Indian commercial cinema, often referred to as Bollywood, may be considered more than a national cinema because its transnational appeal encompasses a large and diverse audience, it is an undeniable global force. Bollywood’s affective aesthetics and narratives also differ significantly from the presumed ‘universal’ techniques and narratives of Hollywood. Salman Khan’s moves and the music of A.R. Rahman are proud proof that India doesn’t blindly mimic the trends of entertainment in the West. It literally dances to a different drummer.
In recent years, many films have exported an image of Indianness that negotiates tensions between homeland and diaspora and underscores India’s cultural authority for its imagined community of viewers. By challenging the conventions of Hollywood, creating a sense of solidarity among diverse ethnic Indians and showing Indians as exemplary and superior to nationals from other developing nations, Bollywood demonstrates Appadurai’s point that there is something ‘critical and new in global cultural processes’. By imagining a global India, Bollywood appeals to the imaginations of its transnational audiences and challenges us to rethink our approaches to cinema and the world that global media is constantly reinventing.
Indian origin American skater Ami Parekh brings Bollywood to ice, however, she is not alone. After sweeping the US title, Meryl Davis and Charlie White head for the Winter Olympics to display their moves. The pair blended classic Bollywood dance steps with athletic fluidity, combining the rich palette of colors of Indian movies with innovative lifts and speed. The result was pure cross-cultural magic on ice. As Meryl Davis and Charlie White grooved to ‘Kajra re’ from Bunty Aur Babli and scores from Devdas, sweeping the ice dance title at the US Figure Skating Championships over the weekend, it was as much a tribute to the tenacity of the duo as a homage to Bollywood. Coach Marina Zoueva said she wanted something that would make Davis and White stand out. She was inspired by, of all things, the pattern of a multi-coloured Hermes scarf of Indian dancers, to turn to Bollywood.
As in the entertainment business across the world, it is hard to predict what the next big thing will be for Indians at home and abroad. One thing is certain though, it won’t come from Hollywood.