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The Empire Sings Back: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Whimsy

  Namita Goswami

This essay recovers the devalued aesthetic dimension of the Bollywood film/song from its political over-determination as national allegory. The qualities attributed to the film/song, such as effeminacy, irrationality, fantasy, and non-synchronicity, which I term its postcolonial whimsy, and its surplus value as the Bollywood film’s most transnational component, allow for the free play of the imagination. This admits the possibility of another performative public culture and imagined community not premised on exploitation, calculability, and passive spectatorship and consumption. The film/song enables affect without literal linguistic comprehension, especially among those unfamiliar with the indigenous languages and musical traditions. What is derided as the sentimental aspect of Bollywood films and as its most embarrassing element is its whimsical aesthetic. The film/song as the film’s fanciful, hopeful, and dreamy core and its unmoored quality broaden the scope of its possible political meanings. The film/song dis/plays what is unsung in spite of being spectacular (inferior) excess: the dreams and aspirations are still possible in everyday life.

Key Terms
aesthetic dimension, Bollywood, Bride and Prejudice, diaspora, Gayatri Gopinath, globalization, Gurinder Chadha, Nandini Bhattacharya, postcolonial, transnational, whimsy

1. Postcolonial Whimsy

The predominant trend in postcolonial and cultural studies scholarship on Indian diasporic film production, including the rising popularity in the U.S. of one part of India’s film industry, Bollywood, is to focus on its political dimension. Bollywood cinema in the diaspora and diasporic Indian films are most often viewed as trans/national allegories of the Indian nation, even when this nation is re-territorialized in the diaspora. [1] Although scholars rightly critique the heteronormative, gender-, race-, religion-, class-, linguistic-, and caste-based means of crisis management and reconsolidation of a hegemonic and investment friendly (global and nuclear) Indian nation, [2] the neglect of Indian and diasporic Indian cinema’s aesthetic dimension [3] presents at least tacit approval that Bollywood and Bollywood-inspired films are aesthetically inferior in comparison with their namesake, Hollywood.

The comparison with Hollywood leads to the assumption that unlike Hollywood’s “realist aesthetic,” Bollywood cinema is melodrama defined as “excess” or “feminine emotion.” [4] The devaluation of the aesthetic conventions of Bollywood cinema lead to a “curious logic:” [5] cinema produced by arguably the world’s largest film industry and drawing a “global audience estimated at 3.6 billion annually, a billion more than Hollywood,” spread across the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, Latin America, [6] and the former Soviet Union, is “represented as a curious, unusual, and even marginal case,” although an “ironically popular, highly commercial form of ‘third world’ cinema.” [7] Even though (dubbed) Hollywood films have failed to garner a firm foothold in the Indian market [8] and Bollywood and Bollywood-inspired diasporic films are the most profitable of all “foreign” films in the U.S., [9] Bollywood is most often considered to be a “curiously commercialized folk ritual produced for naïve and overly emotional spectators.” [10]

This naïveté and emotionalism apparently stem from Bollywood cinema’s most distinctive and unique feature: the film/song. Indeed, “No other cinema in the world ha[s] this peculiar characteristic.” [11] A typical blockbuster has on average five or six picturized songs. Most often compared with the Hollywood musical, [12] the songs in a masala film [13] “risk narrative logic” and interrupt “coherence” through nondiegetic “spectacle.” [14] This comparison presupposes the aesthetic superiority and hegemony of Hollywood and considers the film/song to be a spectacle rather than an imaginative dis/play constituting its aesthetic function. [15]

The devaluation of the aesthetic dimension leads to a misapprehension of aesthetic conventions. For example, the visual is in fact a “visual elaboration” [16] or picturizing of the aural and is not the primary aspect of the film/song. The film/song’s significance lies beyond the film’s narrative, [17] and uses “pleasurable conventions” that stem from the predominant “felt ethics” [18] of Bombay cinema, but it is considered the “sentimental core” of popular culture and an “embarrassing element” because of which Bollywood cannot gain global appreciation. [19]

Gayatri Gopinath and Nandini Bhattacharya rehabilitate the film/song by focusing on its political dimension. As a “place of fantasy and excess,” [20] the film/song, according to Gopinath, provides spectatorial and performative agency to disrupt hegemonic national imaginaries. Bollywood, according to Bhattacharya, allows diasporic women to “negotiate … nation, exile, and cultural production” because they have the primary responsibility of cultural transmission and reproduction. [21] Watching Bollywood cinema is a “basement cinephilia,” a secretive spectatorship that is neither in public nor in private. The basement is the site of women’s further retrenchment into invisibility even as Bollywood serves the political function of paradoxically consolidating diasporic Indian identity through the experience of (private) pleasure. [22] Gopinath further addresses the film/song as a “peculiarly queer form” because of its extra-logical/sequential/temporal character, and as a “specifically queer diasporic form” because it challenges the mutually reinforcing compulsory heterosexuality of the Indian nation and its diaspora. [23] Although I do not disagree, I argue that Bhattacharya and Gopinath devalue aesthetic qualities in the very act of gleaning their political value. Political value, in other words, stems directly from aesthetic devaluation.

Because of this tacit acceptance of inferiority, Gopinath and Bhattacharya also succumb to an implicit nationalism because they limit the affective and af/filiative capabilities of Bollywood cinema to an already constituted “Indian” community (diasporic or otherwise) in the throes of anxious reconstitution. Gopinath privileges visibility and audibility for diasporic queers through the film/song because she accepts it as interrupting narrative coherence, which she conflates with heteronormative nationalism. Bhattacharya emphasizes the use of Bollywood to mediate loneliness and homesickness, which reinforces notions of stoic self-sacrifice and shame rather than a sense of agency. [24] Neither Gopinath nor Bhattacharya, however, examine the film/song aesthetically.

Although Bollywood’s role is critical in the consolidation of “India” and its mutually reinforcing diaspora [25] as a global cultural commodity [26] by reducing Bollywood to the “site/sight” [27] of identity politics, Gopinath and Bhattacharya render Bollywood cinema and film/song as national allegory. [28] The film/song is recuperated as a narrative within the nationalist (logical) narrative whose political burden delimits meaning. In spite of the “unmoored quality” of the film/song in the film’s narrative and as the “most transnational” part of the film, [29] attested to by its increasing popularity in mainstream U.S. consumer culture, the film/song no longer has an aesthetic dimension symbolizing freedom but is an aesthetic object that is calculable.

The overdetermined nationalism and national overdetermination in the analysis of Bollywood films, even as they are derided as naïve and emotional in comparison with the “realism” of Hollywood, assumes the synonymy of modernity and postmodernity with national crisis management because aesthetic production is equated with the narration of national identity, which subsumes real conflicts and heterogeneous fractured constituencies within transparent accessible narratives that are simply reconstituted anew. Emphasis on identity politics, in other words “bottom-line national origin validation,” [30] privileges assimilation-based U.S. multiculturalism premised on a coherent national narrative. Migrants carry this coherent national identity embedded within them in the diaspora where it substitutes for “culture.” Indian culture becomes conflated with Indian national identity. Migrants become complicit, therefore, in preserving the exclusions inherent within a seemingly coherent identity, even as they seek recognition in the diaspora on the basis of their difference from the dominant culture of their adopted nation.

The diasporic re-coding of nation as cultural identity elides the impossibility of maintaining national boundaries and domestic protection of fragile industries, bio-diversity, and the environment as the postcolonial condition. Nation-as-culture not only disavows that diasporic migrancy for class advancement is made possible by and aids neo/imperialism but also recodes aspirational class advancement as victimized minority status. [31] For example, conventional analyses cast the popularity of Bollywood for India’s poverty-stricken as escapism or titillation for ostensibly sexually-repressed masses of males succumbing to and indiscriminately spreading A.I.D.S. [32] This approach neglects the aesthetic dimension and the uniqueness of the film/song and reinforces notions of pathological Indian masculinity and concomitant inadequacy of the Indian nation, which is represented allegorically in its inferior cultural productions.

Such analysis, moreover, cannot examine how Hollywood functions as national allegory for crisis management and reconstitution of the U.S. [33] The derogatory aesthetic qualities attributed to Bollywood, incomprehensible, fantastic, dreamy, effeminate, illogical, escapist, irrational, adolescent, indulgent, reinforce the idea of Hollywood cinema as the obverse. This understanding of Hollywood reinforces the U.S. as “finished,” unlike the “undeveloped” Indian nation. Hollywood’s function as national allegory subsumes heterogeneous fractured communities within transparent cohesive narratives and overlooks diasporic interventions and transformations, an analysis that the success of Bollywood and Bollywood-inspired films worldwide underscores. For example, on January 27, 2006 the NBC soap opera Passions created a Bollywood picturized song sequence to represent a love triangle between its three primary protagonists. Similarly, on November 2, 2006 the NBC show The Office had an episode featuring the Hindu festival Diwali, which also included Bollywood-style singing and dancing. Fox Broadcasting Company’s popular show The Simpsons had an episode (April 9, 2006) on outsourcing entitled “Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore” that ends with a popular Bollywood song about “false love” (a metaphor for outsourced jobs having none of the benefits enjoyed by U.S. workers). All the characters join in the film/song, especially Mr. Burns, who, pace Gopinath, is in his element as, of course, is Smithers.

The public culture of the diasporic nation, therefore, when acknowledged to be just as porous and fluid as the public culture of the Indian nation, allows for the examination of globalization in “a truly ‘global’ context” [34] because the Bollywood film/song renders the U.S. a local site of negotiation. This localization disrupts the over-determined nationalism and national over-determination of U.S. public culture in spite of its status as the hegemonic cultural form of self-expression and memory. [35] If the film/song, as Gopinath argues, is a “discursive space where debates around high and low art, and authenticity and inauthenticity [are] staged,” [36] then reducing Bollywood cinema and the film/song to its utility for the masses in “India” and for the classes in the “diaspora” [37] reinforces a development-based logic and neglects the aesthetic dimension.

This essay recovers the devalued aesthetic dimension of the Bollywood film/song from its political over-determination as national allegory. The qualities attributed to the film/song, such as effeminacy, irrationality, fantasy, and non-synchronicity, which I term its postcolonial whimsy, and its surplus value as the Bollywood film’s most transnational component, allow for the free play of the imagination. This admits the possibility of another performative public culture and imagined community not premised on the exploitation, calculability, and passive spectatorship and consumption that create “unisonance.” [38] The ability of the film/song to put the beat down there, as Jerry Garcia said apocryphally, where even white people could find, it enables affect without literal linguistic comprehension, especially among those unfamiliar with the indigenous languages and musical traditions.

What is derided as the sentimental aspect of Bollywood films and as its most embarrassing element is its whimsical aesthetic. The film/song as the film’s fanciful, hopeful, and dreamy core and its unmoored quality broadens the scope of its possible political meanings. The film/song dis/plays what is unsung in spite of being spectacular (inferior) excess: the dreams and aspirations still possible in everyday life. The film/song’s whimsy emerges from its constitutive hybridity, which predates trans/nationalism and globalization, [39] from its constitutive structures, and from its everyday role as public din rather than as exceptional flight from the survivalist concerns presumed to be the sole lot of the anonymous, collective “third world.” Postcolonial whimsy emphasizes, instead, that local negotiations of grand narratives, such as nationalism and postmodernism, by the dreams, hopes, and aspirations of daily life take place, most often, behind the scenes.

2. Han Dil Hai—Dil Aakhri Had Hai [40]

An historical analysis of Bollywood cinema, which developed its film/song because of the British ban on political films during World War II [41] and its long-standing indigenous musical traditions, [42] is beyond this essay’s scope. I hope to provide in this section a sense of the centrality of melody to the film/song’s whimsy as visualized in the film and of the aesthetic conventions of this picturization or embodiment. This essay, furthermore, does not prioritize Bollywood and the film/song against the stellar production of non-Hindi-language and non-mainstream cinema, especially South Indian cinema, and diverse musical and dramaturgical traditions. [43]

Conventional analyses of spectacle assume that the film/song interrupts logical narrative because the songs are “not motivated generically.” This actually gets things “backwards.” [44] As Lata Mangeshkar, India’s predominant female playback singer attests, “Cinema is an excuse for music.” [45] Songs are composed before shooting. Film directors provide the music directors (the film composer) with necessary information about the “story, the characters and dramatic situation, the visuals (locations, cinematography), action and timing.” [46] Hollywood advertises a film through previews, background music, and merchandise, while Bollywood previews films by releasing the soundtrack at least a month early.

