Multiplex Kathmandu: Local Identities, Global Aspirations, by Jinni Pradhan
Pradhan, Jinni. 2016. Multiplex Kathmandu: Local Identities, Global Aspirations. University of California, Davis, CA.
This dissertation is an ethnographic study of the transnational contemporary cinema culture in the South Asian country of Nepal, where Kollywood (Nepali Cinema), Bollywood, and Hollywood share in a shifting (and sometimes contentious) relationship. Concerned with decentering Western paradigms within Film Studies and South Asian Studies, this research prioritizes the voices of urban Nepali audiences in the capital of Kathmandu. Urban Nepali filmgoers debase Nepali cinema as stagnant and unoriginal, Bollywood as averagely superior to Nepali cinema, and Hollywood as the pinnacle of cinematic achievement; the exhibition venues associated with these films fall under the same hierarchical framework. Furthermore, they map the countries/areas of origin onto these film industries—many embrace the innovation and inspiration that images of Bollywood and Hollywood provide of a world beyond Nepal, while struggling with their acceptance of Bollywood particularly, given a nationalistic resistance to Indian interference and influence in Nepal. Through their film consumption choices and habits, these audiences engage in a form of cosmopolitanism that I call vernacular cosmopolitanism. Vernacular cosmopolitanism posits that those from globally marginalized countries and identities engage in a necessary cosmopolitanism brought on by the indoctrinating forces of globalization. These marginalized peoples then cultivate dominant global standards within themselves and their society to judge local culture in a process similar to self-orientalization. However, the way in which dominant global standards are integrated into local culture is very much dependent on the sociopolitical landscape of each marginalized country. Vernacular cosmopolitanism serves to demonstrate the inherent transnational quality of local Nepali cinema culture and how it echoes larger, systemic issues affecting the everyday lives of people of a doubly marginalized country (both globally and regionally) such as Nepal.