‘Bollywood’ Kal, Aaj, aur Kal
(“yesterday, today, and tomorrow”)
By Professor Philip Lutgendorf
(abstract) The Indian commercial film industry—known worldwide by the misleading but now unavoidable label “Bollywood”—is famously the world’s largest in terms of output. But it is also among the world’s oldest, and is especially notable for having, for most of its century-plus existence, steadfastly resisted or rejected Euro-American aesthetic and production conventions to evolve a distinctive and independent cinematic style that has often appealed not only to Indian viewers but also to vast transnational audiences. This talk will identify and explore key elements of this style, within the framework of a chronological history, and featuring short clips from key films of different eras. It will conclude with reflections on the present and (possible) future of “Bollywood” style—is it (as some claim) vanishing due to the growing impact of changing audience tastes, globalized media, and CGI and other digital technologies?
(short bio) Professor Philip Lutgendorf taught Hindi language and Modern Indian Studies in the University of Iowa’s Department of Asian and Slavic Languages and Literatures for 33 years, until his retirement in 2018. His book on the performance of the Hindi Ramayana, The Life of a Text (U California, 1991), won the A. K. Coomaraswamy Prize of the Association for Asian Studies. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002-03 for his research on the popular Hindu “monkey-god” Hanuman, which appeared as Hanuman’s Tale, The Messages of a Divine Monkey (OUP, 2007). His interests include epic performance traditions, folklore and popular culture, and mass media. He maintains a website devoted to Hindi cinema, a.k.a. “Bollywood” (www.uiowa.edu/indiancinema/ ). Four volumes of his new, seven-volume translation of the sixteenth-century Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas for the Murty Classical Library of India have appeared as The Epic of Ram (Harvard University Press, 2016, 2018). His research on the cultural history of “chai” in South Asia began in 2010 with a Fulbright Senior Fellowship. He has served as President of the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) from 2010-2018 and currently Chairs its Board of Trustees.