Naya Daur And Mehboob's Mother India
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While Hindi films have been an integral part of the Indian diasporic experience, their popularity in many parts of the world without an Indian audience, as Larkin observed more than a decade ago, is an intriguing phenomenon. Some would struggle to read newspapers in the cramped space, papers half-open or awkwardly folded so as not to accidentally elbow their neighbour while attempting to turn a page. She points out that while South Asians watched films seated within a fenced enclosure, Africans would view them from outside without being able to hear the dialogues. However, other memories, such as those of a Canadian academic of Ghanaian origin, reconstruct regular theatrical screenings of Hindi films in Ghana until the 1970s where he confessed to have watched Ramesh Sippy’s Sholay (1975) after bunking school. A ‘twice-migrant’ Indian from Africa to New York recalls having watched Raj Kapoor’s Mera Naam Joker 13 times in an open air theatre in Tanzania in the seventies. Despite the long history of Hindi cinematic flows to Africa, the researcher is forced to depend on anecdotal evidence to testify to the popularity of Hindi films in Africa.
This paper draws on these ethnographic studies to locate the global flows of Hindi cinema in these pre-global narratives of mobility to predate the history of globalization in Indian oceanic circulations, colonial migrations and post-colonial exchanges under the rubric of internationalization. Studies by Manas Ray and Vijay Mishra on the popularity of Hindi cinema in Fiji, and by Vijay Devadas in Malaysia, have uncovered an older history of Bollywood’s exhibition in Indian diasporic settlements and the incorporation of Bollywood images into Hindu epic narratives of Mahabharata and Ramayana on which diasporic desire converged in producing nostalgic myths of returns. Vijay Devadas’s new work focuses on the forms of sociality that Bollywood texts perform in places of settlement through case studies from South-east Asia. This undocumented history of Hindi cinema’s popularity in both Anglophone and Francophone Africa was performed in a party at an autumn school on “Cultural Production and Conflict Mediation” organized by the African Studies Centre at the University of Bayreuth in October 1999 where creative persons from different African regions had congregated.
Manas Ray’s thesis in his pathbreaking essay on the centrality of Hindi cinematic texts to the production of diasporic Indian identities in Fiji is corroborated by Vijay Mishra in his book Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire. THE global flows of Hindi popular cinema, christened Bollywood by the global media, have largely been located within the cultures of circulation that dominate the contemporary global process. He shows how the historical spaces of South Asia and East, East Central and Southeast Africa were intimately connected through the cultural logics of cloth consumption and the circulation of networks of South Asian merchants. More recent studies by Haseenah Ebrahim on South Africa confine themselves to Bollywood’s circulation in the new global process However, new findings by Gwenda vander Steene in Senegal decouple Hindi cinema’s pre-global circulation from diasporic settlement by examining cultural practices centred on Hindi cinematic texts in regions without a South Asian diaspora. chale aana cover in 2008 by Machado and Rush which identify specific cultural practices that emerged out of the oceanic exchange should go a long way in resolving the riddle of the similarity in textile patterns, visual and the musical production of India and Africa. Until more work such as that of Rush and Machado becomes visible, the history of African Indian cultural contact during the Indian oceanic trade must remain incomplete.