The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad


Edited by: Anjali Gera Roy

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  • Dedication

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    List of Abbreviations

    AICCAustralia International Cultural Council
    ASAAPAlliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention
    BtBacillus thuringiensis
    CIACentral Intelligence Agency
    DFATDepartment of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    DDLJDilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge
    ETVEkushey Television
    FCOForeign and Commonwealth Office
    GSDPsgross state domestic products
    HAHKHum Aapke Hain Koun.!
    IANSIndo-Asian News Service
    IBEFIndia Brand Equity Foundation
    ICCAIndian Council for Cultural Affairs
    ICCRIndian Council for Cultural Relations
    IMFInternational Monetary Fund
    IPLIndian Premier League
    KANKKabhi Alvida Naa Kehna
    KKHHKuch Kuch Hota Hai
    KPMGKlynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler
    MITMassachusetts Institute of Technology
    NDANational Democratic Alliance
    NBCnontraditional Bollywood consumers
    NRINonresident Indian
    PIOPeople of Indian Origin
    RMDRadio Municipale de Dakar
    RTSRadio Télévision Sénégal
    REMRapid Eye Movies
    TPITelevisi Pendidikan Indonesia
    WWIWorld War I
    WWIIWorld War II


    Professor Anjali Gera Roy's latest edited undertaking, The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad, is a joy to read. Not only does it bring together a collection of very insightful and authoritative essays probing the multifarious reach and impact of Bollywood movies within and outside India, but it also sets the stage for a scholarly appreciation of the relationship between culture, politics, international relations, and the power games that such relationships entail.

    The core question most of the essays address is the following: “Is Bollywood an extension of India's growing soft power?” The concept of “soft power” was coined by the American political scientist Joseph Nye, who argued that states gain power over other states not only through coercion and temptation but also through attraction; the concept of power itself representing an unequal relationship—if A can make B do what A wants, then the former has power over the latter.

    Indeed, feature films provide entertainment and excitement to eager audiences. Such stimulation unsurprisingly sets forth standards of good and bad, beauty and ugliness, friend and foe, patriotism and treachery, as well as fashion and shape, and often times, in an imperceptible, subtle manner, the human mind. Logically then, those attracted to such a dream world cannot but be under the spell of its soft power.

    So far so good, but the intriguing question to pose would be: “What does this soft power exuded by a national film industry translate into in terms of social relations within the so-called nation-state and between it and those states and societies exposed to its soft power?” British, French, Iranian, Swedish, and, I am sure, national film industries in Latin America and elsewhere, with which I am less familiar, reach out beyond their national and regional domains. Most certainly they acquire constituencies of filmgoers that especially enjoy their mode of filmmaking. A friend recently introduced me to the very sophisticated Iranian cinema that dares to probe themes that the Iranian theocracy considers anathematic. So does it mean that the soft power or attraction of Iranian cinema that I do not want to resist makes me a victim or object of Iranian soft power traceable to the Iranian state? I do very much hope not.

    On the other hand, there is no denying that the United States’ power and influence in the world is augmented by Hollywood. America, as the land of opportunities, freedom, democracy, and human rights, still holds immense attraction all over the world, and Hollywood films and film stars, directors, and script writers are admired and idolized far and wide. They have played a very important part in enhancing and extending US soft power the world over. I would not be surprised if the Americans were to open their borders, millions of people from other parts of the world would try to get in and set up home.

    As a teenager, I flocked to Hollywood films showing in Lahore cinemas and would invariably side with the white man fighting the Red Indians. I now regret that response, but at that tender age I was in no position to resist US soft power. However, despite my opposition to American aggression on Vietnam and its one-sided support to Israel, I remained an ardent consumer of Hollywood films merely because they excelled in entertainment and that must be granted to them notwithstanding US international politics.

    Simultaneously, I was a voracious consumer of Bollywood films and remain so. My addiction to Raj Kapoor's Awaara (1951) was proverbial. I would have continued to go and watch it each time it would have been shown in Lahore, were it not for the 1965 India–Pakistan War that resulted in a complete ban on Indian films. Dilip Kumar's Mela (1948), Deedar (1951), and Sangdil (1952); Dilip–Raj Kapoor's Andaz (1949); Balraj Sahni's Humlog (1951); Dev Anand's Taxi Driver (1954); the great musical Baiju Bawra (1952); and several other such Bollywood productions fascinated me to the point of obsession.

    I am not sure, if such fascination detracted from my Pakistani patriotism. I saw good Pakistani films as well and enjoyed them thoroughly. On the other hand, when General Zia ushered in Islamic fundamentalism, my appreciation of Indian secularism and pluralism increased without Bollywood playing any great part in that change of attitude.

