Bollywood cinema is a global phenomenon reaching the Indian diasporic community across the globe. On the one hand it provides a link with the home country for the migrant, on the other presents the Diaspora back to the homeland. Also it creates a culture of imaginary solidarity across the heterogeneous linguistic and national groups. Here the film, film music and cinematic representation plays a significant role. It brings the global into the local, presenting people in Main Street Vancouver, as well as Southall, London, with shared “structures of feeling” that in turn produce a transnational sense of communal solidarity.
Hindi films are a heterogeneous blend of a number of genre, often structured around composite narrative themes. The themes that dominate the cinema range from ‘lost and found’, where parents and children are separated and reunited ;to ‘revenge’ where villains are justly thrashed by heroes; to romantic plots . This engages the viewers emotionally. Further, Music also function as an emotional memory trigger that allows for escape from the harsh realities of everyday life in a society that is often hostile towards its immigrant communities. It provides the much needed respite for a younger generation who stands somewhere between East, West – the pressures of traditional values at home and the pressures the West puts on them.
But what image of India is in the show is something that has to be deeply navigated. Yash Chopra was one of the first to recognise the potential of the diaspora market as a major source of revenue. Thus the film audiences in Bombay, London and New York and the South Asian diaspora of the UK, US and Canada became his film’s imaginary realm. It is therefore not surprising that ever since the late 1990s Hindi films regularly featured in the top list. Before 1990s we have films featuring in 1970s having great impact on Indian psyche.For instance Manoj kumar’s Purab Aur Paschim brought the point back home that freeing India from British rule is not enough if Indians do not feel proud of their Indianness. This echoes in the songs of the movie “..Itna aadar insaan to kya patthar bhi poojee jaate hain, Uss dharti pe maine janam liya Ye soch ke main itraata hoon, Bharat ka rahne waala hoon Bharat ki baat sunaata hoon..”
In the same vein is Namaste London directed by Vipul Amrutlal Shah that presses on Feel Proud to be an INDIAN where Akshay Kumar is talking to the British man about India’s achievement.
In 1990s the success of 1994 movie Hum aapke hain kaun made the family-orientated film a viable commercial option, paving the way for the success of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. It has been regarded as the film that has brought the diaspora back to the desh. It features London as a cold and anonymous city, home to the dislocated transnational lndian middle-class nuclear family. The Punjab on the other hand is presented as the idyllic yearned for homeland where traditional values remain intact, ‘a place for family and love’ .This is reflected in songs “Is Gaon Ki Anpadh Mitti Padh Nahin Sakti Teri Chitthi, Yeh Mitti Tu Aakar Chume To Is Dharti Ka Dil Jhume. Maana Tere Hain Kuch Sapane Par Hum To Hain Tere Apne; Bhoolnewale Humko Teri Yaad Sataaye Re; Ghar Aaja Pardesi Tera Des Bulaye Re”.
Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades too uses the same narrative of return.The yearning for homeland runs deeply in the songs “Ye Jo Des Hai Tera, Swades Hai Tera, Tujhe Hai Pukaara; Ye Woh Bandhan Hai Jo Kabhi Toot Nahin Sakta. Mitti Ki Hai Jo Khushboo, Tu Kaise Bhulaayega Tu Chaahe Kahin Jaaye, Tu Laut Ke Aayega”. These films elaborate a fantasy text of the homeland and the diaspora that strikes a cord with the implied diasporic spectator, now living in a threatening foreign nation-state.
When we come to emerging new cinemas abroad it seems that living in a society with contradictory attitudes remains a difficult territory to navigate.The tension in some sense represents so-called lndian values versus Western values. The Western value of individuality over community or family is what is supposed to guide the lndian abroad, particularly the second generation. If not for this outright westernisation, than they are at best very confused, caught between the West and India.
Another theme that travels very well between East and West and acts as a common cultural denominator is Weddings.Monsoon Wedding is one example, Bend it Like Beckham another, while Deepa Mehta plays with this ingredient in Bollywood Hollywood and Gurinder Chada’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice titled Bride and Prejudice in the UK makes this point even more obvious.
The main focus in Monsoon Wedding does not lie on the ceremony itself, but cultural practices. For example, the ‘female sangeet’ is very much presented as a feminist space of expression and agency.
The arranged marriage becomes acceptable as the bride Aditi allows herself to fall in love with her future husband.She confesses her trespasses to him and by doing so allows her sexual agency to be channelled into acceptable forms.
Deepa Mehta’s film Bollywood Hollywood also challenges conventions about marriage within parameters of tradition and modernity, but in the space of the diaspora. The film is about an affluent NRI, Rahul, in Toronto who hires an escort to pose as his fiancee for his sister’s wedding as he tries to evade the pressures of his pushy mother and grandmother to finally get married.
Rahul explains the NRI as being in a ‘Bollywood-Hollywood state of mind’ – living in the West, but with the Indian cultural values as they are emphasised by Bollywood cinema as a lifeline. Film negotiates issues such as sacrifice, marriage and filial duty, identities are increasingly blurred, exposing the patriarchal pressure to marry that weighs heavily on Rahul, his sister and Sunita.
Thus what we see is it is too simplistic to read Hindi films as merely a vehicle for nostalgia and provider of an emotional and material link to the homeland.There is also a playful and parodic relationship with the genre in the diaspora. The consumption of Indian cinema actively constructs an lndian diaspora of shared cultural idioms, the lndian diasporas as imagined communities, in which Bollywood cinema functions as a self-contained, cultural specific phenomenon.