ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

“Punjabi Bollywood” and its Punjabi audiences


Szivak Julia - Pazmany Peter Catholic University, Dept of Chinese Studies, Budapest, Hungary


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


 Recent years have seen an increase in the number of Bollywood films that touch upon the culture of Punjab in a variety of ways. From films that are set in Punjabi cities and discuss the local way of living, such as Manmarziyan (2018, dir. Anurag Kashyap), to films that are concerned with depicting the lives of young Punjabis living abroad, such as Sardaar ka Grandson (2021, Kashvie Nair) Bollywood is allotting a generous amount of screen time to Punjabi characters, landscapes, melodies and stories. Moreover, the Punjab-focus of Bollywood extends to the trend of films with no connection in the storyline to Punjab, drawing on the musical archive of Punjab and including adaptations of folk songs, such as Jabariya Jodi did (Prashant Singh 2019).

Even though there is a dearth of scholarly accounts on the representation of Punjab in Bollywood cinema, there is no investigation into what Punjabi audiences think of their Bollywood portrayal. Do they feel represented by Hindi popular cinema at all? How do they relate to the aspects of Punjabiness that Bollywood is highlighting? In this paper I seek to explore how Punjabi youth perceive the Punjab that is represented in Bollywood cinema. By combining quantitative and qualitative methods, such as surveys and in-depth interviews, I investigate what the representation of Punjab in Bollywood means to young viewers in India and in the diaspora.