Bollywood: Art, Culture, and Hegemony

Instructor: Amrita Ghosh
This is an online course (Eastern Time)

The largest film industry in the world is located not in Hollywood but in “Bollywood,” its yearly film output nearly doubling that of the United States. As it increasingly encroaches on the Western cultural imaginary, Bollywood plays an already titanic role in India—as a site of creative ferment, economic power, and nationalist and ideological myth-making. If Bollywood once emphasized Indian cultural pluralism, today Indian national cinema more broadly—as with the recently celebrated Telegu action epic RRRrepresents not simply a challenge U.S. cultural hegemony, but increasingly a role in cementing  and projecting  a particular Hindutva or Hindu nationalist vision of Indian society, ethnicity, and life. How can we understand the history, aesthetics, and cultural and political power of Bollywood filmography? What explains its increasing cultural traction in the West, and what does it have to do with shifting geopolitical and economic dynamics? How has Bollywood and Indian cinematic production overall figured in India’s post-independence state- and cultural formation? And, what role does it play in the cultural, ethnic, and religious politics of India today—both domestically and across the Indian diaspora globally?

In this course, we will explore the rise, aesthetics, and complex politics of Bollywood and Indian cinema. We’ll begin with a history of the industry, and read from a variety of scholarly and filmic discourses, written at different junctures in India’s post-independence trajectory, to investigate how Bollywood participated in Indian nation-building from the Nehruvian period to today. We’ll place Bollywood in comparison with Hollywood, and seek to understand both their cross-influence and their difference—and what that might tell us about past and contemporary currents of international cultural power. Watching key Bollywood films, and reading works of film criticism and postcolonial scholarship, we will ask questions about Bollywood’s national imaginary, the rampant history of blackface in popular Hindu films, the creation of the a pan-Indian subject via film, and Bollywood’s navigation of India’s political boundaries, from Bangladesh to Kashmir. How does Bollywood work to produce forms of both inclusion and exclusion in the Indian national imagination?

Course Schedule

Monday, 6:30-9:30pm ET
June 05 — June 26, 2023
4 weeks


Registration Open

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