Political Bollywood: A BBC radio feature

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Surfing around the Bollywood section of the BBC website, I came across a two-part radio feature called “political bollywood” that purports to…

…overturn the prevailing image of Indian films…look beneath the glitz, the glamour and the music and you will find that the medium is a canny social engineer, a purveyor of traditions and morality, and a key player in the tumultuous politics of India, the largest democracy in the world.

Beginning with an overview of film production and reception during the colonial era, the feature provides a rather good introduction to cinema in India – Phalke and allegorical/political mythologicals, cinema towards the end of empire, the introduction of sound, the studio era, socialist filmmaking, the use of Hindustani in Bombay cinema, the role of songs in articulating nationalist sentiment, and so on. The one major problem, however, is that this radio feature frames Bombay cinema as “national cinema.” Still, combined with an introductory text like Tejaswini Ganti’s Bollywood: A Popular Guidebook to Popular Hindi Cinema, this might be a good teaching guide. Listen here.

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