BollyWood for the Trees
by Vamsee Juluri — University of San Francisco
March 12, 2007 – 10:00
Does America get it right when it looks at Indian cinema? This Simpsons episode shows detail (e.g. Kannada shop signs) and orientalist-“apocalyptic” fantasy (Homer going Marlon Brando)—but the punch-line here is the Hindi movie song. Fun dominates when the West glances at “Bollywood,” but is this trapped by an expectation of otherness? What “Bollywood” seems to suggest to the West is nothing more than a “form,” with the “content” remaining invisible. The Simpsons, Moulin Rouge, Shakira, even Bollywood-Hollywood, all seem to skim the surface, seeing a campy pastiche where there is deep postcolonial reality. Is the masala of Indian movies the same thing as the postmodern collages of Western media genres? Are Indian movies only going to be seen as totems of cultural difference, or can they ever be seen as statements about universal themes, the human condition, even? My key question: What does “Bollywood” mean as it enters global discourse?