School of Geography, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, England; e-mail: Robina. [email protected] ac. uk Received 17 May 2006; in revised form 16 September 2006; published online 28 September 2007 Abstract. Hindi cinema offers a means of examining the evolving geographies of the multisited, multinational Indian diaspora and its relationship to the `homeland’. The paper seeks to elaborate an understanding of Bollywood’s visibility in the new diaspora as a response to political, economic, and technological transformations that have taken place in India.
It maps these shifts and the reconfigured relationship between the Indian diaspora in the UK and its imagined `homeland’: the relationship between territory, location, and identity.
The paper considers how women’s bodies are deeply implicated inoindeed, essential toothe negotiation of these shifts. Introduction: routes and roots “Hindi films are no longer weekend events, they are showing three shows everyday wherever they are released. Now beginning with Taal, there will be vinyl banner hoardings advertising the films on the roads of the western cities.
Everybody, including the westerners, will now see what films are on!
Because we will also be on the net” Ratnottama Sengupta (1999) In the year 2000 the BBC conducted an online poll to find the millennium’s greatest star of stage or screen and found a surprise winner in Amitabh Bachchan, a Bollywood megastar yet relatively unknown in the Western mainstream. His win signalled the `coming out’ of Bollywood cinema, an important part of a `closet’ British South Asian culture (Tyrell, 1998). Growth in the overseas consumption of Bollywood has facilitated the development and expansion of what Arjun Appadurai (1996) terms the South Asian “diasporic public sphere” within the West.
The emergence of a diasporic public sphere relates to the production and strengthening of transnational networks and connections marked by the hypermobility of people, capital, goods, and information, facilitated by technological advances such as video, the new electronic media such as computers, the World Wide Web, and cable/satellite television. Information, textual and pictorial (still and moving images), as flows enables the `homeland’ to be beamed directly into diasporic living rooms around the globe.
Alongside the proliferation of Internet sites dedicated to Bollywood, the Hindi/Urdu-language satellite television channels such as Zee Network that have mushroomed from the 1990s onwards have drawn on and refuelled Bollywood’s popularity across the South Asian diaspora to increase their subscription base (Page and Crawley, 2001). The growth of multiplexes in Britain translated renewed interest amongst second-generation and even third-generation South Asians into cinema screens dedicated to Bollywood (Kaur, 2002).
The release of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The brave heart takes the bride, 1995, director Aditya Chopra) set in Southall, UK (known amongst British Asians as little Punjab), and in the Indian Punjab, addressing diasporic dilemmas around issues of identity and belonging, enticed record numbers of British South Asians away from their televisions A I would like to dedicate this paper to my daughter Jasmin Leila, whose presence and support greatly enriched the research experience. 1016 R Mohammad to watch the stunning visuals on the big screen (Kaur, 2002).
These developments have paved the way for Bollywood films to feature regularly in the UK (and increasingly in the North America) box office. Bollywood’s outing has greatly enhanced its global visibility, bringing it to the attention of the western mainstream as part of the `Asian Kool’ phenomenon, to the extent that everything South Asian from saris to samosas has been renamed `Bollywood’. The mainstreaming of South Asian culture combines the celebration of Indian culture with a renewed fascination for the novel and exotic (hooks, 1992; Jackson, 2002; Puwar, 2002) perhaps tinged with nostalgia for the Raj.
The paper seeks to elaborate an understanding of Bollywood’s visibility in the new diaspora as a response to political, economic, and technological changes in India and to the reconfiguring relationship between the Indian diaspora in the UK and its imagined `homeland’. Hindi cinema mediates the production of national and diasporic imaginaries. At times, and to varying degrees, Hindi cinema may draw together `Indians’ overseas with those who after the partition of the subcontinent refer to themselves as `Pakistanis’ or `Bangladeshis’ (at home or overseas) into a collective space of the imagination.
