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Change of pace? Islam and tradition in popular Indian cinema

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Bollywood has been extensively studied for its nationalist themes, its widespread popularity, and its emphasis on tradition and ritual. For the most part, these traditions and rituals tend to be derived from Hindu mythology and symbolism, presenting an interesting paradox given that its audience is not composed exclusively of Hindu viewers. This contradiction is deepened by the fact that Bollywood's production and content are touched by the influences of other cultures and religions, including Islam. This paper focuses specifically on the role of Islam in Bollywood films, analysing central themes and production practices and assessing whether these have changed substantially over time. Given India's complicated political, cultural, and religious history and the more global concern with Islam's meaning and significance, Islam inevitably plays a significant - and somewhat transformed - role in popular Indian cinema. However, in the films discussed here, it also carries familiar associations with terrorism, violence, and intercultural misunderstanding.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: School of Journalism and Communication, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: April 1, 2008


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