I am teaching an upper-level undergraduate course on Global Media and Culture, and we are currently talking about media and the construction of “national” culture(s). And I decided to use post-independence Bombay cinema as a case study. I’ve done this in the past, and it has always been a dicey affair mostly because I’ve had to cobble together film clips spanning six decades and come up with a set of (non-jargony) articles on key aspects of Bombay cinema. Given that it is only part of a larger course, this generally works out well enough and sparks some students’ interest who send me an email about how they can get films and so on. But I’ve been frustrated with the “documentaries” (e.g. Larger than Life) and news features (CBS’ 60 Minutes, for e.g.) out there because they tend to trot out some version of films-for-the-poor-laboring-masses-who-need-escape argument to explain how “different” the films are compared to Hollywood fare.
The good people at the British Film Institute must have been just as frustrated and of course, motivated by the interest in all things Bollywood. As part of the ImagineAsia series, BFI has developed a teaching guide called “Bollywood and Beyond.” In addition to pulling together clips from 1919 (D. G. Phalke era) all the way up to 1998 (Dil Se), the teaching guide includes a CD with a terrific collection of articles on a range of topics. And to make it interesting, I’m going to use this along with some clips from the Queering Bollywood site created by folks at the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore