ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Moviegoing as “Pilgrimage”: Digital nationalism and the new Cine-mobs of Hindi Cinema


Walia Ramna - FLAME University, Department of Media and Journalism, Pune, India


49 – Public Knowledge: Audiences in South Asian Media and Screen Studies


 In what has been termed an era of “chest-thumping nationalism,” India’s leading commercial entertainment industry in Mumbai, has been at the forefront of a socio-political Culture War. In this moment of industrial reckoning, the site of the film theatre has become a key site of contestation. Recently, multiple incidents of sloganeering, swearing, and hateful rants during the various screenings of Vivek Agnihotri’s ‘The Kashmir Files,’ a revisionist populist film, went viral on social and mainstream news media. The film’s  promotional events carried the tagline, #RightToJustice, thus inviting online “engagement” and conscription of a retributive public viewing.  PM Modi and many BJP-ruled Indian states offered tax exemptions on the film ticket and encouraged people to see the film in theatres. The act of moviegoing thus turned into a “pilgrimage” for the (Hindu) “nationalist” cause.

In this paper, I use the category of cinematic “pilgrimage” to map the persistent link between online virality (digital multiplicity), cinema, and the public performances of “nationalism” in the space of the film theatre. I extend S.V Srinivas’s argument about ‘devotion’ and fan performances (hooting, clapping, etc.) to examine this new regime of (Hindu) nationalists performances as a deviant turn. I use the publicity material and carefully designed social media campaigns to examine the creation of performative codes online and their mobilization by the cine-mobs in theatres.