    It is in the light of such reflections that I want to present my two cents on the relationship between Bollywood and India's soft power. No doubt, Bollywood has served very well in upholding the pristine Nehruvian state project with its emphasis on secularism, communal peace and harmony, and critique of unjust social and economic relations. Equally, when India liberalized and went global, the emphasis shifted to consumerism, individualism, crime, terrorism, demonization of enemy nations, and so on. A number of articles in this book shed light on these aspects of Bollywood.

    Bollywood films had been in great demand from the time India became independent. Besides Pakistan, eager viewers have existed in the Soviet Union, Afghanistan, the Middle East and Turkey, and later in Bangladesh. Western Europe and North America and now Southeast Asia are home to large Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi diasporas. Naturally, the market for Bollywood films is constantly expanding. Simultaneously, India's economic power is growing. India is a nuclear power and maintains a huge military complex that claims a large share of its gross national product (GDP). Indian leaders and nationalist intellectuals have been unabashedly expressing an ambition to be recognized and respected as not only a regional but also a global power.

    Where does Bollywood fit into this list of ambitions? The essays in this study do emphasize a linkage between the current state and global project and Bollywood's potential to produce the soft power to make India realize its ambitions. I have heard about India's ancient links to Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand as well as Indonesia, which established Hinduism and Hindu rule in the past. Can Bollywood generate soft power in them based on religious affiliations? I doubt that very much. Some of the perceptive authors contributing to this study caution against reading too much into such Bollywood soft power. I tend to agree with them.

    In the years ahead, India's role and stature in the world is most likely to grow and, indeed, Bollywood will be part of that undertaking. If India succeeds in becoming a democracy that is not only about free and fair elections, but is also genuinely pluralist and fair, and where poverty and social degradation have been eradicated, it is bound to earn the respect of the world. Bollywood's ability to generate the soft power needed to render such deep-going respect and admiration need not be overemphasized.

    On the other hand, I doubt that an aggressive or imperialist India will be able to lure the world through the mystique of Bollywood. Power is ultimately relational. For A to exercise power, B is needed. In other words, A has power over B because B empowers A. Some scholars distinguish between power and force. When brute force becomes the means whereby the power wielder extracts compliance from others, then actually it is an indication of a decrease in power.

    US power has been declining ever since it began to wage unjust wars, one after another. On the other hand, Hollywood films have continued to improve in technique and quality and with the audiences remaining steadfast, but without US soft power being enhanced as a consequence. In other words, soft power should be further distinguished between genuine attraction, on the one hand, and deception and manipulation, on the other. The former is likely to be more enduring.

    In the years ahead, therefore, the growth of Indian power—hard and soft—will be a subject on which much ink will be spent. There is no doubt that Bollywood will acquire more diversified and global audiences and its attraction will grow. The soft power it will generate will be the subject of lively discussion and debate. This timely study sensitizes us to watch Bollywood's impact on the world more closely and critically.

    IshtiaqAhmed Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University, Sweden, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore


    This book is one of the outcomes of a collaborative research project on “Bollywood's Transnational Flows and Its Role in Promoting India Canada Relations” involving the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and two institutions in Canada—the University of Western Ontario, London, and Huron University College, London.

    I will begin by thanking the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, Canada, for generously funding the project that facilitated my travels to Canada between 2008 and 2010 and enabled me to organize an international Seminar on Bollywood's Soft Power in India in 2009. In particular, I would like to thank Sarmistha Roy, the then Director of the Shastri Institute for her support, and Prachi Kaul, who expertly took over from Sarmistha, ensuring the smooth flow of the project. I would also like to thank all others at the Shastri Institute, particularly Anju Taneja and Meenakshi Malhotra, who facilitated the project in various ways.

    I would also like to thank the collaborators of the research project. I owe a big thanks to Nandi Bhatia and Teresa Hubel for their intellectual contributions to the project through formal presentations at conferences, scholarly essays, and informal conversations and discussions at home and abroad. In addition to the scholarship they brought to the project, I am indebted to both my Canadian collaborators for extending every possible support to me during my visits to Canada between 2008 and 2011. Nandi Bhatia not only invited me to present my findings in seminars and workshops she organized during this period, but also provided me a home in Canada. I would also like to thank Suresh Kumar Pillai, the Indian collaborator, for the creative touch that he brought to the research as a filmmaker. And finally, Suhail Abbasi, the unofficial collaborator, for lending his support to this project in a number of ways, including designing all publicity and exhibition material.

