Review of chapter 32: "," . Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics, ed. Yannis Tzioumakis and Claire Molloy.
by Sumaiya Javed
As India competes with other countries on a global platform, its goal is to strengthen the nation’s economy and promote a sense of national pride among its citizens. India continues to leverage the power of Bollywood, its flourishing cinema industry of Hindi films, to promote various geopolitical agendas surrounding nationalism. Bollywood is commonly known for its storytelling through its vibrant musicals that emphasize cultural and traditional values of India. In his article titled “ ” Pugsley examines how Bollywood filmmakers are now using film tourism and cine-geographic approaches to satisfy larger political agendas, that aim towards stimulating nationalism among Indians (Pugsley, 2016, p. 398). Through his analysis, Pugsley does a fine job defining Bollywood, provides effective film examples to illustrate cine-geographic approaches used by Bollywood filmmakers, and does well in highlighting the geo-political differences within India. However, he falls short to give substantial evidence to support how Hindi cinema has helped increased film tourism in India in recent years.
Reinforcing National Pride Through Hindi Cinema: Development
In the first section of the chapter, Pugsley does an effective job in illustrating that Bollywood is a multifaceted industry that does more than merely portray emotions in a melodramatic manner. Pugsley mentions that Bollywood not only contributes “billions of dollars” to the nation’s economy, but it also plays a huge role in influencing the “public psyche” (Pugsley, 2016, p. 399). Hence, he states that filmmakers can use Bollywood as an “unofficial” (Pugsley, 2016, p. 399) tool to transmit nationalism to the audience by showcasing both urban and rural locations of India through their films. Moreover, Pugsley emphasizes that Bollywood has been useful in exposing Indians to different cine-geographies. For instance, he illustrates that as the socioeconomic standards improved in India during the 1990s, people developed an interest in travelling abroad. Hence, Bollywood films gratified that interest by showing narrative based on the “free-floating Non-resident Indian[s]” (Pugsley, 2016, p. 400) or NRIs who migrated to Western countries. However, Pugsley does not give concrete examples of Bollywood films that helped transmit strong ideological messages and had a significant impact on changing the perspective of audiences. He could have given examples on films prior to the 1990s to illustrate what ideological messages were being sent before the globalization of India.
Next, Pugsley illustrates that many Bollywood films use foreign locations not only to offer a visual allurement or an “escape” from the realities of a developing nation, but to spark national pride in the diasporic Indian audience. He writes about Yash Chopra, an influential filmmaker, who incorporated foreign locations to primarily improve the “glamour quotient” of his films (Pugsley, 2016, p.400). Later, Chopra started using foreign locations to create narratives around migration of Indians to other countries that appealed to both local and diasporic Indian audiences. In reference to Rini Mehta, Pugsley argues that DDLJ (1995) played a pivotal role in exploring conflicts between traditional and modern values and recognizing NRI protagonists as the best representation of Indians (Mehta, 2010, p.1). In addition, Pugsley mentions that seeing familiar locations in Bollywood films offers a sense of pride for diasporic Indian audiences. Pugsley states that when Chopra’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ 1995) released globally in 1995, it “exotically romanticised images of foreign locations” (Pugsley, 2016, p. 401). However, Pugsley fails to mention that Bollywood films also glamorize rural locations in India. For example, Yash Chopra’s DDLJ (1995), romanticises the rural mustard fields of India and sparks nostalgia and attraction for the diasporic Indians towards India (DDLJ, 1995). Furthermore, Pugsley indicates that films such as Delhi 6 (2009) used foreign cities to contrast between Indian cities creating a resemblance that illustrates India’s transformation into modernity (Pugsley, 2016, p.402). In contrast, Pugsley fails to mention that along with indicating the transformation of modernity, the film also focused on showcasing the traditions and cultures still present in Indian cities as they continue to become modern. For instance, it showcases traditional vehicles called rickshaws beside cars and Indian street food sold near fast food restaurants, (Delhi 6, 2009), illustrating the overlap between the modern Western lifestyle and the traditional Indian lifestyle. Additionally, Pugsley reveals that the fascination with the West is not only present in Hindi cinema, but also in other regional cinemas in India. However, he states the impressive imagery of these western locations is also available in the local areas of India. Pugsley’s research on the geographical landscapes of India is done well and he has effectively identified what foreign locations resemble India’s regional locations. For instance, he states that the mountainous regions of the north can be used as replacements for the Swiss Alps, creating the same foreign experience with reduced shooting costs (Pugsley, 2016, p. 402).
