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THE 'BOLLYWOODIZATION' OF THE

INDIAN CINEMA:
CULTURAL NATIONALISM IN A
GLOBAL ARENA
ASHISH RAJADHYAKSHA
PRESENTED BY SYED MOHAMMAD SAJJAD JAFFERY
WHAT THE ARTICLE SEEKS TO DO

• Contention with the term Bollywood.


• Argues that the term ‘Bollywood’ has a very specific meaning, unlike the meaning
attributed to the Indian cinema by the global media, such as Newsweek International.
• Looks at the historical trajectory of Indian Cinema, and sees where the notion of
Bollywood crops up in relation to the film industry in India.
India’s entertainment moguls don’t merely target the billion South Asians, or desis, at
home: they make slick movies, songs and TV shows for export. Attracted by a growing
middle class and a more welcoming investment environment, foreign companies are
flocking to Bollywood, funding films and musicians. The foreign money is already
helping India’s pop culture to reach even greater audiences. And it may have a benign
side-effect in cleaning up an Indian movie industry business long haunted by links to
the underworld.

(‘Bollywood Goes International’, Newsweek International, February 28, 2000)


• Indian cinema is understood to be synonymous with Bollywood.
• The phenomenon of Bollywood tends to extend far beyond the film industry in the
country.
• Ancillary industries surrounding Indian Cinema – music, theatre, internet, movie fandoms
– which form a significant part of ‘Bollywood’
• The author explains how in the late 1990s, Indian films (such as DDLJ in 1995, and KKHH
in 1998) were resounding successes in the international market. Especially in countries
like the USA, UK, Canada.
• Films, with very specifically Indian themes, became international success stories in recent
years.
• The author contends that this is because “Bollywood is not the Indian film industry, or at
least not the film industry alone. Bollywood admittedly occupies a space analogous to the
film industry, but might best be seen as a more diffuse cultural conglomeration”
• Bollywood, as an industry that extends far beyond simply film, has helped create a
narrative which exists within, but also, outside the bound of the film it surrounds. Thus
helping in marketing these films to a much greater audience than it was ever possible
before.
• Amitabh Bachchan consolidation, for example, as the film legend of yore and a Bollywood
icon, has been possible largely due to the legacy he has created in KBKP
• There is a need to separate Indian cinema from the phenomenon of Bollywood.
• It must be kept in mind that Bollywood is a very recent notion, having only cropped up
approximately 2 decades ago, and by all manners of assessment, it seeks to imprint the
glitz and glamor of Hollywood onto the cinematic production of the Indian film industry.
• The reason behind this aestheticization of cinema has influenced to a large degree by the
fact that ‘Bollywood’ cinema is designed to be global commodity, meant to be consumed
not just by Indian local and émigré population, but also people who might not have direct
links to Subcontinental culture(s)
• Indian Cinema, on the other hand, first emerged after the 2nd World War, and it wasn’t
meant to cater to an international audience.
• It had a relatively small audience and was largely an industry regulated by the
government, with regards to what content could be exported.
• The audience here were the people living in India or those who had Indian root, such as
worker diasporas in the UAE, for example.
• Only later, when government control gave way to greater privatization, that the idea of
‘Bollywood’ began to take shape.
• This shaping was commercial. Indian Cinema needed to cater to a greater audience than
it was currently serving. As a result, the exclusively Indian nature of the cinematic
production had to be changed.
• There was a need to define a culture that was economically viable for an industry seeking
to expand beyond its current boundaries. Thus, a mass-culture industry began to take
shape under the form of Bollywood cinema
“in this period the film industry set itself up as a national industry in the sense of assembling a national market,
even devising a narrative mode that since been melodrama extensively analysed as nationalist in ways that actually
precede and even anticipate institutionalized State functioning in this field. Film theory has repeatedly
demonstrated the crucial role that nationalist-political constructions play in determining narrative and spectatorial
practices”

• An Indian culture that spoke to the masses. Which incorporated ideas valuing institutions, such as
marriage and family. Ideas and narratives that spoke out to the people.

• The State, in the initial years of this development, played its role by trying to define what
constituted ‘good’ culture and what became the mainstream narrative.
• The film industry, eventually, became synonymous with Indian culture and Indian values.
• Bollywood became a major ‘domain of mediating institutions between civil society and
the state’, according to Chatterjee (1997)
• A place of dialogue between the people and the institutions and structures they existed
in.
• ‘the cinema was perhaps the first instance in Indian civilization where the ‘national public’
could gather in one place that was not divided along caste difference (Sivathamby 1981).
• Bollywood became different from Indian Cinema in that it incorporated consumerist
culture alongside the radical self-identification normally associated with post-colonial
cinema. This amalgamation led to an all-encompassing entertainment platform, which
became the harbinger of a more marketable form of nationalism.
• The problem that remained was the economic functionality of such an industry, because
while the industry has substantial amounts of social capital, its financial precarity still
exists. Investors are still skeptical about production projects because there is no real
financial security to be found.
• This is mostly because the State never really viewed the film industry as one which
required its support via infrastructural and monetary support.
• The author concludes with the remark that the very financial security which the industry
had been demanding for a very long time, is the reason why the cinematic and artistic
aspect of the film industry is rapidly disappearing, and giving way to a popular form of
mass-produced entertainment, where the focus is no longer on the actual making of films,
but rather on developing the ancillary industries.