreography, costume, and music”

◉  It was a triumph of the commodification of Bollywood, with the full cooperation of the industry itself. It was also a moment when Bollywood and, by association, Indian cinema entered its world cinema phase as a center of power and influence, shaping a larger perception of Indian cinema as well as Indian itself

Third Phase 

◉ Marked by a kind of return of Bollywood commodity production back home to shape Indian culture and identity: the Bollywoodization of Indian cinema and culture

◉ Two levels of influence brought about by Bollywood on Indian culture: the reconceptualization of the nation as one tuned to the desire of the diaspora, and the transformation of the domestic film industry now shaped by the ambitions of Bollywood abroad

◉  As a cultural product projected onto and produced by the economy of goods, images, dominant television content, the radio and music industry, websites, and cyber-cultures returned home to shape Indian culture

Indian cinema’s spheres of influences

◉  Indian cinema’s worldwide presence partially depends on durable support from its diasporic audiences

◉  Indian films traveled to several countries from Africa to East Asia, blending with and shaping diverse cultures, arts, and musical traditions of different regions 

◉ 2 distinct diasporic audiences 

➞ The “old diaspora” was created in non-Western countries by indentured labor exported to the Caribbean, Fiji, Guyana, South Africa, and elsewhere

➞ The “new diaspora” is a creation of large-scale migration during globalization as businessmen and women, professionals, and intellectuals migrated in large numbers to the US, the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand 

Influence of Indian cinema on non-Indian audiences

◉ Testimonials from film professionals, academic scholars, novelists, and diplomats from around the world presents a mosaic of transnational exchanges and concludes that Indian cinema was widely accepted and admired by audiences from Arica to Asia because its narratives created worlds close to their own, while the distinctive features of music and dance created fluid hybrid cultures across a road spectrum of cultural and social diversity 

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