In this paper, however, my focus is on the Indian diaspora. Hindi cinema offers a means of examining the evolving geographies of the multisited, multinational Indian diaspora and its relationship to the `homeland’. From a UKorientated perspective, I map the changing relationship between India, the `homeland’ nation-state, and its diaspora; the relationship between territory, location, and identity, in which women’s bodies are deeply implicated.
From the early days of Indian cinema, Hindi films maintained an overseas market, predominantly in the Middle East, East and South Africa, the Soviet Union, and Southeast Asia (Barnouw and Krishnaswamy, 1980). Despite these forays into overseas markets, Hindi cinema’s address remained focused on home audiences. It was not until the 1990s that Hindi film producers began to turn their attention to other potentially lucrative overseas markets and to the opportunities these offered to compete with Hollywood for a greater share of the global market.
Bollywood’s visibility in the West, routed via Indian (and more widely the South Asian) diasporic networks, forms part of a broader political and economic project in a globalising India which has involved “a dynamic reorganisation of borders and boundaries” (Oza, 2001, page 1070). In these contexts, this paper explores the changing meanings of the border, transnational mobility, diaspora, diasporic spaces, `homeland’, and national identity. I use the term `transnational’ rather than
`international’ or even `global’ in order to problematise the binary locational politics that foreground the global ^ local or centre and periphery in favour of connections and linkages that cut across them. I draw on the film Mother India (1957, directed by Mehboob Khan) to examine the role of postindependence Hindi cinema in the production and popular imag(in)ings of an independent nation. Mother India is a key film, whose title, as Gayatri Chatterjee (2002, page 12) argues, is filled with “resonance, connected … with the national history of independence”.
Released to coincide with the 10th anniversary of independence, Mother India articulates an independent India, territorially bounded in accordance with Nehruvian ideals. (1) I am specifically concerned with the subsequent freeing up of the imagined and material sociocultural boundaries of the nation from their territorial confines. The paper illustrates the ways in which both territorially aligned and more free-floating constructions of cultural borders are grounded in regressive constructions of gender in its intersections with (hetero)sexuality and race (Nast, 1998; Sethi, 2002).
Films are texts and, as such, are open to multiple readings, guided and framed by social and cultural conventions and perspectives. Here (in addition to Mother India) I offer a (1) By `Nehruvian India’ I refer to postindependence India under the governance of the Congress Party led by Jawaharlal Nehru (prime minister from 1947 to 1964). Bollywood, the `homeland’ nation-state, and the diaspora 1017 partial, yet critical, reading of four films set in the diaspora, one released in 1970 and three from the post-1990s.
I draw on these to examine and analyse the possibilities created and facilitated by Bollywood cinema for `dreaming the nation’ (Malhotra and Alagh, 2004) through the imagining of sexed/gendered bodies and of territorial borders and place as overlapping and mutually signifying (Oza, 2001). The paper is organised as follows: I begin with a brief discussion of the South Asian presence in Britain and Bollywood’s place and function within the diaspora, which is also part of the identification of the diaspora as a lucrative market. I then expand on
this through a discussion of Bollywood’s role as a mediator of the social imagination and its part in nation-building in postindependence India; Bollywood articulates a vision of India and Indian identity as rigidly bounded, centring the gendered, sexed body through reference to Bharatma the mother/goddess (Mother India). Formulating identity in this way called into question the authenticity of those who resided outside of the `homeland’ (illustrated here with reference to the film Purab aur Paschim). Inauthenticity is inscribed on the bodies of women, while the recovery of Indianness must also be equally visible on their bodies.
I examine the massive political, economic, technological, and cultural shifts in India and the transformation of the overseas Indian into the nonresident Indian as a basis for exploiting the economic and political power of the diaspora for the benefit of the `homeland’. Before concluding, I elaborate and critique the contours of a reformulated Indianness that underpins the recovery of the overseas Indian. Diaspora, Bollywood, and the `homeland’ The Indian government estimates that 20 million people of Indian origin reside outside of the subcontinent, spread across at least 48 countries (Walton-Roberts, 2004).
