Bollywood and College

In this article “Planet Bollywood: Indian Cinema Abroad”, author Jigna Desai discusses the portrayals of NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) versus the depiction of resident Indian citizens in the Bollywood film scene. In addition, Desai describes the experience of second-generation South-Asian Americans changing their opinions and attitudes towards Bollywood films during college.

Prior to the mid-1990s, South Asian cinema existed, but was not very popular outside of South Asian countries. Increasing globalization practices led to greater popularity in areas such as North America, Africa, the Middle East, and Europe, although people unfamiliar with the style may describe the films as kitschy, copycat, unrefined, corny, or otherwise lacking.

I was interested in the process by which young South Asian Americans may change their views regarding the merits of Bollywood over time. Specifically, Desai mentioned that “college is a crucial time for identity development, especially among migrant and racial minority communities” (Desai pg. 63). She mentions interviewing several students who did not enjoy Bollywood films prior to attending college, but found them later to be useful when aligning with fellow South Asian American students.

The portrayal of NSIs has changed over time, from depicting NSIs as Westernized outsiders, to being merely “insiders removed”, which is certainly a positive development for South Asians living outside of South Asia. However, Bollywood still is rampant with its depictions of what “true India” is like, namely all Hindu (ignoring the Buddhist, Sikh, Muslim, and other religions) and highly heteronormative (ignoring other nontraditional expressions of gender or sexuality).

For young South Asian Americans attending college, Bollywood films may form an important depiction of a piece of their cultural heritage. College students also tend to be more liberal than many other comparative groups. Perhaps a college education is one of the best ways to develop a new appreciation for Bollywood films, since casual depictions of what is “normal” and what is not will fall under greater social scrutiny. Additionally, I would personally be interested in hearing about how first-generation vs. second generation South Asian Americans may view these films differently- for example, youth and their parents.

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