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The Role of Post-1990 Bollywood Films in Identity Formation of Second-Generation Indian Transnationals in Metro Manila

Written by Gilbert Que. Posted in MA Theses @ UP Asian Center (2013–Onwards)

This study explores the impact of post1990 liberalization Bollywood films on the lives of second-generation Indian transnationals in Metro Manila, particularly the role of Bollywood in identity formation of these Indian transnationals. The study uses Bourdieu's three capitals to facilitate the research. These capitals are the economic capital, the social capital, and the cultural capital.

Bollywood, or the mainstream Hindi-language film industry of India, has started tapping on its transnational communities since the 1990s, and non-Indian international audience since the mid-2000 onwards. Because of this, the Bollywood filmmakers have become more conscious in using Bollywood as a carrier of the Indian cultures and traditions. This is done not only to allow the Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) to be reconnected to the Indian motherland, but also to encourage them to invest in India. For the non-Indian audience, this is to change perceptions on India, and attract non-Indians to go to India for tourism or for investments as well.  

 

In the Philippines, the Indian community is scattered and growing. Among the different Indian ethno-linguistic groups present in the Philippines, the study chose second-generation Sindhis and the Punjabis as respondents. This is because the Sindhis and the Punjabis are the two biggest Indian ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines, and because the second-generation is the first group of transnationals to be completely displaced from the Indian motherland. Both the Sindhis and Punjabis, despite coming from different linguistic, cultural, occupational, and geographical backgrounds, appeared to have experienced the same form of discrimination and stereotyping in the Philippine society. Since Bollywood is popular among members of both ethno-linguistic groups, studying how Bollywood films restrengthen and reinforce the respondents' Indian identity is significant.

The second-generation Indian respondents access Bollywood through various means, and have diverse reasons to watch Bollywood, but it is clear that the respondents from both Sindhis and Punjabis liked and understood Bollywood films. The respondents gained a secondary embodied cultural capital (i.e. more exposure to the Hindi language, Hindu rituals, etc.) through watching Bollywood films. By absorbing more information on the Indian cultures and languages, this allowed them to be further integrated with their Indian social capital. 

Analyses of Bollywood films were also done in order to see what kinds of embodied cultural capital post-liberalization Bollywood films contain. The NRI-targeted films were more particular on the portrayal of the Indian cultures and traditions, while internationally-targeted Bollywood films focused more on defying questionable aspects of societal norms. Despite the difference, the respondents learned Hindu values and cultures from the films, and when to start questioning the norms. Finally, these Bollywood films made the respondents proud to be Indians not only because of the nationalistic themes in the films, but also because the creativity of the Indians has allowed the world to notice and take an interest in India.

Author: Gilbert Que • Year of Completion: 2015 • Degree: MA in Asian Studies (South Asia Program)