Film/songs are the “first marketing move” and provide a unique “audio advertising ‘jingle.’” Prior to the premier, the film is publicized through “cuts” of the primary film/song that are aired as a kind of “music video.” [47] The film/songs, in fact, are often more profitable and are played in “school assemblies, festivals, weddings, dance clubs, markets.” [48] Often the film’s title is a segment of the refrain of the primary theme song. [49] The film/song becomes a part of “collective memory” and the audience is already familiar with the lyrics and tune before viewing the film/song’s visualization. Temporal priority gives the film/songs life “outside” the “accompanying” narrative.” [50] They are advertised on All India Radio (A.I.R.) and the commercial market to instill curiosity. [51] If the soundtrack fails to catch on, then the film is likely to fail regardless of the stars. [52]

The visualization of the song must capture its “lyricism,” which “affirms the life force” [53] and the lyricist must “ensure” visual and musical success. [54] The songs capture central themes, [55] underscore the characters’ feelings, [56] and provide a “mirror” of “life and the fantasy that grew out of it.” [57] Unlike Hollywood musicals, where the song forwards the plot or reveals character traits of the singer/protagonist, the film/song can “musically confirm” the visual state of characters’ “hearts and minds” and visually express what is in the “hearts of the protagonists.” [58]

This play between the aural and the visual, and the visible and the invisible, create felt contact [59] between film/song and audience. This felt contact, for Partha Chatterjee, is the film/song’s “subterranean messages” as a “simple desire to caress the moon” by “idealist seekers looked upon as a fool by most of the world,” [60] which remains caught within calculable, exploitative, and non-affective realism. The film/song, however, also contains the “message” and the director’s “true intentions.”

The director conveys the “elegance, sophistication and artistic integrity” of his or her work through the film/song. Song visualization creates “a film within a film” as a “testimony” to the director’s “artistic credo.” [61] As the film’s “most expressive single element,” [62] it allows a film to “come alive memorably” through “lilting melodies,” which represent “abiding human values.” [63]

If music is a “culture-specific semiological system,” [64] as Anna Morcom emphasizes, then the film/song’s melody is critical to its whimsical ethos. [65] Conventional approaches to the film/song, however, focus on its ostensibly identifiable “Western” elements to demonstrate inherent derivativeness and do not notice the irreducible role of melody, which is constituted by structural, visual, and aural elements. The inability to record lengthy sequences because of the availability of only the 78 r.p.m. record led to the 3 ½ minute song “neatly cut into 3 stanzas along with the opening ‘mukhra’, the catch words,” which are “neatly interspersed with musical interludes.” [66] This balanced structure extends to visualization, since there is rarely a character that expresses exclusively negative emotion such as “fury, revenge, terror, horror,” which is left to the instrumental rather than vocal melody. Melody is value-coded and, therefore, the hero and the heroine primarily sing the songs because they are “most associated with goodness and upholding the moral universe.” The villains “do not sing at all.” [67]

The film/song incorporates North Indian classical and folk melodies and uses the sitar, table, harmonium, sarod, the Indian flute, and sometimes the Western violin, [68] all of them “high, lilting melodic instruments.” [69] The centrality of melody has led to a unique manner of singing called ‘crooning,’ [70] especially for romance. Morcom states, “In classical music, rāga itself embodies melody. Folk music, such as wedding songs, seasonal songs and devotional songs, is also melody-based, as is film song, however Western or hybrid the tune.” [71]

Melody stems from the scale system of rāga, which is not amenable to “scenes of disturbance” and may only exceptionally express negative emotions and situations. [72] Rāga has an intimate identification with the bhakt movement of devotional music and poetry. Thus, if “rāga evokes the sacred and love,” then musical distancing from rāga elicits “disturbance, distortion, disruption or damage to that sacred.” [73] Morcom does not characterize this as a “Western” and “non-Western” conflict but casts the “distinction between rāga and the antithesis of rāga” as the “melodic and the unmelodic” [74] because the film/song is already constitutively hybrid. As music director Naushad asserts, the “ear of the Indian public [is] so tuned” that commercial films or film/songs require “ Western” music. [75]

Thus, the emphasis in aural pleasure is not on authenticity premised on identity-based distinctions of “Western” or “non-Western” but on the melodic and unmelodic which are also value-laden. In fact, coding music as “foreign” or “native” actively generates “narrative meaning,” such as what Brooks refers to as monopathic emotion, to constitute melodrama [76] because sound is used to create “stark and exaggerated … relatively unambiguous effects,” [77] rather than to establish identity-based difference. For example, the symphony orchestra, large ensembles, and the melodious “sound of massed strings,” which signify romantic sentiments, are common but not morally coded as “Western,” i.e., threatening to Indian values. [78] The “symphony orchestra and choruses for big-canvas, epic sound are also common to both traditions, as is the use of the bluesy saxophone music for ‘bad’ women.” [79]

Similarly, Bollywood’s “musical vocabulary” [80] uses the “Western” whole-tone scale for the “effect” [81] of “discomfort or disturbance;” its alien quality creates “unpleasant associations” because it can “upset tonality or cause tonal ambiguity.” [82] The whole-tone scale is not used in North Indian classically based songs for romantic, celebratory, or devotional scenes. [83] Morcom contrasts the twelve swarasthans of Carnatic classical music (South Indian) with the chromatic scale of “Western” music because “notes … are not laid out in theoretical works as a chromatic scale, but as the seven notes and their flattened and sharpened variants. The chromatic scale appears in no raga and in no common technical exercise either.” [84] Morcom emphasizes, therefore, that “chromaticism, the whole-tone scale, diminished 7ths, tritones and unmelodic lines” evoke similar resonances in Bollywood and Hollywood because of “coincidental reference points or compatibilities in the logic of both musical systems.” The distinctions, however, in these “techniques” are not identity-based but are heard as “dissonances within the raga system or they generate discomfort by being outside the raga system or other forms of Indian melody altogether” [85] The emphasis on narrative, value coding, and affect through contrariness to “positively coded raga or melody” is not determined, therefore, by political, cultural, economic, and social opposition to “Western” encroachment. [86]

The film/song is aesthetically hybrid, therefore, rather than simply politically hybrid. Its structure includes a “predominant vocal melody, Indian vocal ornamentation, verse-refrain alternation, Indian and Western scale patterns and Western harmonies” and a “recognition of song in the context of film and society.”

The film/song may be divided into the “musical structure and vocal style,” i.e., its “fundamentally Indian elements” and “scale patterns, rhythms and instruments” according to which songs are differentiated and which comprise diverse foreign and indigenous musical influences. As Allison Arnold notes, the “foreign” components are more discernible than the Indian ones, which are “assimilated into a fixed film-song format” and are usually “imitations, duplications or alterations” of influences whose “origins” are “insignificant” but their reconstellation is critical to popular success. [87] Reframing musical hybridity as long-standing “regional” musical traditions and challenging “Western” music as eo ipso “global fashions” or “cultural hegemony” [88] shifts the analysis from performative aesthetic experience (reduced to politics) to formative aesthetic uniqueness. [89]

Privileging site/sight by casting the film/song as the performance and reconstitution of politically constituted identities curiously silences the “third world,” in spite of its masses, and repeats trans/nationalism’s scopic politics. [90] The film director uses “telegraphic audio-visual signs” [91] to the visually and aurally engaged spectator. Although dance is central to visualization, especially as music-video, and draws on Western and indigenous dancing arts, [92] it has “never been integrated with the main story.” [93] The dance plus musical has not developed as a discrete genre. [94] The “primacy of the aural over the visual” [95] emerges from the “centrality of sung poetic text.” If the songs capture the imagination to evoke curiosity about its visualization, then the lyrics are critical to visual experience because lyrics (the mukhra at least) are often memorized. The film/songs are part of a unique and independent genre known as “filmi git,” or film songs (filmi being Indian-English, which adds a Hindi possessive to the English word film). The sung poetry, Taylor notes, “constitutes a textual knowledge within the community of film-viewers.”

This textual knowledge or “collective memory” is demonstrated on television game shows such as Sa Re Ga Ma, Antakshari and Star Yaar Kalakaar, where contestants must remember the lyrics and sing from this “ever-growing archive.” Significantly, studio audiences also sing “‘answer’ songs,” which cues those watching at home to “chime in.” [96] Antakshari, for example, is a game familiar to many who played it at family gatherings, weddings, on social occasions with friends, or on long journeys by car or train. It requires one to sing a mukhra that begins with the last letter of the mukhra of the song sung by the opposing party.

Advertising on huge billboards that litter the landscape at traffic-filled intersections and open-air markets is also a part of this textual knowledge and collective memory. Scenes from the advertised film are gaudily painted on the canvas, or the billboard shows actual stills from key moments. Although the billboards demonstrate Bollywood film’s important role for “formations of visuality” through their “intervisual relationships” with other popular public media such as postcards, posters, and calendars, [97] Taylor asserts that spectacular excess also instigates the memory of the corresponding song. [98] The song, therefore, is larger than life because it is heard even when not temporally present. The active participatory quality of the film/song, such that the viewer listens to what he or she is seeing on the billboard and sees what he or she is listening to on the radio, CD, or cassette, is central to its imaginative aesthetic. Textual knowledge (visual media and sung poetry) and collective memory connect the “modern experience of movie viewing to an imaginaire constructed from conventional South Asian poetic metaphors and themes” and creates a “poetics of sight and visual display” that “directly affects the meanings films generate for audiences.” This poetics, I argue, is whimsical because it represents a complex interplay between visual and aural pleasure. Even though visual pleasure depends on the aural pleasure of filmi git [99] they are in an imaginative rather than structural relation.


Another aspect of the aural pleasure of filmi git that is crucial to visual pleasure is the sung poetry. Traditionally, the sung poetry of the film/song derives from the Persianate poetic paradigm, as the “very first utterance in a Bollywood movie was in Urdu, the Persianate end of the Urdu-Hindustani-Hindi language spectrum.” In fact, Urdu had the furthest reach geographically and demographically in North India. [100] If visual and aural pleasure cannot be separated, and poetic lyrics are Persianate, [101] then the film/song’s aesthetic conventions do not challenge Hindu trans/national communalism through the political scripts un/seen at the site/sight of the visualized song. Such an approach presupposes that the visualized song is an inherently political form. This challenge is issued, instead, through its Persianate poetry and from the memory of the communal experience of viewing the film/song’s visualization or from the individual experience of anticipating/imagining visualization. The “replaying” of tunes creates a “public modernity based on the poetics of a film imaginary” [102] and challenges the “primacy of images and texts in the cultural transmission of ideas,” [103] which furthers the “petrified poetics of space.” [104]

Theoretically, the film/song’s unique aesthetic requires examination of film music as “not specifically bound to an image,” i.e., a “disembodied” or “non-visual song.” [105] This paradoxical aesthetic allows for their diffusion beyond the “parent films.” [106] The film/song is broadcast more rapidly than any other form of music and traverses borders unlike the majority through live shows of stars and playback singers as well as through cassettes, videos, CD’s and DVD’s. [107] The sheer volume of production and the availability of pirated copies [108] contribute to their popularity. “One-fifth of [Indian cinema’s] current annual production of approximately 750 films is made in Hindi, each film having an average of five to six songs.” [109] Chandarvarkar notes, “On an average, ten new film songs are written, composed, sung and recorded every day for 6 days a week, through the year. Another five a day are put on to a cassette or disc as non-film songs.” The profit-driven multi/national entertainment industry inculcates popular taste through public and behind-the-scenes campaigns. [110] The “war profiteer-turned-producer” and the “producer-distributor-exhibitor nexus” [111] insist on “one or two stars, six songs and three dances.” [112] This reliable formula is often bolstered by an additional picturized song “as a last minute ‘vitamin injection’” for “entertainment quality.” [113]

The film/song’s whimsy, however, does not emerge from marketable, calculable, and exportable entertainment value but from its peculiarly detached aesthetic quality as a non-visual song. Specific spectral associations do not over-determine the film/song’s dreams and the viewer/listener does not position him/herself as a politically correct spectator who looks at rather than sees and listens to the film/song. The fact that the film/song’s “sentiments” are not logically predicated on the “character” enables the seer/listener to enter its whimsy so that the primary pleasure-oriented concerns are with “how well a singer renders a song” and whether visualization captures sentiments, often those of the audience. [114] The emphasis on “visual enactment” displaces the “standardization” of establishing a “character type” through a “specific voice.”

