The character Raveena in Singh’s Bollywood Confidential is in a liminal space between her American and Indian identities. She does not totally fit into either of these worlds. We see her struggle to fit into American culture (specifically through her struggle to succeed in Hollywood). Later in the novel, when she moves to India, we see that she struggles to fit in there as well. She also does not fit the molds of the stereotypical American or Indian woman.
We see throughout the novel that there is a lack of representation of Indian Americans in Hollywood. This is the basis for Raveena’s conflict throughout the novel. She is forced to move to India where she can find roles that feature women who look like her. For seven years the only roles Raveena can get in America are “ethnic” roles that often do not even have speaking parts such as “a gypsy girl, a belly dancer, and a Mexican cocktail waitress.” The only Indian face Raveena had ever seen regularly on TV growing up was Apu from the Simpsons. At one point Raveena even jokes about changing her name to “Raveena Queensly” so that she will be viewed as only half Indian after Jai points out that, “no one of Indian descent is going to win an Oscar.” Raveena is very “Americanized” yet her Indian heritage holds her back from succeeding in Hollywood. Throughout the book we see Raveena comparing herself to American actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow. She strives for Gwyneth’s level of success yet her looks hold her back.
When Raveena arrives at Randy’s office in India and is looking around at the posters she is surprised to see “movies starring people who looked just like her.” At the same time, she notes the difference between herself and the actresses on the posters: “her boobs weren’t as uplifting.” We see that she does not physically fit the mold of the stereotypical ideals of feminine beauty. For example, when Siddharth first sees Raveena’s picture he thinks she is beautiful, but then he notices, “she has big feet.” Randy, later on in the novel tells Raveena that he loves American women because “they don’t have all the hang ups Indian women do. American women will have sex on the first date.” We see that Raveena is totally disgusted by this and will not sleep with someone just for a role (no matter how badly she longs for a leading role). In this way, we see how she breaks the mold of the hypersexualized female.
The movie that Raveena and Siddharth are working on is symbolic of Raveena’s dual identity. It is a Bollywood film but takes on American influences. It is called “Taj Mahal 3000: Unleashed.” Raveena’s character is Indian yet she is “like Xena the warrior princess.” This role is presented to Raveena as a leading role and this is why she takes it, yet she notes that she barely has any dialogue and she has “fifty-seven costume changes” and wears “sixteen different wigs.” She is still used as a sexual object in the film. She is there for her beauty and not for her acting. Raveena struggles throughout the novel to find her place as a woman in both America and in India.