Bollywood in Manila: the spectre of moral comparisons
Adrian ATHIQUE and Jozon LORENZANA
ABSTRACT This article explores inter-Asian media reception using the example of Bollywood films and the setting of Metro Manila in the Philippines. Drawing upon a series of interviews and focus groups with both the existing audience and “unexposed” viewers from the “mainstream,” this study takes an interest in how audiences establish the “common ground” that allows them to decode Bollywood narratives. By rescaling the dynamics of inter-cultural media exchange from geopolitical competition down to the grassroots experience of ordinary people, this article demonstrates how Bollywood films provide the basis for imaginative comparisons that open up everyday affinities based on shared economic situations and moral dilemmas. Developing the further intuition that the comparative aspects of global imagination are felt as much as considered, this article seeks to demonstrate how the melodramatic form of Bollywood generates emotional responses that inculcate empathy and an ethic of care. Our larger purpose is twofold: firstly, to explore the potentials of inter-cultural exchange between two societies on opposite sides of “Asia” and, secondly, to encourage reflection upon the ways that mediation facilitates the comparative functions of the global imagination in everyday experience.
KEYWORDS: Bollywood; the Philippines; India; media audiences; soft power; social imagination; melodrama
Notes on contributor
Adrian Athique is Associate Professor in Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland. His work to date has addressed the cultural history, geography, sociology and economics of the media. He is the author of a number of books, including The Multiplex in India (2009, Routledge, with Douglas Hill), Indian Media: Global Approaches (2012, Polity), Digital Media and Society (2013, Polity) and Transnational Audiences: Media Reception On A Global Scale (2016, Polity). He is currently working on a two-volume collection, The Indian Media Economy, with Vibodh Parthasarathi and SV Srinivas.
Jozon A Lorenzana is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippines. Dr Lorenzana’s work in Communication Studies focuses on the intersection of media, identity and sociality, particularly among marginalized groups.