Indian Diaspora and Bollywood in the USA

Globally successful phenomenon – Bollywood , can be attributed to the alignment of the film industry toward the Indian diaspora and a wider audiences living abroad. In December 2016 Ministry of External Affairs (Indian Government) counted 13 million people as Non-resident Indian (NRIs) and 17.8 million people as Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs). Thats a total of 30.8 million Overseas Indians. NRI are people who are Indian Citizen but stays abroad for more than 180 days per year. PIO are people of Indian descent who are foreign citizen.

Indian-Americans or British-Indians use the term “Desi” as self-entity. Hindi Movies – Bollywood – plays an important role for this community in their diasporic lives. According to J.Matusitz and P. Payano, in 2011 over 3.5 billion tickets were sold across the globe, it’s 900,000 tickets more than Hollywood. Bollywood film industry and Indian government recognized that Bollywood has potential to construct an identity across generations of the Indian Diaspora.

‘Bollywood was selected long back for the purpose of connecting the Indian people residing across the world. Hence both intra & inter connectivity is facilitated by Bollywood. Showing of an Indian film became a focal point of connectivity’ (Sharma 2010).

In the 1990s, Bollywood film industry started producing films directed at the diaspora, Movies such as Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (The big-hearted will take away the Bride, 1995), Pardes (Foreign Country, 1997), Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (Somethings Happens [in the Heart], 1998), Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (Sometimes happy, Sometimes sad, 2001), Swades (Own Country, 2004) and Delhi-6 (2009). These movies star NRI/PIO who discovers india in a different but a positive way, focusing on family, tradition and national identity. The negative image of pollution and poverty were avoided, and thats how modern Bollywood movie emerged.










Example: Delhi- 6

Roshan, played by Abhishek Bachchan, comes from an Indian-American middle-class family and accompanies his grandmother to India. His grandmother demands to go back to her home (India) as shes is ill and wants to die there. Their home is in Delhi-6, an area called Purani dilli (Old Delhi) in the capital. There he gets to meet his relatives and neighbours. Eventually he falls in love with a young neighbour and he tries to help her avoiding an arranged marriage. The marriage of Roshan’s parent had been an inter-religious marriage, which had caused a conflict between Roshan’s father and grandfather, resulting in the family’s absence from India. Gradually he starts to like the city and it’s people who are so colourful , diverse and full of life. On the other hand, the director reported several incidents that happened in 2001 and 2002, the big black monkey attacks several people across the town, leads to violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims this leaves Roshan confused about his feelings for his “Home-country” as he had just decided to stay. In the end Roshan embraces the diversity of Delhi 6 and India.

Below is the trailer of Delhi-6, with english subtitle ☺️

India is a places of longing for all generation. The 1st generation is reminded of it’s childhood and youth and longs for their former home as a place for retirement. The 2nd of 3rd, hence the young generation of desi’s gets unique access to the heritage of their parents and grandparents. This resulted in a boost for tourism by the Indian diaspora.

No other institution has been as successful in achieving the emotional integration of this vast and diverse land of ours as our film industry has been. Unique mix of conversational Hindi from across the country, popularized by the film industry, has become the thread that weaves us all together as Indians. (Singh 2007)

Modern Bollywood movies gives diasporic audiences a form of identity that helps them discover and embrace “Indianness”. Particularly visible among desi teenagers in the USA. The movies can be watched together with friends and family on DVD, internet streaming or in cinema halls. Songs from the movies become popular and are used as phone ringtones, are heard in cars, at parties. Music and Dialogues find it’s way into daily life of young desi’s , as it becomes an experience and a tool for them to express themselves. 

One of the reasons for its success in the diaspora is the combination of consumerism and so called desi value.  The film characters are young, attractive and wealthy, but still the higher importance is maintaining purity and chastity of women, respecting elders or sacrificing self desires for the betterment of the family. Characters respecting these values are seen as role models.

The success of Bollywood in the diaspora is reflected in the increased consumption of Indian products, such as DVDs, fashion, tourism, etc. Which hypes the industry and contributes to it’s success. “Indianness” that unites different age groups of diaspora will remain an imagined one, as India itself is a diverse country.

Signing off, 

Khan Sultana nazish


Banerjee, A. (2016). COPYRIGHT PIRACY AND THE INDIAN FILM INDUSTRY: A “REALIST” ASSESSMENT. 34th ed. [ebook] Available at: http://www.cardozoaelj.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/BANERJEE-ARTICLE.pdf [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

 Indiandiaspora.nic.in. (2004). The Indian Diaspora. [online] Available at: http://indiandiaspora.nic.in/ [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

Population of Overseas Indians. (2016). [ebook] India: mea.gov. Available at: https://www.mea.gov.in/images/pdf/NRIs-and-PIOs.pdf [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

Therwath, I. (2016). ‘Shining Indians’: Diaspora and Exemplarity in Bollywood. [ebook] Association pour la recherche sur l’Asie du Sud (ARAS). Available at: https://samaj.revues.org/3000 [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].


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