Moving on, Pugsley states that recently there has been a shift where many filmmakers are using Indian locations as a setting for their stories, which helps satisfy a geopolitical idea to generate national pride for Indians. Pugsley says this shift to India became more noticeable after the Indian currency weakened, however he does not provide any statistical evidence to illustrate the return to shooting in India was merely on the decreased value of the rupee. Moreover, Pugsley uses Chennai Express (2013) as an example of a recent Bollywood film that features the experience of a North Indian protagonist surrounded in South India, a region that is unfamiliar to him in terms of culture, language and traditions. In contrast, Pugsley lacks to focus on how Chennai Express (2013) generates nationalism among Indians by creating unity among North and South Indians as it focuses more on similarities, instead of differences between people living in different regions (Chennai Express, 2013). Furthermore, Pugsley does well in representing Mumbai as the modern city of India where filmmakers can shoot films, like Inkaar (2013) and Kaanchi: The Unbreakable (2014), to illustrate cosmopolitan stories revealing the “promises” and “ills” of an urbanized city that challenge the long held Indian traditional values (Pugsley, 2016, p. 402).
Furthermore, Pugsley illustrates the geo-cultural differences that exist within rural areas of India. For example, he states that rural India has been illustrated in two contexts in Bollywood. The first context is featured in films like Kaanchi: The Unbreakable (2014), where rural areas are shown to be clean and villagers are innocent and patriotic (Pugsley, 2016, 403). The second context is featured in films like Gulaab Gang (2014) that depicts unpleasant landscapes and shows a patriarchal society encompassing gender differences, which still exists in some rural areas of India (Pugsley, 2016, 403).
Moving on, Pugsley states that in recent times, Bollywood filmmakers are creating stories like 2 States (2014) that illustrate mobility of people within India, which contrasts with films like DDLG (1995) that illustrated mobility of Indians to foreign countries. Pugsley argues that technological developments in India have enabled this kind of movement within different states of the country. However, Pugsley does not elucidate how this mobility can help create a sense of unity or nationalism among the Indians. Instead, Pugsley highlights that 2 States (2014) focuses on the lack of acceptance between people from different states in India.
Lastly, Pugsley focuses on how the “Indian government wants to capitalize on the increased interest in heritage, culture and environmental consciousness in the recent years” (Pugsley, 2016, p. 405) by pushing Indian filmmakers to show local tourist destinations in their films to improve tourism to those regions. In reference to Martin Jones, Pugsley notes that Bollywood films have contributed significantly to the tourism industry in Scotland by showing its local destinations in their movies (Jones, 2006). Although shooting films at home reduces the production costs and enhances investment in India, Pugsley fails to demonstrate if there was in fact an increase of tourism to places captured in movies such as Chennai Express (2013) that showed the natural beauty of Tamil Nadu.
Lastly, Pugsley concludes by stating that reduced shooting costs at home is not a strong enough incentive to prevent Hindi filmmakers from filming in foreign locations. Shooting films in foreign locations will continue to occur as India grows on a global level and production houses from different countries collaborate with Bollywood filmmakers to make content that is attractive for a global audience (Pugsley, 2016, p.407)
Overall, Pugsley explores the significance of cine-geographic approaches in Bollywood films and that it is not only used for aesthetic, but also to capture socioeconomic and political images of India. In addition, he argues that Bollywood is an instrumental medium in showcasing Indian landscapes to reinforce a sense of pride among the Indians, help improve investments and tourism to India in the long run. He further effectively explains the use of foreign locations in Bollywood films and the increased tourism gained by foreign countries through these on-screen portrayals. In addition, he demonstrates strong knowledge on the geographical differences within India and provides excellent film examples to highlight these differences. To conclude, Pugsley does well in his explanation of Bollywood and Indian nationalism and provides reasonable examples to support his argument, however he fails to effectively showcase evidence of increased tourism in India due to these cine-geographic approaches.
(1) Pugsley, P. (2016). "Nationalist Geopolitics and Film Tourism In India’s Hindi Cinema," In Y. Tzioumakis, & C. Molloy (Eds.), Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics. (pp. 398-407). Routledge.
(2) Mehta, R. B. (2010) “Bollywood, Nation, Globalization: An Incomplete Introduction” in Mehta, R. B. and Pandharipande, R. V. (eds) Bollywood and Globalization: Indian Popular Cinema, Nation, and Diaspora , London: Anthem Press, (pp. 1–14).
(3) Martin-Jones, D. (2006) “Kabhi India Kabhie Scotland: Recent Indian Films Shot on Location in Scotland”, South Asian Popular Culture 4:1, (pp. 49–60).
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(7) Johar, K, (Producer), & Varman, A. (Director). (2014). 2 States [Motion Picture]. India: Dharma Productions
(8) Sinha, A, (Producer), & Sen, S. (Director). (2014). Gulaab Gang [Motion Picture]. India: Alumbra Entertainment