Tying the Knot: A Discussion with Indian Americans on Arranged Marriage through Bollywood
Turner, Jeanine W
Bollywood films have a strong presence in the lives of Indian Americans. Previous studies show that they play a significant role in shaping cultural identity. A salient theme in Bollywood films, particularly of the 90’s and early 2000’s, is love. A common narrative of these films features the protagonist choosing between love and arranged marriage, a metaphorical representation of the modernity versus tradition debate borne of the liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991. This very conflict transcends into the lives of several Indian Americans. Taking into account the pervasiveness of Bollywood in the lives of Indian Americans, this paper asks “how do today’s dating-age Indian Americans talk about arranged marriage through the romantic Bollywood films that they grew up on?” This question is addressed through two qualitative studies; first, a qualitative content analysis of nine Bollywood films released between 1994-2004 to establish the negative bias towards arranged marriage in cinema, and second, ten in-depth interviews with Indian Americans to understand how their views on Bollywood and arranged marriage intersect. The interviews are analyzed through two frameworks of Stuart Hall, Encoding/Decoding and Circuit of Culture. This study shows that while Bollywood has a strong presence in their lives, the Indian American youth filter the messages of love and arranged marriage through their own life experiences.
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