Gopinath rightly focuses on the un/spoken that emerges at the film/song’s site/sight and is especially rich for recuperative political readings. For example, “body language, covered by the veil of a song, suggest[s] a display of affection, which [is] forbidden in public.” [115] These dramatic/visual conventions, which derive from Victorian moral codes, are not politically suggestive, although they are a paradoxical spectacular excess stemming from restraint. At their best they are part of the film/song’s poetry. Woodman Taylor examines the Persianate and bhakti origins of “penetrating gazes” between lovers, nazar and drishti, respectively. For example, the bhakti tradition creates a “female subject position” for the devotee and expresses romantically “religious sentiments,” such as separation and desire. [116] Within bhakti poetry, the female devotee articulates a longing for convening with “her Lord and lover.”

For Taylor, there are two forms of visuality. First, the “human gaze as conveyor of sexual desire was appropriated from Persianate /Urdu visuality.” Second, the Persianate nazar was “intensified” through “adding” the “force of drishti as it operates in … darshan … through the tactile qualities of drishti.” The affective consequences of the gaze are conveyed through sung poetry and choreographed dancing. The most intimate moment between lovers “gazing intensely at each other” is never portrayed in silence and such scenes span from extreme close-ups of the eyes of the lovers to beautiful landscapes. [117] The film/song’s whimsy represents love (perhaps the most whimsical of emotions) through an aesthetic where the pleasure of two lovers is both seen and heard in its fantastic cartography. The sung poetry influences audience responses to visualization (perhaps hoping for a similar experience), as Taylor emphasizes. This different expression of sexuality beyond literal touch is part of the film/song’s “utopian impulses.”

The film/songs are “free-floating signifiers,” [118] not because of their devalued aesthetic qualities but because their whimsy gestures to the behind-the-scenes aspect of the film: the dreams still possible in everyday life. The picturized song also relies quite literally on stargazing for its whimsical aesthetic. Specific songs are regularly associated with specific actors and actresses, such as Bollywood mega-star Aamir Khan’s arrival on the scene through the song “Papa kehete hain bada naam karega” in Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988). This is a film about a young college graduate dreaming of making a name for himself in the world of hearts (as one of Bollywood’s most enduring heart throbs he certainly is), while the sung poetry asks that we see through his eyes (nazar) and “Pehla nasha” in Joh Jita Wohi Sikander (1992). Both films (the author’s personal favorites) are about first love for a group of high school students (as Aamir Khan, a Muslim, continues to be for men and women across the globe). [119] The identification of the film/song with the film star also takes place because songs are “repackaged” and sold in what Sanjoy Majumdar terms a “chain of song sequences unified by theme, era, singer, music director, or actor” in addition to being dispersed through their “repeatability” beyond the cinema hall.

Many actors debut through the picturized song. Although there is obviously an element of the “spectacular” in the “star performance,” the picturized song also establishes the character of the artist, i.e., both the types of roles he or she will play and his or her “voice.” Majumdar separates the utopian and idealized aspect (cast as “impulses” rather than form) of star presence from the content of the song, and privileges, instead, the “formal construction of the scene” and the music’s “emotional appeal.” By rendering utopianism synonymous with the music’s emotional appeal (sans lyrics), including in a scene’s formal construction, Majumdar reduces utopia to joy (lyrics are excluded because they may be “tragic”), which is conflated with entertainment. While the song may evoke joy, neglecting the lyrics reduces the film/song’s aesthetic dimension to its “emotionality.” In other words, when describing the picturized song, Majumdar neglects the song altogether. She also considers this “emotionality” to stem from vaguely described “classical Indian performance theories,” which are apparently emotionally tracked even as theories and traditions. What Morcom describes as the melodic and the unmelodic, Majumdar reduces to “emotional appeal” for passive consumers.

Yet, without lyrics, how is a song set to music and the scene formally constructed? Why are affective responses limited to emotion without imaginative engagement? Majumdar also deploys the stereotypical distinction between diegetic/nondiegetic to further define the film/song’s utopianism. The narrative interruption of the picturized song, i.e., the “[adolescent] disregard for continuities of time and space,” leads not to imaginative possibilities spurred by free dis/play, but to the nuts and bolts of “change of location and costuming from one shot to the next” that simply lead to a “spectacle” in an “idealized setting” for which possibilities do not “really exist within the diegesis.” The spectacle not only interrupts the presumed realism of the narrative, emptying the film of its aesthetic dimension and rendering it a documentary text, but also is ideal and/or utopian only in so far as it interrupts this logical narrative through emotional appeal, somehow connected to the audience’s lived experiences because the film is apparently their transparent rendition. Majumdar neglects the diegetic nature of the film/song, which emerges from the sung poetry, and privileges realism by casting the location of the film/song’s utopianism as its “artificial geography” created by “editing.” In Majumdar’s analysis, there is nothing aesthetic about the film/song’s utopianism; the scene’s formal construction and music calculably and predictably generate (entertaining) emotion. [120]

In addition to sung poetry, voice is instrumental to the film/song’s whimsy. Although initially actors and actresses sang their own songs, music composer R.C Boral in 1935 used lip-synchronization or “playback singing.” The ability to record songs prior to shooting reduced production costs. [121] The song could be filmed “on location” without the need for the sets, personnel, orchestra, and singers. Because of the predominance of playback singing, lyrics became central, as did song composers, musicians, and playback singers who gained incredible financial success. [122] Majumdar rightly recognizes that the star-system in India draws on “two different star texts”—singer and actor. Film/songs are marketed based on either the “aural star” or the “visual star.” The fact that few singers dominate the playback singing industry demonstrates their change in “status” from un-credited “ghost voices.” [123] These two star texts create a unique “cinematic” or what I would term aesthetic “construct” where the “ideal voice” is matched with the “ideal body” to create a “composite star” who is the “visual-aural equivalent” of the aforementioned site/sight of the song’s “artificial geography.”

The playback singer and the actor have a “symbiotic relationship” because the singer’s “disembodied voice” acquires “visual presence” through the actor’s stage presence and through his or her bodily (sans voice) performance of the song. Concomitantly, the “figural gestures” of the actor gain an “aural dimension” because of the playback singer’s “borrowed voice.” Through this “ideal matching of marketable voice and visually alluring body,” the film/song aesthetic conceals the technology of playback singing in order to create the impression of “authenticity.” [124] Majumdar, therefore, theorizes an “aural conception of stardom.” Playback singers do not usually possess the traditional good looks and charisma associated with the Bollywood star and their “invisibility” constitutes their “stardom.” This “aural stardom” is dependent on public recognition of their voices, proliferation of personal and biographical details, and attribution of “moral and emotional traits” to the singing voices. Ascription of certain qualities influences the “voice-body construct” in the picturized song, which is “predicated upon the awareness, and even celebration, of the workings of technology.” [125]

The most notable female singer in Hindi cinema is Lata Mageshkar, whose voice has dominated playback singing for over four decades. As Pavitra Sundar emphasizes, Mangeshkar’s “high-pitched, unadorned singing” portrays “ideal Indian femininity” because of its “shrill, adolescent-girl falsetto” which confirms women’s “infantile status” and conflates the “purity of vocality” with “purity of character.” [126] The “ideological” problematic of the disparity between the “eroticized female body” on screen, in magazines, and in live shows and the “pure female voice” is resolved via the singing voice because of the conflation between “national identity” and “norms of femininity.” [127] In other words, maintaining proper femininity symbolizes proper maintenance of national boundaries so that impropriety is automatically coded as other or alien. Thus, a pure voice embodies “chastity, innocence, devotion, and self-sacrifice,” all characteristics of the “ideal heroine.”

Mangeshkar’s voice embodies a “desexualized vocal style” that does not have any “heaviness and nasality” that would connote “decadence, immodesty, and … Muslimness.” [128] By contrast, Mangeshkar’s sister, Asha Bhosle, sings with marked sensuality and is often the voice of the “vamp,” a stock foil, until the 1960’s, to the (authentically Indian) heroine. [129] Artists such as Ila Arun are never the voice of the heroine, even as the “virgin” and “vamp” dichotomy has been dis/placed onto diasporic Indian heroines, a fact not noted by Sundar, because of the “raw, earthy feel that … signals … rural India … [and] assertive female sexuality” such that difference becomes sexualized and this “voice stands for all the caste, class, and immoral connotations (if not the religious ones) that have been purged from Mangeshkar’s voice.” [130] According to Sundar, patriarchal discourses of nationalism place an undue burden on female voices to carry the “weight of morality, sexuality, and Indianness.” [131]

Female playback singers must negotiate these political burdens as they plan their careers and public personas because they are subject to the gendered scripts that govern public visibility and participation, unlike male playback singers. [132] Yet, Chatterjee emphasizes, the “heroine was in reality a more important person in Bombay films than the hero, despite the fact that the latter got paid more and hogged the best lines in the script and the marquee.” At their best, Hindi films did not cast the heroine as a “foil” to the hero. The female playback singer, therefore, had a very important function and “willed life into a film.” [133] In addition, certain conventions of filming women on screen came into being because of traumatic and devastating events in Indian history. The partition of India and Pakistan, for example, “brought about a need for chastity and purity in people’s lives,” which was also propagated and consolidated by the Arya Samaj whose members migrated to India from a now split Punjab. The partition was marked by unprecedented violence towards women often in the name of protecting their virtue. Films created the “myth of the screen heroine as a snow-white virgin” for a population that “lived through (and in many cases taken part in) the carnage … and needed all the hope in the world to face life again and seek expiation.” [134] These differing histories, therefore, demonstrate that filmi conventions just like filmi git do not necessary follow the political scripts that are often assumed to be allegorically found in them, even in an overdetermined script such as (Indian) gender norms (read: backward, atavistic).

Although the audience recognizes playback singing, Majumdar characterizes the viewing pleasure as “willful disavowal of technology” rather than imaginative engagement. Majumdar scolds the audience for celebrating technology (as an “undeveloped” nation, shouldn’t India celebrate technological advancements?) rather than the authentic voice and chastens the audience for “willfully disavowing” technology in order to experience the song as if it were sung by the authentic voice of the actor. Given the technology of playback singing and lip-synching, authenticity is established through the extra-cinematic “phenomena” of aural stardom. The “moral” issue of playback singing, i.e., “vocal substitution,” according to Majumdar, is “irrelevant when the dual star reference makes it equally a question of borrowing a body as of borrowing a voice.” [135] However, rather than foregrounding “authenticity,” playback singing as a technology encourages audience participation. The fact that the songs are lip-synched allows anyone to “sing” them and to imagine oneself stepping into that “role.” This recognition of the film/song’s intrinsically performative aspect allows one to take its unmoored trans/national quality seriously. Lip-synching is the imaginative possibility for freedom from calculability and exploitation (“rational” existence) and the hope for a world truly without boundaries, given the picturized song’s wondrous and often international locales.

