chapter  9
15 Pages

Digitizing the national imaginary: Technology and hybridization in Hindi film songs of the post-liberalization period

WithAniruddha Dutta

Not too long ago, Hindi films and their song-and-dance sequences were frequently derided as a peculiar and parochial feature of twentieth-century Indian popular culture-crude and inferior in comparison to ‘international’ (usually meaning Western) standards despite, or perhaps because of, their scale of circulation and mass appeal.2 However, a surge in scholarly attention over the last two decades has reappraised the exemplary success of Hindi films as national and transnational cinema, no longer signifying an inferior cinematic modernity but rather an ‘alternative globalism’ or ‘alternative cosmopolitanism’ of their own (Gopal and Moorti 2008: 7, 26; Beaster-Jones 2009: 425). The Hindi film industry established its dominant market position within postindependence Indian cinema by producing films that have functioned as ‘nationalist melodrama,’ consolidating a national collectivity of spectator citizens (Rajadhyaksha 2003: 33)—even as they have often inscribed representative citizen-subjects as Hindu, north Indian and male, and masked the hierarchies and exclusions of this national imaginary (Jha 2003: 43; Gabriel 2010).With the shift to the present post-liberalization period, the protagonists ofHindifilms are no longer necessarily tied to the geopolitical parameters of the nation state, and may be imagined as transnational and cosmopolitan even as they are presented as culturally Indian. Such shifting imaginaries of (trans) nationality are undergirded by changing economic logics of film production and distribution, which have increasingly ventured into diasporic markets, particularly non-resident Indians (NRIs) situated in the West.3