Global Bollywood

Article excerpt

GLOBAL BOLLYWOOD Anandam P. Kavoori and Aswin Punathambekar, eds. New York: New York University Press, 2008, 314 pp.

Global Bollywood is an anthology that takes a comprehensive look at Bollywood as a distinct zone of cultural production. The term "Bollywood" has come to include almost all Indian films, and as this book proves, their presence in the global market cannot be denied. The essays cover a wide range of methodological approaches, offering institutional, cultural, textual, and ethnographic analyses that examine the complex ways in which India's expanding film industry figures into the transnational media terrain. Comprehensively, they provide the reader with a "window into the dynamics of public culture in contemporary, post-liberalization India, while remaining attentive to historical continuities" (4).

The book is divided into three thematic sections: "Framing Bollywood," "Texts and Audiences," and "Beyond Film: Stars, Fans and Participatory Culture." Part 1 locates the emergence of popular Indian film in relation to local and global political, social, economic, and cultural contexts and situates it in the transnational cultural economy. Ashish Rajadhyaksha's essay "The Bollywoodization of Indian Cinema" provides an in-depth exploration of the connections between Indian cinema and the contemporary neoliberal state's attempt at redefining the sociocultural boundaries of "being Indian" for the new millennium. M. Madhava Prasad's essay "Surviving Bollywood" is particularly interesting in terms of placing the rise of Bollywood's popularity into context. Prasad suggests that Bollywood has no definite meaning, but serves different purposes for different people. Prasad suggests that the term's power over the last decade or so derives from the centralizing of Indian film culture around a new cluster of Identifications and the naturalizing of the term in the vocabulary of Anglophone culture. Prasad goes on to suggest that the non-resident Indian (NRI) population, the target of many Bollywood film markets, is the sole arbiter of Indian identity in the modern global market. Prasad claims,

Bollywood is capable of affording us crucial insights into the changing modalities of Indian national identity in a globalizing world. ... At a time when Indian cinema is far more diverse than it has even been in the past, Bollywood is an attempt to hold on to the idea of an essence of Indian cinema. Indian cinema's marketability is becoming a matter of lndianness, which is its Bollywoodness. Bollywood keeps alive a sense of continuity amidst change. (50)

The remaining essays in the first section focus on detailing the corporatization of the film industry in India and its place in political and economic systems nationally and transnationally. The framing of Bollywood is quickly accomplished in several essays through establishing the relationship between film and nationalism in India, a consistent theme throughout the book.

Part 2, "Texts and Audiences," centers on key film and star texts, exploring their meaning in diverse sociocultural contexts, ranging from religion to sexual orientation and identification to social caste. Thought-provoking essays include Vamsee Juluri's "Our Violence, Their Violence," which explores how Indian films challenge the ideology of violence. Taking a Ghandian nonviolent approach, Juluri analyzes three broad themes- universalism, duty and obligation, and human nature- in two key Indian films, Mission: Kashmir and Khadgam. Kalyani Chadha and Anadam P. Kavoori examine Muslim stars in their essay about "othering" in Indian film. They argue that contrary to the popularly held perception that the Hindi film industry is a model of secularism, Muslims have been historically eroticized, marginalized, and demonized in Hindi films.

Particularly interesting are essays touching on the politics of women's sexuality in "new" Indian media. Padma Govindan and Bisakha Dutta's "From Villain to Traditional Housewife! …