As Peter Kvetko points out, film/songs are a public entity: they are loud and played in open-air markets, shops, streets, vans, taxis, and three-wheel scooters or “autos.” The voice is not singularly “heard” in public but thoroughly infuses it. The high pitch of the female vocalist also facilitates this infusion. [136] The “lure of the disembodied voice” [137] invites anyone through its melodic qualities to embody it. Voice is the interface between the visible and the invisible or the visual and the aural. The voice, moreover, remains the same and it is the body embodying it that changes, i.e., different people can sing, even if they cannot speak, in one voice. Pavitra Sundar iterates, “In the West, all music (not just vocal music) has long been associated with the body, and accordingly feminized and racialized. This association is not as strong in the Indian context.” [138] The picturized song’s whimsy, therefore, also has political consequences: it can “denaturalize the cultural connotations of voice.” [139] Postcolonial whimsy challenges the conflation of authenticity with singing in one’s own voice. In the alternative (“artificial”) geography of the film/song, perhaps the makings of another reality principle, authenticity is singing in a common voice.

The neglect of the film/song’s aesthetic dimension and the conflation of the aesthetic object with documentary text and one-dimensional spectacular excess prevent analysis of its devalued qualities. The film/song’s whimsy remains unsung as simply its sentimental aspect rather than imaginative display, which infuses public spaces as the melodic sounds of everyday life and the common dreams and hopes that are most often behind the scenes of what is presumed to be the spectacular yet banal wretchedness of postcolonial national life. The picturized song’s postcolonial whimsy, when examined not just from the perspective of discerning irreducible “third world difference” [140] but from its popularity for billions worldwide, demonstrates its cross-cultural affective capacities and therefore the potentiality for another performative and consumptive public culture. In this respect, analysis which “addresses issues concerning the most ‘backward’ parts of the world may claim the most advanced understanding of contemporary global reality” [141] and, in that sense, truly are postcolonial.

The next section examines the whimsical aesthetic through the negative example of Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice (2004). Chadha’s film failed to capture its audience in the U.S. because it did not have enough confidence in the aesthetic dimension of the very genre to which it is ostensibly paying homage. [142] Chadha deploys stereotypical and one-dimensional spectacular excess rather than the whimsical film/song to convey romantic sensibilities. She turns her film into a colorful musical political statement against the pride and prejudice involved in a cross-cultural encounter, a crisis managed through the reconstitution of gendered norms in the overdetermined body of the Indian bride. Yet, even as Chadha recognizes the centrality of the film/song for the participatory public culture that she concedes as salient for Indian and Indian diasporic communities, the emphasis on dance and thereby on spectacle and public display rather than sung poetry (translated as the “musical” element of the novel-based narrative) neglects the whimsical display of an aesthetic constituted by both aural and and visual pleasure. Bride and Prejudice is a particularly effective negative example because it over-politicizes the film/song. Although other diasporic productions such as Chaddha’s own Bend It Like Beckham (2002), Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001), and Deepa Mehta’s Hollywood/ Bollywood (2002), deploy film songs to convey “Indian” “culture” as a means of re/territorializing the nation-state in the diaspora, or to convey diasporic and global sensibilities in the postcolonial nation-state, Bride and Prejudice is explicitly a musical and it attempts to broaden Bollywood’s aesthetic appeal.

Chadha’s hesitation to give in to the film/song’s whimsy is even more surprising because the “out-takes” of the film show a cast and crew of different nationalities, genders, races, classes, and sexualities lip-synching and dancing not only to the Hindi portion of Ashanti’s song but also to the film’s opening picturized wedding song sung in Punjabi. The film’s “out-takes,” its extraneous, illogical, and non-sequential “special feature” (on the DVD version), demonstrates, ironically, the film/song’s whimsy. Given the cast and crew’s affective responses, and their spontaneous imaginative participation and self-display, the “out-takes” convey the true intent of the director and in their aesthetic dimension are the hopeful and joyful narrative of the film. I argue that the postcolonial whimsy of the film/song expelled by Chadha in her logical filmi narrative, which translates Bollywood into a Hollywood “musical” through neglecting sung poetry and having all but one song sung in English, reappears in the film’s “extra” features after the narrative’s conclusion. The “extra” features unwittingly demonstrate how whimsy unfetters the national narratives of dominant Western culture from its burden of coherence and realism. Bollywood’s whimsical aesthetic allows the putatively original citizens of the dominant nation to sing back to empire in another common voice and in this is truly postcolonial.

3. Pride and Prejudice

Apparently, it is a truth universally acknowledged that India’s pride is its bride. India’s wedding industry, worth $11 billion annually, is growing at the rate of 25% per annum and catching up to America’s $50 billion annual industry. According to Dilip Cherian, head of the leading public relations firm, Perfect Relations, “Weddings have become the single most visible expression of a person’s social standing and wealth, an expression that is both acceptable and expected.” [143] Not surprisingly, diasporic Indian women directors, such as Gurinder Chadha and Mira Nair, capitalize on this ostensibly most Indian of Indian traditions to showcase the “new India and new Indians” [144] against long-standing static representations of “third world difference.” Chadha, whose Bhaji on the Beach (1993) was the first full-length feature film by a British Asian woman, maintains that she values the “feel good-factor” [145] and makes “joyful affectionate films.” [146] Yet, Chadha is not quite clear about genre. She vacillates between calling Bride and Prejudice a “very British movie,” [147] a “typical Hindi film,” [148] a “film suffused with both British and Indian sensibilities,” [149] an “homage” to Bollywood and Hollywood “musicals,” [150] a “truly global film,” [151] and an attempt at creating a “new genre.” [152] Her statements regarding the appropriateness of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to depict contemporary India further amplify this confusion. She states, “I feel 200 years ago, England was no different than Amritsar today. Believe me the transposition did not offend the purists in England at all.” [153] In fact, she wanted to “approach Bollywood from a completely different angle. ‘And I thought what’s the exact opposite of Bollywood … It was … classic English literature. From more than 300 years ago.” [154] She hopes that her film will “inspire … better narratives.” [155] Chadha presupposes the inferiority of conventional narratives. It is the purists in England who worry her and not the purists in India, who clearly have no standards. Her position as an accomplished diasporic with crossover appeal apparently provides the requisite cultural insiderism, to use Paul Gilroy’s phrase, to accurately represent Amritsar, and by extension India, while her “Western” exposure provides objective evaluation of parochial and undeveloped “local” productions.

This attribution of belatedness to the postcolonial nation, which is perennially catching up to the “west,” reduces the novel and its cinematic adaptation to political representation of the role of women in trans/national discourses and “situates non-Western sexualities in a developmental relation to metropolitan sexualities.” [156] Aesthetic inferiority stems from national inferiority, and the undeveloped nation-state for which the one-dimensional and spectacular subjugation of Indian women is its most perfect allegory. For example, if women are the boundary-markers of the nation, as scholars such as Ann McClintock have argued, then light-skinned, light-haired, and light-eyed Lalita Bakshi’s (Aishwarya Rai) passage from her father’s landholdings in an agricultural economy to her American husband William Darcy’s (Martin Henderson) trans/national hotel conglomerate allegorizes the Indian nation-state’s capitulation to capitalist fundamentalism for its much vaunted consumptive middle class.

This capitulation occurs under the auspices of the conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank on “developing” nations to structurally adjust or implement requisite economic policy changes (privatization of commons and deregulation, for example) to obtain new loans or lower interest rates, even as loan interest rates retain the “third world” in what Gayatri Spivak terms debt-bondage. [157] Structural adjustment policies are further impoverishing and displacing without recourse India’s rural and urban poor (over 70% of India) and causing rampant environmental and species destruction, while “Western” farmers, for example, receive billions in tax payer subsidies from their governments prohibited to Indian farmers who must compete with “Western” farmers in the “free” market. [158] The golden hue with which Chadha paints Amritsar and the clichéd use of colors in which both Indian markets and its inhabitants are awash furthers what Spivak terms the spectralization or evacuation of the actual reality of India’s poorest (of which Lalita’s family is not representative) and the violence, cruelty, and degradation of their normalcy. [159] This attribution of belatedness is also evident in the manner through which Chadha maintains the novel’s depiction of dancing as courtship and augments Austen’s class dynamic with cross-cultural (sexual and racialized) tension.

Chadha’s filmi U.S. landscape deploys racial stereotypes about the musical and dancing propensities of minority cultures to render white, upper-class norms quintessentially “American” against which stereotypical prejudices about the U.S. are believable. For example, although Chadha begins her film with a traditional wedding song in Punjabi (one of the languages of the state of Punjab) the subsequent songs are sung/ lip- synched in English. Ashanti’s performance during a “rave” scene shot in Goa is the only other time an indigenous language (Hindi) is used. Ashanti, obviously, sings her own songs and does not rely on “playback” singers. In this scene, however, Ashanti, especially because the song takes place in a locale strongly associated with “foreign” (read: white) tourism, assumes the conventional role of the stereotypically Westernized “vamp” (she “naturally” sings Hindi lyrics with an American accent). Ashanti’s assumption of the “vamp” role in turn establishes Lalita as a chaste and fair Indian girl (she pronounces her name as Lolita) who maintains her values even in the permissive setting of a beachfront night spot. In addition to Ashanti, an African-American gospel choir features in one of the songs later on in the film. The result is rather startling not only because the only Americans shown dancing and singing in the film (even Darcy’s mother and sister are absent during the wedding festivities at the end of the movie) are African- and Mexican-Americans but also because Darcy’s refusal to dance and his lack of confidence are an integral part of Lalita’s prideful and prejudicial treatment of him. Darcy’s demurral is his refusal to go native, in contrast to Johnny Wickham (Daniel Gillies) who plunges headlong into the garba dance, to British-Indian Bingley who returns to his native roots, and to his native “natives” African- and Mexican-Americans.

Chadha generously uses aesthetic conventions such as lush colors and magnificent landscapes with which to create predictable entertainment and to convey the “joyful” and “feel good” aspect of Bollywood. She reduces whimsy to superficial feeling and utopianism to a happy ending while also overtly politicizing the “heroine.” Lalita Bakshi during her first encounter with Darcy at a wedding in Amritsar refers to “arranged marriages” as a “global dating service” and challenges the pitiful divorce rate in the U.S. In fact, later on, Wickham tells Lalita that Mrs. Darcy (Marsha Mason), William’s mother, has arranged for Darcy to marry Ann (Georgina Chapman), a wealthy blond-haired, blue-eyed woman from New York. This causes more annoyance at Darcy’s stereotyping of Indian “culture” and of Indian women as “simple.” Lalita’s over-wrought responses quell audience anxiety about a “tradition”—“arranged marriages”—that stands in for India. Having reassured the presumed “Western” audience that Indian weddings require consent, Chadha asks the audience to forego its prejudice about the Indian bride (given the U.S. divorce rate) in the first few scenes.

The developmental relation between “Western” and “non-Western” sexualities becomes more evident throughout the initial wedding celebration as Darcy is literally unable to keep his pants on. For some reason, Darcy, who runs a successful trans/national hotel conglomerate, cannot tie a tight enough knot on the drawstring to hold up his pajama. While Balraj Bingley (Naveen Andrews), Darcy’s close friend from Oxford University, jumps into the dancing and sings/lip synchs the traditional song (he has not forgotten his native Punjabi), Darcy dithers with Kiran (Indira Varma), Balraj’s sister, who translates for him and calls this long-standing entity the Indian version of American Idol. Chadha immediately turns aural pleasure, sung poetry, and musical tradition into a passive visual experience: watching a program noted for the abject singing of its reality-challenged participants, none of whom sing their own songs. The communal aspect of the wedding song becomes, instead, private individual spectatorship. Kiran’s derision conveys her “Westernization,” especially when an elderly Indian man gives her his blessing and foils her perfectly styled hair. Kiran’s hope that Darcy brought his “ear plugs” foreshadows the film’s neglect of sung poetry and the overdetermined reliance on spectacular excess. Although eyes meet and the intensity of nazar indicates attraction (Balraj states that this is where boys see the girls and girls see the boys), the song uncharacteristically fails to become the participatory convention for Darcy and Lalita to acknowledge this attraction. It becomes, instead, a political metaphor for being caught with one’s pants down.

