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Understanding The Asymmetric Nation


Sagorika Singha

THE POLITICS OF HINDI CINEMA OF THE NEW MILLENNIUM: BOLLYWOOD AND THE ANGLOPHONE INDIAN NATION
By M.K. Raghavendra
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 264, Rs. 895.00

VOLUME XXXIX NUMBER 2 February 2015

When M.K. Raghavendra declares in his recent book The Politics of Hindi Cinema of the New Millenium: Bollywood and the Anglophone Indian Nation that ‘Bollywood is not mainstream Indian cinema’, he ruffles quite a few feathers. This book by the Bangalore-based author can in many ways be seen as a natural extension of his previous book, Seduced by the Familiar: Narration and Meaning in Indian  Popular Cinema, where he had interpretatively looked at the films from 1947 until the start of the new millennium and in this book he starts from where he left off. This time he tries to understand the politics of practice and the resultant emergence of the ‘asymmetric nation’ in the films of the post-globalization age. He reasons how this change can be corroborated by the growing  authority of the ‘Anglophone’ public. By ‘Anglophone’ he indicates the section of privileged, English-speaking, urban classes whose  increasing numbers in real life lead to a corresponding increase in their representation in the popular Hindi films of the new millennium.  In Raghavendra’s new book, the underlying sentiment is the erosion of many facets of the Hindi ‘national’ cinema from the popular films of the 21st century as compared to their predecessors. Through the book, he analyses numerous popular films of this period and studies the correlation between a changing nation and its evolving films which reflect that change through their political rhetoric. In order to do so, he divides the book into fifteen chapters each dealing with one specific theme and the set of problems they promulgate. The themes range in diversity from the adulterous women in films like Jism (2003) and Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (2006) to agrarian issues in films like Peepli (Live) (2010). Some of the problems that he identifies through other films which are included in his book such as Rang De Basanti (2006), Bunty Aur Babli (2005) and Lage Raho Munna Bhai (2006) are the gradual weakening of the inclusive community, the increasing aspirations to enterprise and the acceptance of illegalities in the face of personal gain.  Raghavendra’s primary concern, which he announces in his introduction when he says that ‘. . . cinema shows us new ways in which political issues can be understood’, is the impression the politics of the new millennium had on the Bollywood films post 2001. He intentionally refuses to take recourse to a theory-laden approach to this phenomenon and prefers to focus only on political interpretations of ...


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