Cinema and the Villager: Analyzing Rural India's Changing Access to Hindi Film
Much of Hindi film scholarship focuses on the industry's globalization and its diversifying audience demographics in recent years. As a result of this outward focus, Indian villagers have been greatly ignored in Hindi film research, despite making up 70% of the country's population. This thesis argues that by using the lens of comparative historical sociology, we can understand the overlapping and connected changes in technological, social and institutional contexts in post-independence India, and how these changes have affected the extent to which rural Indians have accessed Hindi cinema, both pragmatically and emotionally. Important historical processes to consider include the diffusion of ICTs, lingering effects of the caste system, and the globalization of the Hindi film industry. Reconceptualizing the historical contexts as networks helps focus the analysis on issues of access, where connections exist, and how different actors are included - or excluded. Furthermore, this thesis supplements a macro historical lens with content analysis, which illustrates how broader changes manifest in cultural texts. In particular, examining ten Hindi films from 1953 to 2009, this thesis examines the changing narrative of on-screen portrayal of rural India. This multilayered long durée perspective not only helps map historical shifts occurring simultaneously in multiple `networks,' but also shows how more explosive changes in the short durée - such as recent ICT diffusion and Bollywood's globalization - relate to the broader multiple-network system. As a result, we find a complex cyclical relationship between Hindi film and the broader technological, social, and institutional contexts from which these cultural texts emerge.
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