Darcy is nervous about his pajama and his dancing abilities. He describes while shaking his hips one of the dance moves as simultaneously petting the dog and screwing in a light bulb. This is the film’s funniest moment and the most important because Darcy does provide an accurate description. Chaddha uses this moment, however, to demonstrate Lalita’s self-righteous indignation (pride) and Darcy’s boorish cultural superiority (prejudice). Yet, Darcy unwittingly demonstrates how someone “makes sense” to participate because the curious affectations are imaginative and unselfconscious. Chaddha undercuts playful humor through Lalita’s mortified response. The film’s political script keeps the elsewhere of the song on “realistic” ground as cultural difference. By trusting the film/song’s whimsy, Chadha may have created a site/sight that does not make the audience feel ill at ease because of Lalita’s (unlike Lizzie’s) humorlessness, which cannot see a man struggling to keep his pants on.

Darcy is a traditional white male obsessed with work and comfortable with ethereal electronic communication. His pajama does fail him after he refuses Lalita’s invitation to teach him the steps of another song. He abruptly walks away after chatting with Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi (Anupam Kher and Nadira Babbar, respectively) and Lalita’s three sisters Jaya (Namrata Shirodkar), Lucky (Peeya Rai Chowdhary), and Maya (Meghna Kothari) as Jaya is once again whisked away by Balraj. Lalita does not notice his pajama fall to his knees as he makes a quick exit. Darcy’s emasculation mirrors the feminization of the Bakshi’s live-in elderly male servant who does not speak English, India’s “official” language, and wears a dhoti. He is called “Bijli” (lightening, electricity) and not his proper name. Bijli is old, dark-complexioned, seemingly unmarried, and, for the most part, toothless. We do not know his family background, or if he migrated to Amritsar from a more rural area.

Bijli is not accorded the respect that Indian “culture” prides on giving the elderly as opposed to the unbridled individuality and lack of family values of the “west,” which shuttles them off to nursing homes. Bijli cooks, serves food, dusts, and mops (squatting with a cloth). Mrs. Bakshi constantly yells at him (“bloody fool!”—a Britishism). Bijli is a feminine name connoting electric sexuality, precisely the theme of the wedding song where Darcy loses his pants. Darcy’s emasculation (he calls Amritsar “Hicksville”) is rendered politically analogous to an elderly servant who lacks a proper name, instead of deploying whimsy to challenge the “rational” calculability that enables such equivalences. Darcy refuses to “go native” because that native is the feminized Indian male standing-in for the material/corporeal equivalent of the song’s lyrics.

This political overdetermination is also evident in the pool scene. Balraj invites Jaya to Goa and Mr. Bakshi agrees only if Lalita chaperones. Lalita conveys “modesty” by wearing a sarong over her swimsuit while Kiran seductively asks Darcy to put sunscreen on her back. Chadha asked Rai to gain weight to “look” authentically Indian/Punjabi. [160] Lalita criticizes neo-liberal economic policies (“sounding” authentic/patriotic) that allow investment capitalists like Darcy to exploit cheap labor and cordon off an investment-friendly “India,” depicted also in the frail and faceless retreating figure of the female imported by the Bingleys for her serving ability (presumably unlike British help). [161] Darcy is portrayed as innocent of any knowledge of the actual effects of doing business. Yet, Rai is a “metacommodity” [162] as Miss World (1994), a top actress, and spokeswoman for L’Oreal cosmetics, among other endorsements. [163] Chadha relies on Rai’s “cookie-cutter” light-eyed (not Lizzie’s dark eyes) beauty for the crossover “feel good” marketability. Chadha repeatedly takes visual shortcuts. For example, a promotional poster shows the “Hollywood” sign behind Darcy juxtaposed with the Taj Mahal (not the Golden Temple), India’s most recognizable symbol of love, behind Lalita. [164] Lalita/Rai is the new India comfortable enough with the “old” (a Muslim tomb) to crossover through her marketable appeal for U.S. men. The clash between Rai (“star presence”) and her role, which she fails therefore to play well, is jarring for familiar audiences. [165] Lalita introduces herself, in spite of her vociferous dialogue, to Wickham as “Lolita” (repeated by all non-Indian characters) and not “Lalita” (elegant and beautiful.

Chadha translates aurality into politically correct dialogue bolstered through visual codes (“sarong” and “voluptuousness”) that demonstrate Lalita’s authenticity as an Indian woman. The scene foreshadows Lalita/Lolita’s modern womanhood attained through marrying Darcy and her displacement in a developed nation where “capital free[s] gender.” [166] The heroine’s sexuality is dis/placed onto Ashanti. The stage on which she sings signifies public availability and its scenic “natural” backdrop heightens artificiality even though Ashanti, unlike all other does not lip-synch. Ashanti dances seductively with swarming black men. She sings about her desire (“My Lips Are Waiting”) partly in Hindi and the words are “naturally” mispronounced. Her conventional “cabaret number,” performed in a nightclub” [167] by the Westernized “vamp,” [168] sounds like an American “pop” song (not melodic). In spite of the melding of the “vamp” and “virgin” in the 1990’s, “‘ethnic’ voices” are “sexualized” and are not the heroine’s. [169] A black woman’s body is the conduit for Lalita and Wickham’s desire through its hypersexual spectacular performance, which ends with fireworks (electric sexuality). Morcom notes the “use of bluesy saxophone music … to mark a woman as unvirtuous,” a practice that is “certainly … learned from Hollywood.” The bluesy saxophone connotes “loose sexual morals” because it is “Western.” [170] Chadha makes the black female body the embodiment of the “ethnic” voice and problematically positions this body as “Western” in spite of its status as “outsider” in racist U.S. history.

Chadha avoids sung poetry altogether in the garba ceremony [171] which takes place in Amritsar after their return from Goa. At the garba, Darcy hopefully tells Lalita that he has been studying this “garba thing” and thinks he can participate. Darcy’s diffidence is a conflict between the cerebral (“studying”) and the corporeal. The garba is metaphor for conflict between Lalita (she believes Wickam’s falsehoods and assumes class solidarity) and Darcy, which is dramatically heightened by lack of sung poetry and the “sound” of their dandiya sticks hitting each other. The garba deep (flame) continues the motif of electric sexuality around which they dance as they circle around each other. Passive visuality is heightened through bright colors, finery, and traditional fabrics (like the song in the “market” scene). Voice and sung poetry are replaced with (political) metaphor and narrative logic. Kohli, Lalita’s Non-Resident Indian distant cousin, who is in possession of a good fortune and therefore visiting from the U.S. in want of a good wife, stresses this passivity by quoting Gloria Estefan: the rhythm is going to get you. The film/song, however, creates aural/visual pleasure through active embodiment of an affective voice and sung poetry.

Chadha dramatizes color and conflict (the clashing dandiya sticks as metaphor for cultural/political and sexual tension) and omits lyrics thereby granting primacy to narrative and the visual. Darcy’s dancing ability stands in for correct political posture. The romantic aspect of dancing as courtship (central in the novel) is dispelled from its “postcolonial” cinematic adaptation as homage to Bollywood. Dancing becomes a political rather than romantic metaphor and the central conflict is whether Darcy can participate in communal traditions and maintain individuality, or find balance between the cerebral and the corporeal. The reduction of dancing to political metaphor and the absence of sung poetry altogether neglects the element of Bollywood cinema that would have created the possibility of another reality principle; the whimsical elsewhere of the sung poetry, and not the coordinated colorful “reality” of India, renders exploitative/rational calculability moot/mute because the film/song’s aesthetic dimension is a repertoire of “shared collective memory” [172] where it is equally about borrowing a body as it is about borrowing a voice. Whimsy “resolves” the (political) duality between the cerebral and the corporeal, individuality and community painstakingly created in this cinematic adaptation by over-reaching political overdetermination.

Chadha relies on collective memory and stereotypes about India in the “snake dance” performed by Maya for Darcy, Bingley, Kiran, Kohli, and her family. (Bijli starts the tape recorder; only he and Mrs. Bakshi are entertained—he gives his toothless grin and claps like a child). For audiences with a collective memory of filmi git, this scene is an inartful mockery of Sridevi’s performance as a nagin in Nagina (1989), which brought to the fore the plight of this dying regional tradition. The tune has no accompanying lyrics and is meant to demonstrate how silly, embarrassing, and unbelievable Bollywood film/songs truly can be. The “snake dance” in Maya’s sincere but horrendous performance appears bereft of context and history. It interrupts the narrative and evokes the same reactions among the characters that the film/song does in (Western) audiences. The performance is brought down to size (similar to the reduction of the wedding song to American Idol) from its public performance on screen or in communities to the living room (where they should take place).

The neglect of whimsy is especially marked in the song “No Life Without Wife,” which was very popular among the Jane Austen Society (Bath, U.K.). This song expresses the hopes, dreams, and desires of the Bakshi sisters and their romantic sensibility of love as “rescue.” Chadha replaces outdoor locales with the Bakshi home at nighttime when the sisters are safe from their overbearing mother and henpecked father. The melody is reminiscent of a Hollywood “musical” because the lyrics are sung in an unexplainable U.S. accent with smatterings of “black” pronunciations (“mo”) perhaps signifying their “hipness,” i.e., young India’s standard acculturation into “American” (not British) English. Twisting hips indicate Lalita’s desire for Wickham who is visiting upon Lalita’s invitation and is promptly assumed to be a dreadful, unkempt “hippie” by Mrs. Bakshi. Lalita’s lyrics state her dislike of a man too invested in “making money.”

Rather than sung poetry (“I don’t want a man who likes to drink, or leaves his dirty dishes in the sink” or “I don’t want a man who wants his mummy, a balding crest with too much tummy”), the song is a political statement of Lalita’s modernity and, therefore, a counter to politicized perceptions of Indian backwardness: “I just want a man with real soul, who wants equality and not control;” “I just want a man who loves romance, who’ll clear the floor and ask me to dance;” and “I just want a man who likes to sing, makes up words when I play the strings” (singing to her tune!). Kohli is more “American” than Americans but in Chadha’s representation he struts, laughs loudly, enjoys “power walking,” and is ill mannered. He discusses corruption and lack of opportunity in India with contempt. The song is a narrative device as Lalita imagines her future with Kohli within the picturized song (“Forget what you want, Mr. Kohli’s now your man”). Her imagining is logically predicated upon Kohli who lives in the “valley,” wears tight (red, white, and blue) underwear, and expects a servile wife (U.S. culture creates lesbianism). He cannot believe that Lalita refuses the opportunity to “escape” to L.A. Native Indian masculinity remains pathologically chauvinistic and immune to economic success. The full implications behind the developmental relation between “Western” and “non-Western” sexualities become clear: Darcy’s character changes but Kohli remains ineluctably clueless. [173] In other words, “non-Western” sexualities cannot in fact develop or change.

Their romantic sensibility is directly contradicted by Lalita’s awareness of U.S. history (Lalita counters Kohli’s accusation of backwardness after almost 60 years of independence with the fact that Americans were fighting over slavery and blindly searching for gold 60 years after independence). Lalita showcases “modernity” but retains Indian “values.” Kohli as the India-hating N.R.I., Darcy as the corporate American complaining about India’s lack of infrastructure, and Kiran as the inauthentic Indian woman who cringes when elders give her their blessing, are convenient foils. Her marriage is a foregone conclusion because she is Indian and not because she has no other option. Lalita, however, is not required to forego “love” for “marriage.” Mrs. Bakshi’s crass aspirations are contrasted with Mrs. Darcy’s ability to manage a hotel empire. A widowed, middle-aged white woman in a business power suit with garish make-up is stronger than a land-holding Indian man. The Bakshi sisters are educated (Indian universities accepted women before England), can inherit property, and have Internet access (Mrs. Bakshi checks matrimonials). Why are they desperate to get married and unable to pursue careers (although Lalita helps her father)? While Indian women do face (heterosexist, cultural, economic) pressure, a few episodes of Sex and the City should demonstrate the white female obsession with upwardly mobile white males, presumably the lot of Manhattan women (the trademark of their class-status includes animal cruelty for “fur” and foie gras).

