Inspired by the Forbidden Screen: Cultural Movements and Hindi Commercial Cinema in North-East India


Daisy Hasan

This article looks at the impact of the Hindi commercial film industry on ”peripheral” cultures in India. The article examines the love-hate relationship towards Hindi popular and film culture that people in the North-Eastern region of India feel. North-East India is home to diverse ethnic groups, who have historically never felt a part of mainstream India. The region is caught up in several political conflicts with the Indian state. Most of these movements claim political autonomy arguing that the distinct identities of people in the region entitle them to self-government and cultural freedom. Today, as satellite channels have proliferated in the region, Hindi commercial cinema is beginning to be accepted despite the fact that several political groups have banned the public from viewing such films.

The first part of this article looks at the historical relationship between the Indian state and indigenous peoples of North-East India. Part two, which is based on in-depth interviews with film and video producers and their audiences examines locally produced films and other entertainment in the Khasi language of Meghalaya (a state in North-East India) to show how indigenous filmmakers creatively appropriate a dominant genre to create their own nascent ”film industry”. Audiences’ views about the influence of Indian popular culture on Khasi identity are discussed. The article ends by exploring the political implications of the appropriation of Bollywood. Does the dominance of Bollywood in the local imagination threaten indigenous peripheral cultures? Is this then a form of ”internal imperialism” or are people able to use mainland cinema and culture to further local identity ”projects”?