The 2001 census (UK) (http://www. statistics. gov. uk/cci/nugget. asp? id=273) shows that, of these, around 1. 5 million are British nationals. South Asian migration from the subcontinent to Britain was meagre until the period after World War 2. These flows were framed by two events: the partition of the subcontinent in 1947, resulting in the creation of West and East Pakistan (the latter gained independence in its own right in 1971, to become Bangladesh) and the Indo ^ Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. Millions were displaced from the Punjab province alone.
Thus, 1960s flows to Britain were predominantly from the (Indian and Pakistani) Punjab, Gujarat, Mirpur, and Sylhet, the regions most affected by the partition and territorial conflict. Prior to 1960 both India and Pakistan maintained a number of administrative restrictions that contained outward population flows to the West. As these restrictions were relaxed, new concerns regarding the institution of restrictions on the numbers of commonwealth immigrants entering Britain led to a rapid rise in the male immigrant population.
Between 1960 and 1961, Indian and Pakistani immigrants arriving in Britain increased from 8400 to nearly 49 000 per annum. In contrast to migration to the US in the 1980s and 1990s, migrants to the UK were predominantly unskilled or semiskilled labour from rural regions, seeking economic betterment, and at that time saw their arrival in Britain as a temporary sojourn abroad before returning home to their families (Hiro, 1991). In practice, only the professional classes who arrived for advanced study would return to the subcontinent.
The 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act limited automatic right of entry to Commonwealth citizens, and the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act further restricted entry to dependants which resulted in a rise in the numbers of women and children arriving to join their male kin. The presence of families promoted community and greater embeddedness in Britain, underscored by the attainment of British citizenship (Ballard, 1996). In the 1970s there was another wave of migration as South Asians expelled from Uganda were permitted to settle in Britain.
Yet, neither 1018 R Mohammad (re)settlement in Britain nor formulations of new, hybrid, British-Asian identities were able to entirely break the grip of the `homeland’ on the hearts and minds of its diaspora. Of its 3 billion and growing global audience, largely, but not longer exclusively, made up of the South Asian diaspora, Hindi cinema has become as important a mediator of social experience for Indians overseas as it is at home (Gillespie, 1995; Kaur, 2002).
According to Purnima Mankekar (1999a), Bombay cinema has grown to become a crucial channel of socialisation among diasporic communities and a key site for the creation of imaginary `homelands’ for diasporic subjects. This is particularly so for those who remain marginalised due to multiple, interlocking oppressions in their countries of settlement. As Ien Ang (1993, page 40) points out an: “identification with an imagined `where you are from’ is also often a sign of, and surrender to, a condition of actual marginalisation in the place `where you’re at’.
” The need to maintain a sense of connection with the `homeland’ (see Godiwala, 2003; Mohammad, 1999) is thus reinforced in the context of “a `racist’ Britain [that] degrades the Indian diaspora to such an extent that it retreats into the secure spectacle of Bombay Cinema” (Mishra, 2002, page 246). Thus Bollywood makes possible reimaginings of the `homeland’ and identification for both the first and subsequent generations.
For the first generation, it “mediates the cleavage between an estranged diasporic culture and `integrative’ home-culture [while] for youths it functions as a mode of legitimising ones own existence in a culturally hostile nation-state” (pages 246 ^ 247). South Asian cultural products both quell diasporic nostalgia and refuel it. A number of Hindi film producers have actively manipulated the diaspora’s desire and longing for belonging for profit.
As veteran producer and chairman of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s Entertainment Committee Yash Chopra points out, “not many producers are bothered how their movie does in some remote village … the big urban centres and global audience is enough for some” (Appadurai, 1990; Ramakrishnan, 2000, page 2). Thus, during the 1990s many of the biggest Hindi film producers, such as Yash and Aditya Chopra, Subhash Ghai, Karan Johar, and Farhan Akhtar, extended their range of address to include overseas Indians and diasporic space.