Visual shortcuts are used during Kohli’s wedding to Chandra (Sonali Kulkarni) which has no singing or dancing. The introductory wedding song does not crossover. For diasporic Indians, “the wedding” is performative as “communal belonging and ‘tradition’ along patriarchal lines” and functions as a “marker of irreducible immigrant difference in a hegemonic white, Christian landscape.” [174] If Chadha recuperates the bride from prejudice, then why is singing and dancing excluded from the site/sight where they would have a political function? Even though a Christian priest convenes the ceremony, Kohli does not kiss the bride (“Indian” modesty) and Lalita wears a white sari, a faux pas according to both “Indian” (symbolizes widowhood) and U.S. (the bride’s color) mores. Kohli participated in the garba in Amritsar but reduces his “culture” in the U.S. to colorful attire and removes the very aspect of an Indian wedding that would not have signaled assimilation premised on “safe” and non-threatening markers of difference in an elite hotel in Los Angeles.

The central “love” song (“Take Me To Love”) is background music for Lalita and Darcy’s courtship and depicts their growing feelings after Wickham ignores her (he is surreptitiously contacting Lucky when he leaves for Varanasi). Chadha uses beautiful landscapes (the California coastline), large musical ensembles, and choruses for their “iconic association” with “economic power … grandeur and breadth.” [175] The hero and heroine run through a water fountain in lieu of “monsoon torrents” symbolizing love/regeneration. [176] The whimsy of Bollywood conventions is rendered politically equivalent to the flights of fancy of trans/national wealth (they fly above the Grand Canyon in Darcy’s helicopter). The lyrics/melody convey private thoughts/feelings (Darcy remembers/sees Lalita dancing to the Punjabi wedding song on the pool’s surface—a common trope), compress time, and provide interpretive cues. This song is the film’s narrative (the mukhra punctuates the film). Darcy sings his love and becomes what he has only heard (about). The song is in English while the visual/aural conventions are either universal clichés (gazing at the moon; sunset on the beach) or privilege specific cultural references (watching dolphins leap). The introductory Punjabi wedding song is markedly different and therefore remains starkly “other.” The wedding song showcases India’s pride in its (new) bride and this difference from the aesthetic deployed in all the other songs re/inscribes popular “Western” prejudice of the film/song as a spectacular rather than whimsical experience.

The “love” song begins instrumentally in the background as Lalita and Darcy gaze (nazar) at each other over dinner at a restaurant. A Mexican band plays mariachis and choruses of bystanders who witness and encourage their growing love sing the mukhra. In Bollywood, Indian choruses are used for traditional group songs (wedding, devotional, seasonal) and “Western” choruses (often local Christian singers) are used for “background score.” [177] Chadha transforms the Western chorus into an African-American gospel choir (perhaps to balance Ashanti’s sexualized appearance), which encourages them and envelops them protectively. Two female members add (not lip synch) a “gospel” twist to the soothing and saccharine melody. Her hero’s “liberal” multicultural bonafides are established in a city known for racist violence, police brutality, and exploitation of “illegal” immigrants. Picture-perfect U.S. diversity is based on simplistic racial codes and disavows Indian-American racism towards (spiritualized) African-Americans while Mexican-Americans are perennially picking, cooking, or serving food without losing their innate rhythm. Two Baywatch-style lifeguards briefly lip-synch the verse-punctuating vocalization. Minority groups play supporting roles with stereotypical aurality/visuality as a white, heterosexual male falls in love with a “model minority.” [178]

After the series of trans/national misunderstandings are cleared and Lucky is “rescued” from Wickham, with whom she elopes in London and whose past with Darcy’s sister Georgina is revealed, the two couples get married. When the Bingleys arrive in Amritsar Lalita rushes out to the wedding party hoping to see Darcy. Just as she begins to lose hope, Kiran points her to Darcy walking towards her with the dhoti-clad hired band members carrying a dholak (drum) and playing traditional bhangra. He keeps time in spite of his gaze remaining focused on Lalita. Darcy “compromises” or “compensates” for his inability to dance, and Lalita runs towards him (unlike in the novel). Darcy looks towards Lalita’s parents for consent, and they respond with cheers when Lalita embraces him. The film ends with a scene of the married couples sitting on elephants with signs saying “Just Married.” Although Kiran is seen dancing, Darcy’s mother and sister are conspicuously absent. Darcy observes the celebration from atop an elephant cruelly “trained” for the “spectacular” trans/national entertainment industry. An earth-bound agricultural economy is dis/placed through dutiful daughters who are passages to the new India because they are the literal bedfellows of genocidal neo-imperialism. [179]

Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi’s future grandchildren render neo-capitalist power racially hybrid only if Lalita’s “Indianness” is cordoned from Bijli and the servant working in the Bingley home (next to Buckingham Palace). A feminized “India” overcomes its parochial cultural pride and offers itself to “development” while certain that the innate “Indianness” of Indian women will maintain prejudice against the most deleterious aspects of Westernization. Lalita’s arguments regarding corporate exploitation apparently change Darcy’s “innocent” business sensibilities; he refuses to buy a hotel in Goa, which upsets both his mother and “the board.” Mrs. Darcy wants to perpetuate her caste of corporate elites but Mr. and Mrs. Bakshi respect their daughter’s choice. In the “‘democratic’ family/melting pot” of the American Dream everyone has opportunity to work hard and succeed, [180] or to be prejudicial enough to find suitable matches for their prideful daughters.

4. Postcolonial Whimsy

Chadha’s neglect of the film/song’s whimsy reinforces the “machinery of documentary realism” and “ethnography.” As Nabeel Zuberi emphasizes, the “burden of representation” often requires the effort to “cover every significant Asian ‘problem’ and correct as many negative images as possible” at the expense of finding an aesthetic. [181] Whimsy, however, infects without literal comprehension of sung poetry and visual conventions. For example, Suketu Mehta describes growing up with Bollywood “as a child in Bombay and as a teenager in New York. I remember other immigrants in our building in Jackson Heights tuning in to Channel 47 [WNJU] to watch the Hindi movie show Vision of Asia. The Indians sang along to the songs; the Russians sang along; the Uzbeks, Pakistanis, and Greeks sang along.” [182] Similarly, Sundar in her analysis of Oscar-nominated Lagaan states, “Aamir Khan … was shocked to find that British audiences burst out laughing during Elizabeth’s [English] verses … ‘In India we didn’t get this reaction … among British audiences … [which] find it really amusing. It’s not meant to be that way.’” [183] Sundar explains this disparity in audience response as the need for a “melodramatic feel” among audiences in order to take the film/songs seriously. This required them to seem “untranslatable.” The “racial and linguistic difference” rendered the music “palatable” and “enjoyable.” But, the “moment ‘O Rey Chhori’ spilled into English, it ceased to have the desired musical effect.” [184] The “exciting and vaguely mysterious” [185] sound allows for suspension of disbelief, but this desirability presupposes a realist aesthetic standard against which substandard fare is expected for enjoyment. Thus, “realism” (singing in English) undercuts the “illogical” (mysterious, exotic) fantasy assumed to be the entire elsewhere that is the Bollywood film. In postcolonial whimsy, however, aural corporeality is the elsewhere of visualization to sing back in an/other’s common voice.

This whimsical aesthetic is evident in the “closing” credits and “bloopers,” which is a collection of shots of the cast and crew at various locales singing along to the Hindi lyrics of Ashanti’s song playing in the background. The film’s “extras” drag out the camera/sound/lighting crews to participate. At one point, a white male crewmember stands with his cell phone and an Indian “extra” raises and moves his free arm in bhangra postures. At another juncture, Chadha and her husband recreate the water-fountain scene. While these “closing” credits demonstrate conviviality, and the shots span different filmi scenes/sets, they are also significant because the cast and crew belong to diverse nationalities, races, sexualities, genders, and religions. Yet, each joins in the singing and dancing.

Similarly, in one of the “special features” of the DVD, the cast and crew recreate the opening Punjabi wedding song as its blasts in the background. Interviews with Rai and Chadha are spliced into this segment. Chadha and Rai tell us that after filming for five days, everyone was familiar with each segment’s sequence, sentiments, and dancing. This recreation is juxtaposed with actual footage from the film. When the men begin singing, or when the women descend the staircase with the “bride,” footage cuts to the “original” scenes. When Chadha descends the staircase lip-synching Mrs. Bakshi’s part, footage cuts to the “original” Mrs. Bakshi. Many of the men imitate the emotive hand and face gestures that they filmed the actors perform. Given the norms of colonial masculinity instrumental to India’s colonization, this participation is significant. [186] The cast and crew do not understand/know a word of the lyrics. This particular embodiment, however, and not the picturization at the site/sight of the film’s “body,” is the film’s narrative and, hence, its film/song. It depicts the director’s “feel good,” “joyful” intentions in the purportedly extra-logical and extra-temporal element of the “out-takes.”

In an interesting twist, the cast and crew choose two gay white men as the “bride” and “groom.” Gopinath addresses, as mentioned earlier, the film/song as a “peculiarly queer form” that undermines “unrelenting heteronormativity” [187] of the postcolonial diaspora and adopted nation. This spontaneous casting of the “hero” and “heroine” neither simply underscores the stereotypical predominance of gay men in entertainment nor simply reinforces the whimsical aesthetic because anyone can step in the role (borrowing a voice is also borrowing a body). Instead, whimsy challenges the “sound of nation” [188] and reframes the desire for a cohesive national narrative, even in its trans/national capitalist guise, as escapist and irrational. More importantly, as the elsewhere that is the embodiment of everyday dreams, jo gair hain magar yunhin, [189] postcolonial whimsy dis/plays those soundings of a true community that are most often behind the scenes.

Namita Goswami, DePaul University


Published July 29, 2009


[1] Gayatri Spivak, “How to Teach a ‘Culturally Different’ Book,” in The Spivak Reader, Donna Landry and Gerald Maclean, eds. (New York: Routledge, 1995), pp. 237-266, p. 240.

[2] Sumita S. Chakravarty, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema: 1947-1987 (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993); Vijay Mishra, Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire (New York: Routledge, 2002); Jyotika Virdi, The Cinematic ImagiNation: Indian Popular Films as Social History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003); Jigna Desai, Beyond Bollywood: The Cultural Politics of South Asian Diasporic Film (New York: Routledge, 2004); Raminder Kaur and Ajay J. Sinha, eds., Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema Through a Transnational Lens (New Delhi: Sage, 2005).

[3] “Aesthetic dimension” refers to Herbert Marcuse’s analysis of the “liberating force of the aesthetic function” which contains the “possibility of a new reality principle” (180) that is not repressive. The aesthetic is “display” of the object or the “free manifestation of potentialities” (190) rather than purposeful and exploitative. The aesthetic function though “unreal” (185) and “symbolic” (174) allows for “freedom in the reality” (188) through “unproductive and useless” play (196). The central faculty central is the imagination (177). Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966). Deepika Bahri’s Native Intelligence: Aesthetics, Politics, and Postcolonial Literature (2005) examines the reduction of postcolonial literature to information-retrieval through the Frankfurt School.

[4] Corey K. Creekmur, “Picturizing American Cinema: Hindi Film and the Last Days of Genre,” in Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), pp. 374-406, p. 391.

[5] Ibid., p. 376.

[6] Suketu Mehta, “Welcome to Bollywood,” National Geographic, February 2005, p. 57.

[7] Creekmur, op. cit., p. 376.

[8] “Tom Cruise didn’t even make the list. Marilyn Monroe finished ninth, and Sir Lawrence Olivier was runner-up. In a worldwide BBC Online poll last year on the millennium’s biggest star, the winner was a 57 year-old man born in Allahbad, India. Amitabh Bachchan—or ‘The Big B’ to millions of Indian-film fans—has been a megastar for three decades.” “Bollywood Goes Global,” Carla Power and Sudip Mazumdar, February 28, 2000, Newsweek, p. 52.

[9] “Bollywood films carve a niche in the West,” Indo-Asian News Service, September 30, 2006; “‘Bollywood Mania’ Rising in the United States,” States News Service, August 9, 2006.

