This book intends to take the subject of sociology to the movies. More specifically, it is an attempt at rejuvenating a dormant dialogue within sociology about grasping the possible relationship between cinema, culture and society through an interdisciplinary conversation with studies of the cinema from Film and media, and cultural studies of the cinema from film and media, and cultural studies. An ambitious cross-disciplinary undertaking no less, but nothing ventured nothing gained. The case study for elaboration and analysis is Bollywood-the popular Hindi cinema from Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India.
From the outset I want to be clear, I am less interested in oaring a systematic and exhaustive interpretation of Bollywood cinema through the canon of founding figures of the discipline and their classical sociological theories and methods alone. This would only lead to a reductive registering of the cinema through a list of 'he said, he said' (the founding figures of sociology are often referred to as the founding fathers), which might usefully prove or disprove further, certain aspects of traditional sociology as it is put to use in the analysis of a popular cinema such as Bollywood. Rather, I am more concerned with resurrecting and extending an exciting aspect of sociological analysis and discussion that has been largely let undeveloped, that of the study of cinema and its possible relationship in culture and society. In order to reignite that debate I choose to leave aside the founding figures as tenets of the discipline, i.e., to be followed strictly, and turn instead to the creative possibility within sociology that fosters a desire to grasp with the modern social world through the application of its imagination; specifically, a sociological imagination applied to Bollywood cinema.
In the pages that follow that sociological imagination is indebted to C. Wright Mills, and is elaborated on further through a dialogue between Norman Denzin's sociology of cinema (who engages with Mill's sociological imagination), and the work of Indian and other scholars of popular Hindi cinema. The sociological imagination that is taken up and developed in this book is one that is concerned with the private and public issues of the day, writ large through the silver screen and popular cultures of Bollywood cinema. The sociological imagination as it is put to use here also engages with cinema and its related popular cultures qualitatively in order to decipher aspects of culture and social change in and around Bollywood cinema in the contemporary moment. Sociology Goes to the Movies, then, is an exploration of some of the dynamics, possibilities and tensions inherent in the workings of cinema as a global industry, films as popular cultural texts, and the relationships that are possible between cinema and its audiences. It is argued that this is a possible and necessary undertaking for sociology in conjunction and in dialogue with theoretical and analytical frame-works from film, media and cultural studies. What emerges then is a dialogic engagement with different yet related spheres of intellectual modes of enquiry that do not pretend to create a single, linear or uniform sociological understanding of cinema and instead work by illustrating the intersections where sociology, film, media and cultural studies can be usefully put to work together.
As a starting point, in researching and writing about Bollywood cinema in 2005 I am pleased that it appears to have arrived on the international stage, that it is almost recognised as a prolific and important world cinema. At the beginning o the new millennium Bollywood cinema's exposure became noticeably international. For example, the annual International Indian Film Awards (IIFA) were held in London at the Millennium Dome in 2000. The international press coverage and film industry media were discussing Bollywood cinema's potential as a viable alternative to Hollywood. Building on this momentum the Bollywood film Lagaan (dir. Ashutosh gowariker, 2001) was entered in the Best foreign film category at the Oscars, the film Devdas (dir Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2002) was featured at the Cannes Film Festival, and Bollywood films began to regularly appear in the UK Top 10 and in the US Top 20 box-office listings ahead of many big budget Hollywood blockbusters. In 2002 the British Film Institute (BFI), London, launched its Imagine Asia series with films from the South Asian Subcontinent in which the screening of its Bollywood films proved very popular. From the US and Canada respectively, Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding (2002) and Deepa Mehta's Bollywood/Hollywood (2000) brought together the aesthetics of Bollywood and Hollywood cinema together for crossover audiences. Bollywood references were also prevalent in mainstream Hollywood films such as Moulin Rouge (dir. Baz Luhrman, 2001). The fascination for all things Bollywood seeped into mainstream Western music, theatre, fashion, television and the high street department stores of the West (see Chapter 5). Channel 4 in Britain aired the programme Bollywood Star during the summer months of 2004, shortlisting six British Asian finalists from the hundreds who had entered and auditioned. The competition allowed the winner a role in one of Bollywood veteran Mahesh Bhatt's forthcoming films. Much to the surprise of the programme's audiences the winner was not a stereotypically slim or pretty girl or a handsome boy, but a large woman from Birmingham, England-Rupak Mann. Towards the close of 2004 Gurinder Chadha remade Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice for the screen as Bride and Prejudice in Explicit Bollywood terms (see Chapter 6). And, on 26 March 2005, the non-terrestrial Zee Cinema Awards at global South Asian audiences held its Zee Cinema Awards at the Excel Arena in London's Docklands and broadcast this award ceremony throughout its television network. Perhaps this list of Bollywood cinema's arrival is fast growing.
Back of the Book
Engaging the discipline of sociology to study the phenomenon of Bollywood cinema, this book examines popular Hindi cinema as a global industry and its films as popular cultural texts. It also considers the relationships that are possible between cinema and its audiences. Though there have been theoretical accounts and textual readings of Bollywood films, this is the first book to study them from these combined perspectives.
This author approaches Bollywood cinema through an interdisciplinary conversation with studies of the cinema drawn from sociology, film, media and cultural studies. Replete with memorable examples and penetrating insights, this book
Provides a comprehensive theoretical and empirical engagement with Bollywood cinema and its audiences;
Examines the roles and representations of cultural icons in Bollywood films; and discusses the key trends in the Bollywood films; and discusses the key trends in the Bollywood film industry as it develops in the era of globalisation.
Providing a fresh and interdisciplinary understanding of the possible relationships between cinema and culture and society, this book will be welcomed by students, researchers and scholars of sociology, film, media and cultural studies as well as by the general reader interested in the study of popular Indian cinema.
Rajinder Kumar Dudrah is Lecturer in Screen Studies, University of Manchester, and was earlier Research Fellow in Sociology, University of Portsmouth.
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