Such film narratives may seek to `remind’ South Asians of their `out of placeness’ within their country of settlement as in I … Proud to be an Indian (2004, director Puneet Sira), which underscores South Asians’ difference, marginality, exclusion, and alienation in the UK, while others such as Swades We the People (2004, director Ashutosh Gowarikar) (henceforth referred to as SWP), foreground the `pull’ of the `homeland’ to unsettle diasporic rootedness.
The prioritisation of the metropolitan and overseas markets over rural India has occurred within the context of a rightward shift both economically and politically with the rise of Hindutva (Hindu nationalism) values. In a nation that is home to one third of the world’s poor,(2) the 1990s saw the emergence of a new, narrower, domestic genre of popular Bombay cinema that has largely erased from the screen concerns with social issues, social justice, feudal oppression, class conflict, and labour rights that cinema of earlier decades articulated (Malhotra and Alagh, 2004).
(SWP is an important exception. ) Post-1990s films celebrate capitalist, conspicuous consumption and cosmopolitanism. Many films like Taal (Rhythm, 1997, director Ghai) (which made the box-office top ten in the UK) openly and unapologetically promote global products such as Coca-Cola, yet for many Indians access to clean, potable water is not guaranteed. Scholars have commented on how the feel-good cinema of the 1990s acts as a vehicle to showcase a `shining’,(3) dynamic, `new’ post-Nehruvian India to the world, (2) See world bank figures for 2001 (http://www. Worldbank. org/research/povmonitor).
This is taken from the Bharitya Janata Party’s (BJO, the right-wing Hindu nationalist party) campaign slogan India Shining from the 2004 general election. (3) Bollywood, the `homeland’ nation-state, and the diaspora 1019 cultivating in the diaspora a sense of pride and renewing its identification with the `homeland’ (Gillespie, 1995; Kaur, 2002; Munshi, 2001). Creating and strengthening these ties has become particularly pertinent with the intensification of globalisation processes after 1991. The range and speed of flows into India accelerated following the institution of more-radical economic liberalisation measures.
This growing porosity of the border fed already-existing anxieties on all sides of the political spectrum (Menon, 2005). The influx of the `foreign’ brought with it the threat of new forms of imperialism. It is against this backdrop that the previously demonised masculine figure of the overseas Indian became economically significant for the `homeland’ nation-state and was renamed the nonresident Indian (NRI) (4), emphasising his Indianness over location. Hindi cinema registers and addresses these anxieties through attempts to renegotiate Indian identity with reference to the diaspora.
A number of Hindi films set about prising apart the ideological alignment of the sociocultural ^ religious border that defined the nation from the physical, territorial borders of the state, thus licensing a new deterritorialised form of identity. Thus, at a moment when it becomes politically and economically expedient this allows for the extension of cultural and subsequently political citizenship to the diaspora previously excluded from the nation by virtue of its location outside the territorial borders of the `homeland’.
As a powerful mediator of the social imagination, Hindi cinema is produced within, and is productive of, the field of the nation. Hindi cinema: imag(in)ing the nation Films are social texts, produced within political, socioeconomic, cultural, and technological milieus. Yet, popular films also play an important role in the production, circulation, and validation of cultural forms and norms and, as such, are constitutive of the social, economic, and political. In India, cinema: “Is the dominant cultural institution and product …
the pleasures the commercial film offers [glamour, drama, and fantasy], and desires it creates makes it a vital part of popular culture and a critical site of cultural interpretation” (Virdi, 2003, pages 1 ^ 2, emphasis in original). Cinematic space acts as a vital node in the flow, intersection, reconfiguration, and rearticulation of a range of competing discourses. Discourses work in the production of subjectivity and of the social imagination othe organising field of social practices (Appadurai, 1990). Thus, cinematic representations are sites where: “Economic and political contradictions are contested and resolved …
meanings are negotiated and relations of dominance and subordination are defined and contested” (Jackson, 1989, page 1). Given the range and speed of technological developments in India within the last decade it is difficult to imagine that when film arrived in India it was regarded as a foreign technology a “tool of Europe and part of its dominating project” (Rai, 1994, page 53). Yet, technology does not arrive with a pregiven set of cultural possibilities but necessarily articulates with local conditions and cultures which determine the ways in which it functions in a particular society.