[10] Creekmur, op. cit., p. 377.

[11] The film/song is a “twentieth century musical phenomenon. No other modern musical form … can boast of such diversity, richness, subtlety, and reach.” Partha Chatterjee, “When Melody Ruled the Day,” in Frames of Mind: Reflections on Indian Cinema, Aruna Vasudev, ed. (New Delhi: UBS Publishers’ Distributors, Ltd., 1995), pp. 51-65, p. 51.

[12] Creekmur states, “while what seems plausible to say for Bombay films—‘they’re all musicals, they’re all melodramas’—seems initially questionable to claim about … Hollywood cinema … seems more and more convincing … recalling the original meaning of that term, that most Hollywood films are musical—if not musicals. More precisely, the common musical components … suggest their fundamental basis in the mode of melodrama.” p. 390.

[13] The word masala means, “spice.”

[14] Creekmur, op. cit., p. 389.

[15] Even though Hollywood films “imply diegetic sources for the songs on their compilation, most announce their sonic distance from and origins outside the space of the narrative” (p. 397). The “distinction between nondiegetic performed numbers … [and] ‘soundtrack songs’ misrepresents … dominant formal construction and commercial practices” (p. 283), which privilege “collecting and effective sequencing of an ‘awesome’ pop soundtrack that subtends personal memories and expresses individual meanings” and “advance advertising and franchise income” (Creekmur, op. cit., pp. 281-282). Thus, the non-diegetic and diegetic distinction between Bollywood film/songs and Hollywood musical realism, respectively, does not hold.

[16] Ibid., p. 378.

[17] Roger Ebert, “Bride and Prejudice,” February 11, 2005, rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050210/REVIEWS/502100302/1023.

[18] Linda Williams, op. cit., 393.

[19] Creekmur, op. cit., p. 378.

[20] Gayatri Gopinath, Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures

(Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), p. 101.

[21] Nandini Bhattacharya, “A ‘Basement’ Cinephilia: Indian Diaspora Women Watch Bollywood,” South Asian Popular Culture, Volume 2, No. 2, October 2004, pp. 161-183, p. 164, p. 166.

[22] Bhattacharya, op. cit., p. 166.

[23] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 101, emphasis original.

[24] Bhattacharya, op. cit., p. 166. The description most often used is “secret.”

[25] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 154.

[26] Creekmur, op. cit., pp. 377-378.

[27] Ibid., p. 152.

[28] Fredric Jameson reduces “Third World” literature to national allegory (“Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism,” Social Text 15, 1986, 65-88). See Aijaz Ahmad’s response (1994, In Theory: Nations, Classes, Literatures, Verso: New York and London, pp. 95-122).

[29] Ibid., p. 101.

[30] “Transnationality and Multiculturalist Ideology: Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak” in Between the Lines: South Asians and Postcoloniality, Deepika Bahri and Mary Vasudeva, eds. (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), pp. 64-92, p. 83.

[31] Often “metropolitan multiculturalism … pre-comprehends US manifest destiny as transformed asylum for the rest of the world.” Gayatri Spivak, “Foreword: Upon Reading the Companion to Postcolonial Studies,” in A Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Henry Schwarz and Sangeeta Ray eds. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), pp. xv-xxii, p. xvi. The “melting pot theory” first followed Anglocentrism and a “graduated Euro-centrism next.” Gayatri Spivak, “Teaching for the Times,” The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 25: 1 (Spring, 1992), pp. 3-22. p. 5, p. 10. Postcolonialism “haphazardly” emerged for metropolitan “felt need” but its “grounding pre-suppositions are … full of subcultural affect.” Gayatri Spivak, “The New Subaltern: A Silent Interview,” in Mapping Subaltern Studies and the Postcolonial, Vinayak Chaturvedi, ed. (London and New York: Verso, 2000), pp. 324-340. p. 331.

[32] “Fighting India’s Aids apathy,” Sanjoy Majumdar, BBC News, July 14, 2004, news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3886883.stm; “Lights, camera, action on AIDS: India’s Bollywood joins the fight against HIV,” CNN.com, November 24, 2004, www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/asiapcf/11/23/india.aids.bollywood/index.html.

[33] Shiela J. Nayar, “Dis-Orientalizing Bollywood: Incorporating Indian Popular Cinema into a Survey Film Course,” New Review of Film and Television Studies, Volume 3, No. 1, May 2005, pp. 59-74.

[34] Crystal Bartolovich, “Global Capital and Transnationalism,” in A Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Henry Schwarz and Sangeeta Ray, eds. (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing Limited, 2000), pp. 126-162, p. 136.

[35] We act as if a “borderless world” is a fait accompli. Naturalization “downplays” the brutality of exploitative Northern nation-states and “socialist insurgent struggles.” Only the “distribution” of the “deleterious experience” is “new” (Bartolovich, p. 134-135).

[36] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 101

[37] Advertising coheres the economy and culture for surplus accumulation through “representations of desired values” (Arvind Rajgopal, “Thinking About the New Indian Middle Class: Gender, Advertising and Politics in an Age of Globalization,” in SIGNPOSTS: Gender Issues in Post-Independence India, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan, ed. [New Delhi: Kali for Women, 1999], pp. 57-100, p. 57). Capital/cultural mobility in early 1990’s liberalization turned an agricultural economy away from Nehruvian socialism. Access to satellite channels “reshaped the visual space.” “To buy is Indian” (p. 73) in the paradigm of utility for the masses and aesthetics for the classes (p. 79). Bollywood’s utility for migrant classes dissimulates aspirational class-advancement.

[38] Benedict Anderson, quoted in Nabeel Zuberi, “Documented/Documentary,” in Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), pp. 244-268, p. 252.

[39] A foreign market by 1955 spurred foreign sounds. Orchestra size increased. “Hybrid music” was a “popular term of derogation among Indian purists.” In the 1960’s and 70’s, Hollywood, Anglo-American, and Western classical influences (jazz, Latin American, rock-and-roll, Hawaiian ‘hapa-haole,’ cabaret, disco) were “selected” for the “Indian conception of the style”. Teri Skillman, “Songs in Hindi Films: Nature and Function,” in Cinema and Cultural Identity: Reflection on Film from Japan, India, and China, Wimal Dissanayake, ed. (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1988), pp. 149-158, pp. 156-157.

[40] “… Yes, the heart is. The heart is the last limit.” (“Jai Ho,” Slumdog Millionaire 2008; music by A. R. Rahman and lyrics by Gulzar and Tanvi Shah; playback by Sukhvinder Singh, Tanvi Shah, Mahalaxmi Iyer, and Vijay Prakash; performed by Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto, et al. It is very difficult to translate the Hindi word “dil.” Although it refers to the heart, it also invokes the dignity of one’s dreams and aspirations. One’s “dil” gives one dignified personhood. It is where the calculus of institutions and rationality reaches its limit.

[41] This created a “formulaic structure”: “one major star as the hero or heroine, if not two, a villain, fight scenes, and approximately six songs and dances” and “superficial conflicts between good and evil” (Skillman, op. cit., pp. 151-152).

[42] See Peter Mandel. Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

[43] Singer/actor Bal Gandharva (1888-1967) played a key role in Marathi theatre, which incorporated eclectic songs, such as “lavanis, sakis, and dindis from folk music … khayals and thumris from North India … rāgas like kirwani, arabhi from Carnatic sangeet, and melodies … from Parsi and Urdu theatres.” Bhaskar Chandarvarkar, “Indian Film Song,” in 70 Years of Indian Cinema (1913-1983), T. M. Ramachandran, ed. (Bombay: CINEMA India-International, 1985), pp. 244-251, p. 246. In his productions, “deceptively simple” songs in all-night plays were available to “uninitiated audiences” and lasted “fifteen to twenty minutes.” In the 1930’s, the “new film song form” destroyed musical theatre (p. 246-247) because of improved technology of War-effort research. (p. 248).

[44] Creekmur, op. cit., p. 389.

[45] Sumit Mitra, “O Indisputable and Indispensible Queen,” Cinema Vision India 2.2 (1983): 45. Quoted in Neepa Majumdar, “The Embodied Voice: Song Sequences and Stardom in Popular Indian Cinema,” in Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music, Pamela Robertson Wojcik and Arthur Knight, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001) pp. 161-184, p. 167.

[46] Anna Morcom, “An Understanding between Bollywood and Hollywood? The Meaning of Hollywood Style Music in Hindi Films,” British Journal of Ethnomusicology 10,1 (2001), pp. 63-84. p. 63. Pavitra Sundar, “Meri Awaaz Suno: Women, Vocality, and Nation in Hindi Cinema,” Meridians; feminism, race, transnationalism, 8,1 (2008), pp. 144-179, p. 172, note 1.

[47] Woodman Taylor, “Penetrating Gazes: The Poetics of Sight and Visual Display in Popular Cinema,” in Beyond Appearances? Visual Practices and Ideologies in Modern India, Sumathi Ramaswamy, ed. (New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003), pp. 297-322, p. 305.

[48] Sundar, op. cit., pp. 172-173, note 3.

[49] Taylor, op. cit., p. 311.

[50] Ibid., 305.

[51] Skillman, op. cit., p. 155.

[52] Ibid., p. 185; Taylor, op. cit., p, 305.

[53] Partha Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” in Frames of Mind: Reflections on Indian Cinema, Aruna Vasudev, ed. (New Delhi: UBS Publishers’ Distributors, Ltd., 1995), pp. 197-218, p. 209.

[54] Chatterjee, “When Melody Ruled the Day,” op. cit., p. 65.

[55] Taylor, op. cit., p. 311.

[57] Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 199.

[57] Ibid., p. 201.

[58] Ibid., p. 198, p. 199, p. 211, p. 212.

[59] Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia: Reflections From Damaged Life (London: Verso, 1974), p. 247.

[60] Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 203.

[61] Chatterjee, “When Melody Ruled the Day,” op. cit., pp. 57-58.

[62] Chatterjee, “When Melody Ruled the Day,” p. 51; “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 217.

[63] Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 217.

[64] Morcom, op. cit., p. 64.

[65] Ibid., p. 73.

[66] Chandarvarkar, op. cit., p. 249.

[67] Morcom, op. cit., p. 80.

[68] Skillman, op. cit., p. 150; Morcom, op. cit., p. 69.

[69] Sundar, op. cit., p. 160.

[70] Skillman, op. cit., p. 150.

[71] Morcom, op. cit., p. 73.

[72] Morcom, op. cit., p. 75, pp. 77-78.

[73] Ibid., 79.

[74] Morcom, op. cit., p. 80, p. 70.

[75] Ibid., 70; note 9.

[76] Quoted in ibid., p. 64.

[77] Morcom, op. cit., p. 75.

[78] Ibid., p. 71, p. 69, p. 81.

[79] Ibid., p. 69.

[80] Ibid., p. 68.

[81] Ibid., p. 71.

[82] Ibid., p. 71.

[83] Ibid., p. 69.

[84] Ibid., p. 72.

[85] Ibid., p. 75.

[86] Ibid., p., 81.

[87] Allison Arnold, “Popular Film Song in India: A Case of Mass-Market Musical Eclecticism,” Popular Music, 7, 2 (1988), pp. 177-188, p. 178.

[88] Morcom, op. cit., p. 82.

[89] See Gayatri Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason: Toward A History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995), p. 42, note 51.

[90] Ann McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (New York: Routledge, 1995), p. 365.

[91] Ibid., p. 197.

[92] Traditions include the “famous temple of Chidambaram, where one hundred and eight poses of Bharata Natyam have been carved in relief on its stone walls” (Mohan Segal, “Dance in Indian Cinema,” in 70 Years of Indian Cinema 1913-1983, T. M. Ramachandran, ed. [Bombay: CINEMA India-International, 1985], pp. 252-257, p. 252), the “Natya Shastra” by Sage Bharata, and the “Natya Veda” (p. 252) in spite of the physical/spiritual conflict (p. 253). From 1939, Uday Shankar rescued dance from “obscurity” and “social stigmas” (p. 254). Dances combine “classical dances like Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Manipuri and Kathakali and … folk dances like Bhangra, Tamasha, Raas, Dandiya, Kummie, etc.” (pp. 256-257).

