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Bollywood’s London: the moral-political undertow of London’s Hindi cinema presence

Banaji, Shakuntala ORCID: 0000-0002-9233-247X and Masrani, Rahoul (2023) Bollywood’s London: the moral-political undertow of London’s Hindi cinema presence. In: Wagner, Keith B. and Lack, Roland-François, (eds.) Global London on Screen: Visitors, Cosmopolitans and Migratory Cinematic Visions of a Superdiverse City. Manchester University Press, Manchester, UK, 107 - 123. ISBN 9781526157560

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Identification Number: 10.7765/9781526157577.00014


From the now famous culture-clash blockbuster Purab aur Paschim (East and West, 1970) that pits supposedly real and patriotic Indians against the deracinated diaspora, London has appeared in hundreds of Hindi films. This chapter examines how sometimes London is filmed sparsely and with such banality that it is a meaningless and cliched backdrop of consumption and romance (as in the Camden sequences of Mujse Dosti Karoge? which could be set in any city), but with increasing frequency as a metaphor which epitomises the tensions of secular, globalised modernity, longing for home, and identity, for those in the diaspora. In the wake of Aditya Chopra’s phenomenally successful Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (The One with the Heart Will Win the Bride, 2001), this chapter notes a significant change that began to take place in Hindi films set in London, with the city playing an ambivalent role as a semiotic marker of personal choice, anonymity and modernity which ultimately sours and leaves the protagonists longing to return to their roots, their homeland and their traditions. At the heart of these films (including Namastey London and Patiala House) lies a desire to attract viewers to London only in order to reject its supposedly ephemeral allure. This chapter asserts that most of the plots end by putting London in its place – a place which is fun to shop in, to walk through, but which has no heart; they end with a re-entrenchment of essentialised Indian characteristics. London’s complex material identity as the former capital of the British empire and now an important global financial centre, in both Bollywood and English-language films, is often reduced to a screen identity centred upon global consumption in late capitalism.

Item Type: Book Section
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 18 Dec 2023 15:30
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 06:01

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