It is notable that Dadasaheb Phalke (1870 ^ 1944), referred to as the father of Indian cinema, “made explicit the links between film-making, politics and Indian statehood” (Ganti, 2004, page 9). As Indians, supported by a movement to promote indigenous enterprise, turned to filmmaking, cinematic representations could not remain the exclusive domain of the colonisers but (4) Although a popular definition of NRI is an overseas national of Indian origin (excluding those from Pakistan and Bangladesh) NRI may also include Indian nationals employed overseas.
The precise definition of who counts as an NRI for particular investments or tax breaks in India is variable (see, for example, http://www. femaonline. com/nricorner/nri defin def. htm). 1020 R Mohammad became part of the terrain for the ideological confrontations between anticolonialists and colonialists. With independence, Hindi cinema emerged as the de facto, if not de jure, national cinema of India, successfully transcending linguistic and regional divisions within the domestic market (Ganti, 2004; Virdi, 2003).
While the Nehruvian state refused to confer industry status on Hindi cinema in recognition of its role in nation-building, either in economic or cultural ^ ideological terms, the industry became a willing partner in these processes as part of furthering its own commercial interests (Barnouw and Krishnaswamy, 1980; Prasad, 1998). Sankaran Krishna (1996, page 194) argues that “something called `India’ becomes inscribed, in various ways, through representational practices …
which endow that entity with a content, a history, a meaning and a trajectory. ” Hindi cinema performs the national and as a key player in the scripting of the nation shapes its meaning, signifying its internal and external borders. Ashish Rajadhyaksha (2003) notes how, after independence, Hindi cinema set about assembling a national market through the construction of unified, national, gendered, racialised, (hetero)sexed subject. In many parts of India the cinema hall was the only space that was not divided along caste lines (Rajadhyaksha, 2003).
At the site of the neighbourhood cinema hall, Hindi cinema served to suture highly fragmented local public spheres to create a public sphere at the national scale. The production of the `national’ draws on the feminine, sexed body to both explore and naturalise the aesthetic and moral markers of `Indianness’ (Prasad, 1998). Thus, women’s bodies become a site for inscribing and standing in for national territory, and so “[i]t is on the notion of womanhood that cultural identity of the community and the nation is staked” (Butalia, 1996).
Gendering the border, performing territory Gayatri Gopinath (1997, page 468) insists that women’s bodies are “crucial to nationalist discourse in that they serve not only as the site of biological reproduction of national collectivities but as the very embodiment of this nostalgically evoked communal past and tradition. ” As women become the embodiment of nation, so the nation in turn is feminised. Urvashi Butalia, (1996) argues that the nation is conceived of not in anonymous or abstract terms, but in the familiar figure of a mother, a nurturer.
In Indian society, “images of motherhood … represent … strong ideals of community and stability” (Chatterjee, 2002, page 49; Gokulsing and Dissanayake, 1998). Bengali novelist Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s 19th-century nationalist hymn Vande Mataram (“Mother I bow to thee, Mother I kiss thy feet” (5) from the novel Anandamath published in 1892) is regarded by Hindu nationalists as the true anthem of India and has been accorded equal status with the national anthem.
In what Jigna Desai (2004) refers to as the saffronisation of state and civil society, the BJP (6) (which came to power as part of a coalition government in 1998 ^ 2004) made the hymn a compulsory anthem in all government-funded schools (Desai, 2004; Sarkar, 2001). Vande Mataram imagines the nation as a mother goddess, Bharatma (Mother Indiaoa notion that was drawn on by both nationalists and colonialists) see figure 1.
