Fair and lovely

Class, gender, and colorism in Bollywood song sequences

Authored by: Tejaswini Ganti

The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Gender

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138924956
eBook ISBN: 9781315684062
Adobe ISBN: 9781317408055


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What do the international pop or hip-hop stars Akon, Snoop Dogg, and Kylie Minogue have in common? They have all recently been featured on the soundtracks of prominent Hindi films, more commonly referred to as “Bollywood” films. The word “Bollywood,” derived by combining Bombay with Hollywood, has become the dominant global term to refer to the prolific and box-office oriented Hindi language film industry located in Bombay (renamed Mumbai in 1995). The Hindi film industry is aesthetically and culturally distinct from Hollywood, but as prolific and ubiquitous in its production and circulation of narratives and images. Perhaps the most iconic and distinguishing feature of popular Hindi cinema, when compared to other filmmaking traditions in the world, is the presence of songs sung by characters in nearly every film. Regardless of genre—from gangster films to war films, from murder mysteries to period films, from vendetta films to love stories—popular Indian films contain sequences where characters burst into song (often accompanied by dance) for a variety of reasons having to do with narrative, characterization, spectacle, or viewing pleasure. The near ubiquity of elaborately choreographed and lavishly produced song sequences has become the marker of Bollywood’s distinctiveness in the global media landscape, leading Gopal and Moorti to note in their introduction to Global Bollywood, “Frequently remarked upon by insiders and always remarkable to outsiders, song-dance occupies the constitutive limit of Bollywood cinema” (2008: 1).

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