Account for some of the ways in which Bollywood popular culture has been used and translated in the South Asian diaspora

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Account for some of the ways in which Bollywood popular culture has been used and translated in the South Asian diaspora.

The centre of the Indian movie industry is in the Indian city known as Bombay, which has since been renamed Mumbai.  Owing to the industrial resemblance with the American movie city Hollywood, the Indian movie industry came to be known as Bollywood.  Bollywood is now an industry of massive proportions, and far from simply producing cinema; it is also closely interwoven with industries concerned with music, clothes, magazines, DVDs, jewellery and cosmetics.  Bollywood has become popular culture, which is distributed worldwide and sells at a phenomenal pace.  The Bollywood film, far from its popularity being isolated to India, has also found popularity amongst ‘Indians’ in Asia (Indonesia, Singapore, Sri Lanka etc), countries where Indians were originally sent as indentured labourers such as South Africa, Jamaica and Mauritius, and increasingly with the growing group of Indians in western countries, especially Great Britain, Australia, Canada and the USA.

The Swedish anthropologist Hannerz describes these groups of people descending from one source culture and living across the globe as a global ecumenicity.  The concept no longer refers to the biblical diaspora in which the expulsion of the Jews determined the image.  The present notion of diaspora is detached from its religious meaning and now refers to physically scattered but, but still culturally related communities, who all form a specific global ecumenicity. (R Gowricharn, Professor of multicultural cohesion and transnational studies at the University of Tilburg, The Netherlands)

In this sense, communities of Indian origin consider themselves as one large civilisation of which the Bollywood popular culture is an intrinsic part.  Therefore the popularity of the Bollywood movies is not restricted solely to resident Indians but is massively far reaching, encompassing the entire South Asian diaspora, and extending further to a major part of the world’s population.


Since the turn of the millennium Lagaan has been nominated for an Oscar, Monsoon Wedding achieved blockbuster status and Devdas was the first Bollywood film to be screened at Cannes.  Additionally with the momentum of Baz Luhrmann’s Bollywood-inspired musical Moulin Rouge, and the stage production of Bombay Dreams (by A R Rahman and Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber) it seems entirely evident that the Bollywood aesthetic of song, dance and extravagance is on the brink of becoming wholly mainstream.  Meanwhile, the surprise British hits Bend it like Beckham and Anita and Me have brought to light another perspective: the stories of the Indian diaspora.  

Since India’s independence its cinema has arguably been the most influential cultural force for shaping and reflecting the evolving landscape of Indian identity, helping create a sense of nationhood through the power of film alone.  Now, with desi communities thriving throughout the world and often using Bollywood films as the main window to reconnect with their homeland, some non resident Indians are creating a distinctly original cinema, using film to explore their identities amidst the ever present cultural pull of their motherland.  Indeed, Indian cinema plays an essential part in the identity of the South Asian diaspora.  To a remarkable extent, the Indian diaspora have come to heavily depend on Bollywood films in shaping their own reality in their new homelands.  It is the cinema of the South Asian diaspora that offers a glimpse of this relationship between cinema and identity, and between subcontinent and diaspora.  (Identity through Bollywood Cinema, J Takhar)

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I would therefore suggest that Bollywood popular culture feeds the cultural needs of the South Asian diaspora.  This applies especially to the language, the religion (which is rarely absent in a film’s narrative, the customs and the traditions of the ‘homeland’.  Bollywood offers recognition and identification, pride and self-esteem, cultural identity.  Primarily in the case of young non-resident Indians a development termed in the social sciences as creolisation is taking place. Particularly in western countries young people are explicitly creating a distinct profile for themselves by way of their appearance as belonging to the Indian civilisation, while at the ...

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