Bharatma is a Janus-like figure who looks back to appraise the past and to envision a new, more hopeful, future of the nationoto a nation in the process of becoming (Chatterjee, 2002; Chopra, 2004; Gokulsing and Dissanayake, 1998; Kovacs, 2004, (5) Translation taken from Vande Mataram, India’s Official National Song (http://www. tuhl. freeserve. co. uk/tuhl vande mataram. htm). (6) The BJP is part of the larger family of Hindutva organisations termed the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh, the nationalist right-wing Indian organisation which has a network of affiliates collectively referred to as the Sangh Parivar.
Bollywood, the `homeland’ nation-state, and the diaspora 1021 Figure 1. Bharatma (source: http://www. Hingunet. org; courtesy of Patricia and J P S Uberoi and Fukuoka Asian Art Museum). This and subsequent figures may be seen in colour on the E&P website at http://www. envplan. com/misc/d441t. Ramaswamy, 2003; Sarkar, 2001). Bharatma is frequently accompanied by a lion associated with the goddess Durga, suggesting that she is an incarnation of Durga and an embodiment of the pure, virtuous, Hindu woman (Chopra, 2004).
Through reference to Durga, the figure of Bharatma draws together “the sacred and secular poles … mediated by the patriotic [theme]” (Uberoi, 1990, page 44). Thus, Bharatma foregrounds India not only as a `homeland’ but also as the sacred holy land of the Hindu nation. The feminine corpus represents the nation as (hetero)sexualised, pure, and solidly bounded yet highly vulnerable to foreign penetration, rape, and racial impurity. Thus, the defence of national territory is also a symbolic defence of the racial purity of the nation (Nast, 1998; Sethi, 2002).
Gendered metaphors of rape are often used to signify the penetration (Appadurai, 1996) and domination of the land of the nation (Butalia, 1996; Chenoy, 2002). Through the symbol of the mother, men can be hailed as sons to save the honour and virtue of the nation, to lay down their lives for it. Like the body of the beloved, the nation’s territory becomes an object “to love and possess, to protect and defend, to fight and die for” (Najamabadi, 1997, page 450). Thus, when borders are (re)drawn, threatened, or eroded the full force of these threats is born by women on and through their bodies
(Graham, 1995; Mazumdar, 1995; see also Mumtaz and Shaheed, 1987). Bharatma’s corporeal lines tracing the territorial contours of the nation are also saturated with all the incumbent associations of land, soil, fertility, and abundance. All of these associations are powerfully reasserted in Mother India. 1022 R Mohammad In the opening scene, a woman sits in the field, cradled by the earth. The camera holds a tight close-up of a woman’s face, her skin, which is the colour of the soil, is wrinkled like a cracked, drought-ridden landscape (Chatterjee, 2002).
She picks up the sod and reverentially brings it to her lips (see figure 2) as the song in the background affirms: “all our life mother-earth we will sing in your praise. And each time we are born, we will be born in your lap” (Mother India 1957, my translation). Mother India (1957) articulated Nehruvian India as a modernist, rationalist, socialist utopia. The film opens on the inauguration of a dam presided over by the protagonist Radha, a mother of the village/India.
In a bid to break economic dependency, Nehru adopted a tightly regulated, planned, mixed economy, combined with Ghandian values of austerity, self-sacrifice, and self-reliance. Thus, foreign investment, identified with dependency and foreign domination, was rejected in favour of loans, and economic protectionism was put in place (Khan and Debroy, 2002). In the cultural arena, this found a corollary in a notion of identity that was rigidly territorialised and (predominantly although not exclusively) constructed in relation to the West (identified as Britain, the former coloniser).
In this conceptualisation, Nehruvian India is placed in a binary opposition to the West as shown in table 1 (Gillespie, 1995; see also Finlayson, 1998 on Ireland). Thus, authenticity could be conferred only on those residing within the territory of the nation, while those who lived on the land (India is frequently conceived of as a village) (Mishra, 2002) were permitted greater authenticity than those who had migrated to the cities. The land is at once home (ghar) and country (desh). In keeping with Bharatma’s dual vision, Mother India’s narrative reflects on the past and envisions a hopeful future.
