Jan 12, 2010

Bollywood cosmopolitanism

1,5 years of books, libraries, lots of films and great conversations have ended. For now at least. A few months ago i finished my masters dissertation called: Bollywood cosmopolitanism. An exploration of belonging through popular culture. If interested, it is fully downloadable here. (don't mind the Dutch, the dissertation is in English)

Roughly, what i've done is the following. I have studied the recent history of popular Hindi film, for a broad context of what i'm talking about. Especially the changes since the early nineties, when the term Bollywood was 'invented' worldwide, where the movies have become more cosmopolitan. The movies deal often with NRI's struggling with their identity, and Indians fly all over the world to do business.
Then instead of focussing on the changes in movies (tons of people have written about it), I thought it would be interesting to write about the experience of of the viewers of films. I wanted to know if Bollywood helps young viewers in Bangalore to construct a sense of cosmopolitanism. In other words, if it gives them a feeling of belonging to a local and a global community at the same time.

Most analysts think that Bollywood is not able to help in catering a new lifestyle for the globalized youngsters in big Indian cities, because most of the typical Bollywood movies show a sort of 'Hindu conservative cosmopolitanism'. This means that on the outside Indians can be 'global', they have all the material luxuries of the Western life, but on the inside, the heart, the values are Indian. So, it is Indian in global clothes. (phir bhi dil hai hindustani!) This is a construction that is not threatening to viewers. Because the Western and Indian values are not really conflicting; in the end it is the Indian pride (Hindu mostly) that matters.

My interviews with youngsters in Bangalore shows that this view is too simple. When talking about movies they see recognize this morale in movies, but they themselves think of it in more complicated terms. Today's youngsters know that movies are just that, constructed images, and not the same as reality. Instead it helps them to think about their lives in new ways. And this is sometimes indeed a matter of conflicting values. They would also like to wear clothes like in the movies, but they understand perfectly that they have to fight with parents over that. And this is not always resolved as in the movies.

Living in the Indian city is a juggling of values (in the villages probably as well). Modern values, traditional values, traditional versions of modern values or modern interpretations of traditional values. Etcetera.
And Bollywood is a buddy to help thinking and laughing about this complex process.

1 comment:

Ragu said...

Interesting. I have downloaded your thesis, will look at it after exams.