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Swapnil Rai: “Star power, Cinephilia and Cultural Diplomacy: Unpacking the affective, industrial, and technological contours of Bollywood’s inroads into China”

April 22 @ 3:30 pm - 4:35 pm CDT

Global Media Industry Speaker Series and the RTF Media Studies Colloquium present a talk by Swapnil Rai, Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Television and Media at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“If today’s Chinese audience has any kind of loyalty toward foreign films, Hollywood films rank No.1, Japanese anime No.2., and No.3 undoubtedly goes to Aamir Khan’s films”

– Feng Jian Ji (Ji, 2017)

China’s love affair with Bollywood is not completely new. It is said that after the first Indian film festival in China in the late fifties, Mao Zedong declared Raj Kapoor’s Awara his favorite film. However, the romance was cut short by Indo-Chinese political hostility and subsequent Sino-Indian war in 1962. The resurgence of Bollywood in China started in 2010 with the film 3 Idiots, starring Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan. His recent films Dangal (2016) and Secret Super Star (2017) dominated the Chinese box office, earning $190 million and $109 million respectively (D’Cunha 2018).

Khan enjoys a cult stardom in China with over a million followers on the Chinese social media site Weibo. The youth dub him their favorite uncle. Their terms of affective engagement with Khan center around his socially conscious star persona and the willingness to create cinema that attempts to “make a difference”. Focusing on Chinese film and social media platforms such as Douban, M-Time and Weibo, this paper offers a discursive analysis of Khan’s fandom in China. It hones in on the affective terms of engagement of the Chinese users and their fandom’s intersections with India’s intangible, affective soft power and the circulation of Bollywood as a malleable cultural form. It also explicates the ways in which this discursive fandom points to an inclusion of democratic values and a perception of parallel modernities in relation to larger issues pertaining to education, women empowerment, infrastructural divide between rural and urban regions that both neighboring Asian economies contend with. While cinema is often thought to be peripheral to geo-politics, the case of Aamir Khan’s fandom in China carves out a new discursive space for star-led affective power that extends star power to the realm of cultural diplomacy.

Focusing on Chinese film and social media platforms such as Douban, M-Time and Weibo, this paper offers a discursive analysis of Khan’s fandom in China. It hones in on the affective terms of engagement of the Chinese users and their fandom’s intersections with India’s intangible, affective soft power and the circulation of Bollywood as a malleable cultural form. It also explicates the ways in which this discursive fandom points to an inclusion of democratic values and a perception of parallel modernities in relation to larger issues pertaining to education, women empowerment, infrastructural divide between rural and urban regions that both neighboring Asian economies contend with. While cinema is often thought to be peripheral to geo-politics, the case of Aamir Khan’s fandom in China carves out a new discursive space for star-led affective power that extends star power to the realm of cultural diplomacy.

After the talk concludes at 4:45, Rai will chat with interested grad students for an additional half hour about careers, research, professional development and more. Rai welcomes questions!

Swapnil Rai is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Television and Media at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her research focuses on global film and television, media industries, women and gender studies, race and ethnicity, transnational stardom, and celebrity culture. Her current book project examines the history of global flows of Indian films and the role of stars in Bollywood production culture and industry globalization.

Join via Zoom.

Details

Date:
April 22
Time:
3:30 pm - 4:35 pm CDT
Event Category:
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Target Audience
Faculty, Students
Tags
Film, Global, Moody College

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