    Thanks are also due to many others in different parts of the world: to Lynne Alexandrova of the Marshal McLuhan Center for arranging several talks and exhibitions in Toronto, Canada; to Omme-Salma Rahemtullah for putting me in touch with a huge Bollywood community in Canada and outside; to Margaret Walton-Roberts for arranging for a poster exhibition on Bollywood's Soft Power and to Doris Jakobsh for reasons she knows best; to Ato Quayson for filling me in on the contexts of Bollywood in Africa and May Joseph for the same in Tanzania; to Abrahim Khan and Chelva Kanaganayakan for their continued support to all my endeavors; to Nicola Mooney and Satwinder Bains of the University of the Fraser Valley, Canada, for introducing me to Bollyscapes in Vancouver; to Chua Beng Huat for broadening my geographical and intellectual horizons and to Ishtiaq Ahmed for helping me focus on home; and to the Bollywood fans worldwide who shared with me their love for Bollywood films and Bollywood film stars.

    It would not have been possible to extend the scope of the study beyond Canada, had scholars from different parts of the world not responded to my invitation to contribute essays covering Bollywood's flows to regions other than Canada. Thanks to them, the anthology has expanded to encompass five continents across which Bollywood has flowed since the 1930s to the present. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers of the manuscript for their feedback and constructive suggestions.

  • About the Editor and Contributors


    Anjali Gera Roy is a Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, West Bengal, India. She has carried out extensive research on various aspects of Bollywood, as part of a Senior Research Fellowship of the Indo-Canadian Shastri Institute in 2007, as well as on Bollywood's transnational flows at the Asia Research Institute National University of Singapore in 2008–2009.

    She has published essays in literary, film, and cultural studies and has also authored and edited several books. She has co-edited with Nandi Bhatia a volume of essays, Partitioned Lives: Narratives of Home, Displacement and Resettlement (2008), on the Indian Partition of 1947; and with Chua Beng Huat another volume Travels of Bollywood Cinema: From Bombay to LA (2012). Her book on Bhangra's global flows, Bhangra Moves: From Ludhiana to London and Beyond was published in 2010.


    Adrian Athique is Senior Lecturer in Screen and Media Studies at the University of Waikato, New Zealand. Adrian has written extensively in recent years on international consumption of Indian cinema. He is the coauthor of The Multiplex in India: A Cultural Economy of Urban Leisure (2010) and author of Indian Media: Global Approaches (2012).

    Sunitha Chitrapu received her Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA, in 2008. Her dissertation on the economics of Indian film production won the Top Dissertation Award of the International Communication Association in the Global Communication and Social Change Division at Chicago in 2009. She is currently Lecturer in the Social Communications Media Department, Sophia Polytechnic, Mumbai, India.

    Kamal ud Din lost his eyesight at the age of 18. He completed his M.A. in English language and literature from Forman Christian College, Lahore, and his M. Phil. in English literature from the University of the Punjab, Lahore, but wrote his thesis at Loyola University in New Orleans under the supervision of Professor Marcus J. Smith. He went to New Orleans for independent research on American Life and Literature on Fulbright scholarship in 1994. He was again awarded Fulbright scholarship in 2005 for Ph.D. and earned the degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, USA, in 2008. Presently he is Professor of English at Forman Christian College University where he has also served as acting Chair. His book Mother Utters on Gwendolyn Brooks was published in 2012.

    Elena Igorevna Doroshenko graduated from the Moscow Pedagogical State University (MPSU), Russia, with a Master's Degree in Linguistics. In 2005, she completed her thesis on the linguistic aspect of the military conflict in Northern Ireland, and was granted the Doctorate degree. At present, she is working for a major news agency in Moscow. Her main professional activities include socio-political research, teaching English, and translating from English into Russian.

    Andrew Hassam is Visiting Fellow in the School of English Literatures and Philosophy at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. He is currently researching the production of Bollywood movies in Australia, and also completing a monograph on changing Australian attitudes to British migrants. His recent writing has appeared in Food, Culture and Society (2009), Studies in South Asian Film and Media (2009) and Landscape, Place and Culture (2011). He is the editor of Bollywood in Australia: Transnationalism and Cultural Production (2010). He is a member of the Editorial Board of History Compass and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, York, UK.

    Teresa Hubel is Associate Professor of English at Huron University College, the University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of Whose India? The Independence Struggle in British and Indian Fiction and History (1996). Currently she has been working on a series of essays on early Indian women writers in English, while also finishing her new book about the white working classes of colonial India.

