chapter  2
15 Pages

Bollywood at large: Who is watching Bollywood films?


Introduction Hindi commercial cinema has been viewed as a part of the Indian nationalist project and as the post-colonial state’s accomplice in the production of the nation and the citizen subject of modernity. The liberalization of the Indian economy in the early 1990s signaled a major transition in Hindi cinematic history that film scholars have labeled Bollywoodization, a term that alludes to the Hindi film’s intensified flows outside India, the corporatization of the film industry, and the emergence of a culture industry converging on Hindi popular cinema (Rajadhyaksha 2003). In its new Bollywood avatar, Hindi cinema has expanded its constituency beyond its traditional territories in South and South East Asia, The Middle East, Russia, China, and Africa to large parts of Europe, the US, and Australia, bringing unprecedented academic and media attention to the world’s largest film industry. Notwithstanding the Western world’s belated recognition of one of the world’s largest film industries as Bollywood, Hindi cinema has been a formidable presence in a large part of the world for almost a century. Research on the travels of Hindi films to Fiji (Mishra [2002] and Ray [2004]), to the old Malaya (Devadas and Velayutham 2012), and to Africa (Larkin 2003) have been supplemented by new findings (Vander Steene 2012) that confirm the worldwide presence of Hindi films even in places without a South Asian population. The history of the transnational circulation of Hindi cinema has reopened the debate in cinema studies on the retention of the national as a category in reading a cinema, which cannot be contained by national boundaries for a number of reasons. This chapter aims to trace the different stages of Hindi cinema’s movements across the world to compare Bollywood’s contemporary global flows with the Hindi film’s border crossings during the British Empire and after the formation of the Indian nation state in 1947.