The concept of cosmopolitanism in Bombay is commonly associated with communal tension, religious tolerance and violence to point to a post-colonial decline of cosmopolitanism as crystallised by the riots of the 1990s1. However, MacFarlane posits that “claims that the city has…
Alternatively, another argument put forward is the fact that there are “a wide variety of alternative cosmopolitan formations….reflected in civil society organisations and lifestyle changes for different groups, and often vividly reflected in film”4. The focus of this paper is to critically evaluate the historiography of cosmopolitanism in Bombay. To this end, it is submitted that the issue of cosmopolitanism in Bombay is intrinsically complex in embodying multifarious and diverse lifestyle “cosmopolitan formations”5as a result of lifestyle and socio-political changes in India.
Additionally, it is submitted that on the one hand, the archetypal Bollywood Film arguably personifies the historiography of cosmopolitanism in Bombay as evidenced by the contrast between depictions of cosmopolitan Bombay in the initial aftermath of Independence and the subsequent cinematic reflections of “destabilisation of the postcolonial vision of urban national development”6. Accordingly, it is further submitted that to some extent the Indian film acts as a microcosm of the cultural development of Bombay from a historiography perspective and that cosmopolitanism in Bombay is ultimately correlated to social change.
However, it is important to highlight the fact that from a socio-cultural perspective, the archetypal Indian film has served an important function in providing escapism to the poorer masses. Therefore, whilst film is clearly an important aspect of considering cosmopolitanism in Bombay, it is ultimately the socio-political backdrop that will influence the continuing evolution of cosmopolitanism. This is further evidenced if we consider the fact in postcolonial India, the initial unification of Indian people during Independence had moved towards an ostensible cosmopolitan Bombay embracing its multicultural population, ...
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