Radha recalls the harsh conditions when severe floods rendered the land infertile leading to a mass exodus to the cities. This scene invokes memories of the partition of India at the time of independence as well as a commentary on rising rural ^ urban migration in the postindependence period. As the embodiment of the land, Radha pleads: Figure 2. Mother India honouring Mother Earth. (Image from film Mother India courtesy Mehboob Productions Private Ltd, Mumbai. ) Table 1. Nehruvian India in binary opposition to the West. India West village/rural
ghar (home) spiritual libidinal control tradition continuity/stability city/urban bahir (outside) material libidinal excess modernity change/instability Bollywood, the `homeland’ nation-state, and the diaspora 1023 “Oh those who are departing, don’t leave your home and go, m/Mother [India] is calling you with her hands together in a plea” (Mother India 1957, my translation). She picks up a handful of earth and implores: “However much it is ruined the earth is still your mother. There will be no peace in this world for you if you break her heart.
Your land calls out to you asking you to stay” (my translation). The exodus begins to halt. The scene of a young Radha accompanied by her small sons ploughing the land fades, being replaced by an aged Radha and a new generation in her grown-up sons who stand by her side in a cart. On the tenth anniversary of independence (1957) the turning wheels of the cart become symbolic of the movement of time, back and forth, contrasting past struggles against natural and social injustices with the new generation who embody a more hopeful future.
The sequence ends in a powerful yet startling image, a map of undivided India (including Sri Lanka), bordered by haystacks and peopled by villagers dancing in celebration (Chatterjee, 2002). Liisa Malkki (1992) uses the term “national order of things” to refer to the nation as a hegemonic ordering of knowledge, a mapping of the world as a multicoloured atlas without “bleeding borders”. “In this spatial ordering [associated with Nehruvian ideals] culture and identity are imagined as deeply territorialised as well as territorially circumscribed” (Fazila-Yacoobali, 2002, page 184).
Hindi cinema’s representations of overseas Indians during the Nehruvian period (dating from independence to the early 1980s)(7) were for consumption by the `homeland’ often to caution against abandoning it. Thus, the characters of overseas Indians were frequently seen in negative roles underlining their inauthenticity, traced to, and explained by, the (in)authenticity of the mother. The perceived centrality of mothering to the family and to the nation allows and allowed for the positing of inadequate mothering as a key factor in the risk to overseas Indians from contamination by alien values.
Thus, their subsequent return to the `homeland’ carried the threat of disruption but nevertheless functioned to affirm Indian values over alien values and to strengthen the family and community. In the next section I examine representations of overseas Indians and diasporic space in Purab aur Paschim (East West, 1970, director Manoj Kumar). Purab aur Paschim (which I will hereafter refer to as PP) is one of the earliest films to comment explicitly on the Indian diaspora and present diasporic spaces to the `homeland’. Although some Hindi
films of the 1960s, most notably Sangam (Union, 1964, director Raj Kapoor), presented the overseas as a tourist site, as spaces of pleasure and consumption for the Indian elite, in most films the distant spaces lying outside of the territorial boundaries of the nation (identified largely with the former colonial power Britain and/or Europe) are present only as an embodied `otherness’. The diaspora: a view from the `homeland’ PP explicitly links overseas migrant flows to India’s colonial past. The West is represented by the former colonial metropole, Britain.
The film opens on the last years of British India (conveyed by the use of black-and-white photography) unequivocally labelled as purab, the East. The protagonist Bharat (the Sanskrit name for India recovered after independence as an assertion of self-identification) departs for the West for the purpose of study. However, since Bharat is a hero, not a villain, the narrative must clarify that his move is not for personal advancement but for the higher good of the nation and national development. The villains of PP are products of the colonial encounter, imbued with the va
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