Bollywood's Big Supporting Role In India Elections

(MENAFN- Asia Times) As the largest electorate in history goes to the polls in India from April 19 to June 1, 2024, political parties are seeking to influence voters' decisions – through cinema.

The incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, seeking a third term in office under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has deployed the medium of cinema, more than others , to spread the party's goals and ideas.

The BJP claims India as a Hindu nation. The Modi government openly supports films that promote the BJP ideology through providing tax breaks and removing regulatory restrictions , especially when such films are strategically timed to release in theaters ahead of the elections.“Swatantrya Veer Savarkar ,” a biopic on an ardent advocate of a purely Hindu nation, was released a few weeks before polling begins for the 2024 elections.

India's entertainment film industry is a complex behemoth with an output of about 1,500 releases per year and a base of fans that extends around the world. Fabulously choreographed dance routines, catchy lyrics, memorable dialogue and historical and religious imagery make it a favored medium of communication even for political parties.

The use of Indian popular cinema for political ends has a long history – one that predates Indian independence . As an art historian , in my 2009 book Celluloid Deities: The Visual Culture of Cinema and Politics in South India , I documented how cinematic imagery was used to produce a heroic aura around political figures in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

The connection between cinema and politics made it the primary vehicle for the lengthy careers of numerous charismatic politicians – some of them screenwriters and film producers, others leading actors and actresses. Since the 1980s, it also set in motion a nationwide trend of using cinematic means to capture the attention of voters.

Mobilizing film fans for electoral campaigns

Viewing movies in theaters is an eventful and enjoyable experience that draws a mass audience. As sociologist Lakshmi Srinivas describes in her 2016 book“House Full ,” the release of highly anticipated blockbusters is much like a festival. Most striking is the excitement of audiences as they recite the dialogues, dance to the lyrics and hail stars as they appear on the screen.


Asia Times

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