Bollywood: More Than Just Musicals

The practice of reflexivity throughout the research process highlights the importance of declaring and taking responsibility for our positioning as researchers.

Pitard J (2017 p. 9)

‘Reflexive’ thinking is a phrase which is often found alongside ‘autoethnography’. As Pitard 2017 (p.9-10) explains, there are two types: personal and epistemological, which are explained below.

In this blog post, I will be analysing my narrated experience (click to read) through the scopes of both personal and epistemological reflexivity.

personal

Firstly, my original narrative experience lacks an integral step in my autoethnographic journey: a robust explanation of my cultural frame. So, I must acknowledge the cultural frame which shapes my values, experiences and assumptions, by answering questions posed by Pitard (2017 p. 10).

“What do I believe underpins my knowledge of life?”

I primarily interact with the world through my screens. My phone screens, laptop screens, self service screens – you name it. From the moment I was born, less and less in-person interaction became required of me. And this, in turn has affected the media I consumed.

As technology began to advance, so too did the diversity of the content I viewed. But, somehow I found myself never having watched many ‘foreign’ content – why? Cultural proximity theories can partly explain this phenomenon.

“Where did I gain this belief?”

So, I can partly assign this blame to my upbringing in a predominately white Australia, as a white Australian. I was brought up in a fairly sheltered community where I was seldom exposed to anything confronting, or any media which was not deemed appropriate (by my parents, schools, peers etc.).

There was no real encouragement to explore cultures outside my own, whether that be through food, customs, dress or media consumption.

“How does this BELIEF influence the way i react to situations and people?”

As a result, i admittedly carry an egocentric approach to experiencing other cultures, usually interpreting my experiences by comparing them to related ones within my own culture. However, as globalisation has progressed, my interest in experiencing foreign cultures has too.

Through the process of conducting this autoethnography, I am pushing myself to simply experience the media I am watching, and appreciate its significance within Hindi culture, before comparing it to my own.

“What assumptions have I accumulated from my life experiences which may affect my reflexivity?”

Ultimately, I have found it difficult to remove my likes, preferences, and the media I am ‘used to’ and acknowledge these texts as unique to their own culture. Firstly, I should point out my initial error: I thought Bollywood is a term to describe the Indian film industry, but it is for the Hindi film industry.

Consuming media from a dominant media capital (Curtin 2003) for most of my life has created an assumption that Western media is automatically of a higher quality, and more relatable to myself personally.

However, this could not be more incorrect. As I view more and more Bollywood texts, I am coming to appreciate its unique Hindi flare, and the artistic detail that goes into many of these productions.

Moreover, my preconceived ideals of “Bollywood” as a genre are problematic for my reflexivity. I had pigeon-holed the genre to fit inside a niche box of melodramatic musical productions. But, I have become wowed by the diversity that exists within the Hindi Film Industry, by straying away from old favourites such as Om Shanti Om.

Therefore, a better description of my cultural frame would be: I am product of my environment – a chiefly white-washed upbringing where experiencing media through screens gradually began to dominate my lifestyle. This personal context led to problematic predispositions concerning ‘foreign’ media and a reluctance to give it a go. So I am here, experiencing Bollywood in all its grandeur and loving every surprise along the way.


Epistemological

Ellis et al. (2011) proposes that ethnographers may interview cultural members, examine their ways of relating and investigate cultural artifacts such as movies and television. Which, is precicesly what my individual autoethnographic study aims to do. In my narrative experience, I outlined my methodology to view Bollywood/Lollywood media, collect field notes, and reflect on the differences between Western and Eastern media.

Another element which Ellis et al. (2011) speaks about is “considering ways others may experience similar epiphanies”, which I feel that my narrated experience fails to do.

Initially, my study was purely autoethnographic (where “there is no subject except the author herself to study” (Delamont 2009 p.58)). However, upon reflection I have transformed my digital artifact to become a reflexive autoethnography where I am “studying a subsculture… other than [my]self” and in turn, including the experiences of cultural insiders in my study (Delamont 2009 p.58).

I will compare and contrast these experiences with my own to investigate the interplay between viewing Bollywood films as a cultural outsider, versus as a cultural insider, and how this correlates to global flows of media between the ‘East’ and ‘West’.


so, where to?

I have just published my first film review on Om Shanti Om, and another for Pink will be published shortly. In these reviews I will be including reaction video which contrasts my experiences with that of my friend Sehel, who is a cultural insider. The first example of which, is below.

This has allowed me to gain additional knowledge about the texts, and the culture that surrounds them, overall enriching my viewing experience and enhancing my autoethnographic study.

Any suggestions, feedback, or questions are very welcome, so please comment below!

References

 Curtin M 2003, ‘Media Capital’, International Journal of Cultural Studies, SAGE Publications, London, vol. 6, no. 2, pp.202-228.

Delamont S 2009, ‘The only honest thing: autoethnography, reflexivity and small crises in fieldwork’, Ethnography and Education, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 51-63.

Ellis et al. 2011, ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no.1.

Pitard J 2017, ‘A Journey to the Centre of Self: Positioning the Researcher in Autoethnography’, Qualitative Social Research, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 1-21.

Featured image source.

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2 thoughts on “Bollywood: More Than Just Musicals

  1. Hello Jasmyn, I really enjoyed reading your blog as I’m an international student from India. It is interesting and important that you mentioned that it was difficult for you to remove your likes, preferences and the media and you are own culture. The term “Bollywood” is mistake to be the the entire film industry by most. Most of the time Indian film are thought to be just musicals but they are more than that and the new films are making it easier for western viewers to watch it.

    I really enjoyed your video review on Om Shanti Om. The Indian film industry has changed a lot since Om Shanti Om has been released. Pink is one such movies which represents the current film industry. I suggest you to watch Queen, Badla, and Article 15 which are on Netflix. If you want to watch a series please watch Scared Games.

    All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

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