    Kavita Karan, Ph.D. from the University of London, 1994, is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University, USA. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK, specializing in political communication. She has published articles in journals and chapters in books. She has edited the book Cyber Communities in Rural Asia: A Study of Seven Countries (2004), and co-edited the book Commercializing Women: Images of Asian Women in the Media (2008).

    Shahnaz Khan is Professor of Women & Gender Studies and Global Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada. She has published extensively on Muslim women in Canada, the Zina Ordinance in Pakistan, and representations of Muslims in Hindi cinema. She is the author of Aversion and Desire: Negotiating Muslim Female Identity in the Diaspora and Zina, Transnational Feminism and the Moral Regulation of Pakistani Women. Her articles have appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, Feminist Studies and Feminist Review.

    Florian Krauss completed his Ph.D. dissertation, discussing Bollywood among immigrants in Germany, in 2011. Currently Krauss is working in the project “Climate Media Factory” from Film & Television University, Potsdam, and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany. A part of the project is the scheduled Indian–German platform “Tell Your City” that will bring together writers and experts from both countries.

    Nukhbah Taj Langah received her Honors, Masters, and Ph.D. degrees from University of Buckingham, University of Warwick, and University of Leeds (all in the UK), respectively. She returned to Pakistan in 2008 and joined the English department at Forman Christian College University, Lahore, as Assistant Professor. She has published various book chapters and articles in anthologies and international academic journals and has co-translated a chapbook titled Noshi Gillani: Poems (2008) with the British translator Lavinia Greenlaw. Her latest book is titled Poetry as Resistance: Islam and Ethnicity in Postcolonial Pakistan (2012).

    Meena T. Pillai is the Director, Centre for Comparative Literature, and Associate Professor at the Institute of English, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, India. She was a Fulbright Fellow to the Ohio State University, USA; Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute Fellow to the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada; and a Commonwealth Fellow at the University of Sussex, UK. Her publications include Modern American Fiction: The Novel of Terror (2005), Rohinton Mistry: An Anthology of Recent Criticism (Co-edited, 2007), and Women in Malayalam Cinema: Naturalising Gender Hierarchies (2010).

    M. K. Raghavendra is a film scholar who received the Swarna Kamal for Best Film Critic in 1997. He was awarded a Homi Bhabha Fellowship in 2000–2001. He is also the author of Seduced by the Familiar: Narration and Meaning in Indian Popular Cinema (2009), 50 Indian Film Classics (2009). His third book, Bipolar Identity: Region, Nation and the Kannada Language Film (2011) has recently been published.

    Omme-Salma Rahemtullah is a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology at York University, Toronto, Canada. Her research is in the areas of postcolonial theory, nationalism, and cultural studies. Her dissertation focuses on cultural productions of the South Asian diaspora as it relates to identity, belonging, and race, specifically on the narratives of South Asian women in Tanzania and how their subjectivities are informed by discourses of modernity and migration. She has also published on the South Asian diaspora in Canada.

    Zakir Hossain Raju is Associate Professor of Film and Media Studies at Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). He obtained Ph.D. in Cinema Studies from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, in 2005. He taught at Monash University campuses in Malaysia and Australia for five years. He also taught at La Trobe University in Australia and University of Dhaka in Bangladesh. He is the author of Bangladesh Cinema and National Identity: In Search of the Modern? (forthcoming). He has published many articles on Asian cinemas in various journals and anthologies.

    David J. Schaefer, Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, Columbus, USA, 2001, is Professor in the Department of Communication Arts at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, USA. He is a member of the Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society, the International Communication Association, the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre, and serves on the Board of Directors for Urban Mission Ministries. In addition, he was awarded a Fulbright lecturing-research grant to Singapore in 2004–2005 to study media literacy trends in Asia.

    Gwenda Vander Steene is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Ghent, Belgium. She has been working on globalization and dance in Senegal, with two cases: Sabar dancing and Bollywood dancing. The first is analyzed in its relation to gender and “glocalization,” and the second as an expression of “parallel modernities” of globalization flows that go “South–South” (India–Africa), drawing a different picture than the classical “North–South” globalization theories. Besides, she is a dancer and teaches Indian dance and yoga. Her dance and yoga websites are respectively and ( if off line).

    Shuri Mariasih Gietty Tambunan is Lecturer in the English Department, University of Indonesia. Currently she is in the process of completing her Ph.D. from the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong, and her research focus in on transnational flow of East Asian television dramas in Indonesia within the context of cultural globalization. She received her Masters degree in Cultural Studies from the University of Indonesia (2007) and the University of Groningen, the Netherlands (2010).

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