Bollywood gets the Harvard treatment

By Aarti Malhotra and Nitya Mahajan

Staff Reporters

Dr. Richard Delacy, preceptor at Harvard, gave a talk on “Modern Indian Identity in Bollywood Cinema” on July 27 in the Media Center Auditorium.  

Dr. Delacy talked about about the reconceptualization of Indian films in the nineties and its consequences on the portrayal of Indian identity. “The 90’s changed things dramatically, and we got these new kind of films — Bollywood films. I consider movies before this just precursors,” he said.

Dr. Delacy, a preceptor of Hindi and Urdu at Harvard, also teaches a course at Harvard on contemporary Indian commercial cinema called “Bollywood and Beyond.”

Dr. Delacy delivered several lectures during his month-long residency at the Center for Imagination. During his talk on Bollywood, attended by about 30 students and staff, he showed YouTube clips of Bollywood films and explained how each decade changed the idea of Indian identity.

He explained how Indian films before the 1990’s focused on the working class, but the 90’s shifted this attention to the urban class, which in turn redefined Indian identity. He went on to explain how this shift in focus of films also affected the understanding of the threats that lie in middle-class society.

According to him, rural movies that get made now threaten the lifestyle of middle-class consumers. He said, “Once upon a time, rural way of life was ideal but now it threatens our lifestyle.”

This change arrived when contact with the rural India decreased, which in turn created the stereotype that all villages are dangerous and unsophisticated. Due to this sudden change in perception, people started viewing the rural and village people as the villains.

For example, the thriller NH10 (2015) is about an urban couple on a road trip that encounters a spooky village filled with gangs and violence. This subtly alters the viewer’s perception of the rural India, making them feel that it is unsafe.

“But where is the real India? It’s in the village, not the city,” he said.  


Andrew Plonka
Photo by Andrew Plonka 



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