Bollywood Travels: Culture, diaspora and border crossings in popular Hindi cinema

Author:   Rajinder Dudrah
Publisher:   Rutledge Publication
Reviewer:   Dr. Sudhansubala Sahu
Designation:   Assistant Professor Department of Sociology Christ University Bangalore - 29 Email id: sudhansubalasahu.hcu@gmail.com

 

Dudrah, Rajinder. (2012). Bollywood Travels: Culture, diaspora and border crossings in popular Hindi cinema. Rutledge Publication. ISBN: 0415447402 . P– 144
 
This book is based on a research journey about a cinematic medium, i.e. Bollywood and its products; its audience and the context of reception. It is a product of years of research and writing by the author and some of its chapters have been published and presented in different scholarly domain in the past few years. The reason for saying this is Rajinder Dudrah is a familiar name for those interested in “cultural studies” and to be more specific “reception studies”. From the reception studies perspective the present monograph can be placed within “the third generation audience studies” (Alasuutari 1999) as it pays equal attention to the texts, audiences and the context of consumption. To say it differently this is a very timely contribution to the growing body of literature on the analysis of popular culture and its reception.
 
As the title suggests Bollywood Travels indicates a globalized media phenomenon that crosses multiple geographical territories through distribution of the films to their intended markets and simultaneously through film form and language. The idea of Bollywood as a “culture industry” (Adorno and Horkheimer 1993) producing and reproducing popular culture has been claimed and preserved though out.
 
Through this scholarly endeavor the author seeks answers for three key objectives. First “What happens to issues of culture and diaspora in Bollywood cinema, especially as it develops as a cinema and popular culture in the era of globalization?” Second “How far, and to what extent, do some if its films and related products (i.e. starts and related film industry) travel across borders of various kinds (cultural, social, economic and actual nation-state boundaries)?” Last but not the least “How do audiences take up some of these mediations and incorporate them into their lives beyond mere cinematic spectatorship?”
 
The book attempts to answer some of these questions by drawing on participant observation, textual analysis, and performance and cultural studies. The author attempts to make sense of the phenomena of Bollywood shows, especially from the viewpoint of the diaspora.
 
The author has developed on the existing body of works done by distinguished scholar on Bollywood, like Madhava Prasad (2003), Ashish Rajadhyakshya (2003, 2009), Vijay Mishra (2008) etc. These scholars mostly concentrated on the nomenclature of Bollywood, and how it has become the preferred term, replacing earlier descriptors such as Bombay Cinema, Indian Popular Cinema, and Hindi Cinema; its relationship with the hegemonic centre of Hollywood film production and distribution around the world. Moving ahead of these works Dudrah focuses on the changing representation of diaspora itself as Bollywood films, popular culture, and its cultural industries travel and interact with global cultures and ideas outside India. As Bollywood cinema partly relies on the Indian and wider South Asian diaspora for its monetary growth, it regularly seeks to depict this diaspora in its own special ways.
 
Through his journey in ‘Bollywood Travels’ the author examines some of Bollywood cinema’s recent travels where part of its pleasure and tensions are about crossing borders of various imaginative and actual kinds. He does so through the textual analysis of some of the recent popular and successful Hindi films, their possible readings and uses by audiences in the diaspora as wider popular culture, and its ‘cultural industry maneuvers’ in the cotemporary moment of globalization. He says that “in crossing such socio-cultural borders in the production and uses of the films and popular culture by filmmakers and audiences, this allows the creation of border places and spaces” (p. 99).
 
Citing the scope for Bollywood travels in future the author says that we should pay attention to the various industrial, textual and socio-economic dynamics of the movements across Bollywood and its neighboring cinemas. This may include the travel of popular films from the south to the north of India and beyond, where one can focus on the translation of films into different languages, and also the recent phenomenon where some of India’s industry personnel (like Mani Ratnam) who often work on regional and Bollywood films simultaneously.  
 
The Book is divided into seven chapters. In the first chapter the author introduces his work and places it within the larger body of literature on Bollywood and diaspora. The second chapter takes up the issue of border and border crossing in the recent popular films like Main Hoon Na and Veer Zaara with a special focus on the troubled relationship between India and Pakistan. The third chapter analyzes and discusses the filmic text of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom as an interesting take on issues of the diaspora and homeland. The fourth chapter deals with the issues of queer gender and sexuality in the mainstream gay Bollywood film Dostana. These four chapters deal with the film form, content, plots and narratives and focus on how pleasure in the texts can be critically read and assessed. Moving ahead the fifth chapter in this book develops the theoretical framework of the ‘haptic urban ethnoscape’ which deals with the multi-sensory ways of interaction between the film text and the audience, in metropolitan locales. Differing from all others, the sixth chapter explores how the star-studded Bollywood shows and the culture industries perform an idea of Bollywood. The last and the concluding chapter (chapter 7) explore the future pathways for the continuation of this spirit of Bollywood through social networking sites like twitter.
 
One noticeable aspect of this book is, though its chapters vary in their scope, the common thread that binds them together is the concept/idea of Bollywood. The book is neatly written and the concepts/ideas are well developed for a better understanding of the reader. Through his writing the author takes the reader on a smooth journey of ‘Bollywood in the foreign lands’.  
 
More recent studies like Bollywood and Globalization (2011) edited by Mehta and Pandharipande, Tracing an Indian Diaspora (2008) edited by Raghuram et.al. mostly focus on the content of the filmic text and how they deal with the idea of diaspora whereas the present study by Dudrah looks beyond the text to understand the interaction between the text and the audience and the presence of Bollywood’s culture industry in the life of the diasporic audience outside theatre.
 
This book is an excellent piece of work and a scholarly contribution to the emerging field of Sociology of Media and Communication. Anyone who is interested in the areas of sociology, diaspora, media and film studies will find it interesting and useful.

Dr. Sudhansubala Sahu

Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Christ University
Bangalore - 29
Email id: sudhansubalasahu.hcu@gmail.com
Publication Date:   Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012
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