[93] Segal, op. cit., p. 253.

[94] Ibid., p. 256.

[95] Majumdar,op.cit., p. 167.

[96] Ibid., p. 305.

[97] Ibid., p. 299.

[98] Ibid., p. 300.

[99] Taylor, op. cit., p. 300

[100] Ibid., p. 303-304.

[101] Ibid., p. 305.

[102] Ibid., p. 321.

[103] Sundar, op. cit., p. 146.

[104] Zuberi, op. cit., p. 252.

[105] Sundar, op. cit., p. 153.

[106] Morcom, op. cit., p. 63.

[107] Arnold, op. cit., p. 187.

[108] Chandarvarkar, op. cit., p. 250

[109] Arnold, op. cit., p. 177.

[110] Chandarvarkar, op. cit., p. 250.

[111] Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p.197.

[112] Segal, op. cit., p. 253.

[113] Ibid., p. 256.

[114] Skillman, op. cit., p. 152.

[115] Ibid., p. 153.

[116] Taylor, op. cit., p. 303.

[117] Ibid., p. 311

[118] Majumdar, op. cit., pp. 162-163.

[119] Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvlgcnrVrOg&feature=related


[120] Ibid., pp. 162-163.

[121] Skillman, op. cit., p. 150. By 1948, magnetic recording machines and sound tapes allowed the product to be immediately heard. By the early 1950’s, manufacture of film phonographs or ‘playback machines’ started (p. 153).

[122] Ibid., p. 152.

[123] Majumdar, op. cit., pp. 169-170.

[124] Ibid., p. 164.

[125] Ibid., p. 171.

[126] Sundar, op. cit., p. 148. See also Majumdar, op. cit., p. 174.

[127] Majumdar, op. cit., pp. 174-175, p. 177.

[128] Sundar, op. cit., pp.148-149.

[129] Ibid., 150.

[130] Ibid., p. 166.

[131] Ibid., p. 152.

[132] Ibid., p. 151.

[133] Chatterjee “When Melody Ruled the Day,” op. cit., p. 58.

[134] Ibid., pp. 56-57.

[135] Majumdar, op. cit., p. 171.

[136] Peter Kvetko, “Can the Indian Tune Go Global?,” The Drama Review 48, 4, Winter 2004, pp. 183-191, p. 184.

[137] Ibid., p. 170.

[138] Sundar, op. cit., p. 176, note 33.

[139] Ibid., p. 153.

[140] For Mohanty “third world difference” produces a “coherence of effects” which “discursively colonize … material and historical heterogeneities.” “Under Western Eyes: Feminist Scholarship and Colonial Discourses, ” in Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo, and Lourdes Torres, eds. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), pp. 51-80, p. 53.

[141] Rajeswari Sunder Rajan and You-Me Park, “Postcolonial Feminism/Postcolonialism and Feminism,” in A Companion to Postcolonial Studies, Henry Schwarz and Sangeeta Ray eds. (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2000), pp. 53-71, p. 66.

[142] Balle, Balle from Amritsar to L.A. failed because women are not that desperate to get married. “The ‘Bride’ raises hackles,” Lopamudra Ghatak, October 6, 2004, The Times of India, timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-875282,curpg-4.cms.

[143] Anupreeta Das, “Middle-class India Plows New Wealth into Big Weddings,” The Christian Science Monitor, September 29, 2005, emphasis added. www.csmonitor.com/2005/0929/p01s04-wosc.html.

[144] Suparna Bhaskaran, Made in India: Decolonizations, Queer Sexualities, Trans/National Projects (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), p. 43.

[145] “Without Prejudice,” The Times of India, July 11, 2004, www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/773396/cms.

[146] “Laughing All the Way to the Box Office,” Emma Brockes, The Guardian Unlimited, July 19, 2004, film.guardian.co.uk/interview/interviewpages/0,6737,1264310,00.html.

[147] Ibid.

[148] “All pride, no prejudice,” Tuesday, September 28, 2004, The Hindu, www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mp/2004/09/28/stories/2004092801040400.htm.

[149] “Without prejudice,” July 11, 2004, The Times of India, www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/773396.cms.

[150] “Bride and Prejudice is not a K3G,” Subhash K. Jha, August 30, 2004, Rediff India Abroad, www.rediff.com/movies/2004/aug/30finter.htm.

[151] “Going Global: Austen Powers,” Ishara Bhasi, October 6, 2003, India Today, p. 102.

[152] “Match-Maker,” December 8, 2004, Roshmila Bhattacharya, SCREEN, www.screenindia.com/fullstory.php?content_id=9210.

[153] “Bride and Prejudice is not a K3G,” Subhash K. Jha, August 30, 2004, Rediff India Abroad, www.rediff.com/movies/2004/aug/30finter.htm.

[154] “Bending Jane Austen, with Bollywood Bride & Prejudice: Aparita Sits Down With Gurinder Chandha,” mybindi.com, emphasis added, www.mybindi.com/arts-entertainment/whatson/brideprejudice.cfm.

[155] “Bride and Prejudice (2004)”, Robbel Haq, RS: Turn It Up, www.radiosargam.com/movies/moviereviews/b/brideandprejudice.htm.

[156] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 159

[157] Gayatri Spivak, “At the Planchette of Deconstruction is/in America,” in Deconstruction is/in America: A New Sense of the Political, Anselm Haverkamp, ed. (New York and London: New York University Press, 1995), pp. 237-249, p. 243.

[158] See Vandana Shiva, “The Suicide Economy of Corporate Globalization,” April 5, 2004, countercurrents.org, www.countercurrents.org/glo-shiva-5-4-4.htm; Vandana Shiva, Globalization’s New Wars: Seed, Water & Life Forms (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2005); Vandana Shiva, Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace (Massachusetts: South End Press, 2005); Arundhati Roy, An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire (New York: Viking, 2005); Arundhati Roy, Power Politics. Cambridge: South End Press, 2001); Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living (New York: The Modern Library, 1999).

[159] Postcolonial migrants are complicit in the “spectralization of the rural,” i.e., “conversion of ‘the rural’ into a database for pharmaceutical dumping, chemical fertilizers, patenting of indigenous knowledge, big dam building.” Death of a Discipline (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 92-93.

[160] “Aishwarya Rai: Interview,” by Anwar Brett, www.bbc.co.uk/films/2004/10/06/aisharya_rai_bride_and_prejudice_interview.shtml.

[161] “Building Towers, Cheating Workers: Exploitation of Migrant Construction Workers in the United Arab Emirates,” Human Rights Watch, November 2006, Volume 18, No. 8(E), www.hrw.org/reports/2006/uae1106/; Matt Taibbi, “The Great Iraq Swindle: How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury,” Rolling Stone, August 23, 2007, www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/16076312/the_great_iraq_swindle; Ijaz Gilani, Citizens Slaves, Guest-workers: The Dynamics of Labour Migration from

South Asia (Islamabad: Institute of Policy Studies, 1985); Swasti Mitter, Common Fate Common Bond: Women in the Global Economy (London: Pluto Press, 1986).

[162] Bhaskaran, op. cit., p. 44

[163] “In July 2000, a fax detailing the profile of hostesses sought by L’Oréal stipulated women should be … ‘BBR,’ the initials for bleu, blanc, rouge … a well-known code among employers to mean ‘white.’” “You’re worth it - if white. L’Oréal guilty of racism,” Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian Unlimited, July 7, 2007, www.guardian.co.uk/france/story/0,,2120789,00.html. The Miss Femina contest where Rai gained fame promulgates the “passively witnessing dark, parochial, and subjugated tribal other … Dark Dravidian or Adivasi looking women … need not apply” (Bhaskaran, op. cit., p. 46).

[164] Hindu nationalism effaces Punjab’s violent history during the partition of India and Pakistan (1947). The Golden Temple’s violent history after Indira Gandhi’s assassination (1984) and its symbolic status for Sikh secessionism is disavowed as is post-9/11 racist violence as well as pre-independence migrancy to the U.S. and Canada as exploited labor. Joan Jenson, Passage from India: Asian Indian Immigrants in North America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Hugh Johnston, The Voyage of Komagata Maru: The Sikh’s Challenge to Canada’s Colour Bar (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1979).

[165] Rai appeared on The David Letterman Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and Good Morning America. She was called the “most beautiful woman in the world,” a characterization initially made by Julia Roberts. This was Rai’s crossover vehicle.

[166] Gayatri Spivak, Laura E. Lyons, and Cynthia Franklin, “‘On the Cusp of the Personal and the Impersonal’: An Interview with Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak,” Biography 27.1, Winter 2004, pp. 203-221. p. 219.

[167] Sundar, op. cit., p. 175, note 16.

[168] In the 70’s and 80’s Vijay-Oscar developed a vulgar style and Saroj Khan incorporated break and flash dance. Chinni Prakash continued the trend until the mid-1990’s when tunes were plagiarized whole-cloth from the “west,” such as Michael Jackson’s “crotch-clutch” (Chatterjee, “A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 213). Helen, the first “vamp,” bore “an entire film’s load of sensuality” (p. 214), and Bindu followed suit in Kati Patang (1970’s). In the mid-1980’s, Madhuri Dixit merged the vamp and heroine in Tezaab and violence and vulgarity were excused as “contemporary reality” (p. 215).

[169] Sundar, op. cit., p. 177, note 35.

[170] Morcom, op. cit., p. 70. Shammi Kapoor added bhangra to the sexually charged dance of Little Richard, Bo Didley, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley. Until 15 years after independence, hopefulness demanded melody as a “sacred duty” (Chatterjee, “ A Bit of Song and Dance,” op. cit., p. 204-205).

[171] Garba is form of dance from the Indian state of Gujarat.

[172] Taylor, op. cit., p. 312. The “re-mixing” of ‘classic’ songs demonstrates their global persistence (pp. 312-313) but minimize cultural diversity (Arnold, op. cit., p. 187).

[173] For Gayle Wald, in Clueless, an adaptation of Emma, American women are “clueless” about U.S. foreign policy (“Clueless in the Neo-Colonial World Order,” in The Postcolonial Jane Austen, Rajeswari Sunder Rajan and You-Me Park, eds. [New York: Routledge, 2000], pp. 218-234. Mr. Kohli is represented as the naïve consumptive American woman.

[174] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 126.

[175] Morcom, op. cit., p. 70.

[176] Taylor, op. cit., p. 318.

[177] Morcom, op. cit., pp. 68-69, note 6.

[178] Lyndon B. Johnson signed The Immigration and Nationality Act amendments (1965), which prioritized family re-unification, and undid national-origin quotas in place since 1924 that favored Western European immigration. India witnessed a massive “brain drain” of its citizenry who became racialized as “model minorities.” See “Lyndon B. Johnson: Special Message to the Congress on Immigration” (www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=26830); Jasbir K. Puar and Amit S. Rai’s, “The Remaking of a Model Minority: Perverse Projectiles Under the Threat of (Counter) Terrorism” (Social Text 80, Vol. 22, No. 3, Fall 2004).

[179] See Gayatri Spivak, “Planetarity,” in Death of a Discipline, op. cit., pp. 71-102.

[180] Bhaskaran, op. cit., pp. 58-59.

[181] Zuberi, op. cit., p. 246-247.

[182] Mehta, op. cit., p. 58.

[183] Sundar, op. cit., p. 170.

[184] They “missed the complex musical cues that positioned Elizabeth as an outsider in a love triangle.” She must “express her romantic fantasy in English” (Sundar, op. cit., p. 170).

[185] Ibid., p. 171.

[186] Mrinalini Sinha, Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2005).

[187] Gopinath, op. cit., p. 101.

[188] Sundar, pp. 171-172.

[189] “…which are strangers but just for themselves.” (“Kabhi, Kabhi Mere Dil Me” (“sometimes in my heart”) Kabhi Kabhi 1976; music by Khayyam and lyrics by Sahir Ludhianvi; playback by Mukesh; performed by Amitabh Bachchan).