A Bollywood State of Mind
A journey into the most successful film genre in the world
Sunny Singh

An exhilarating journey through the complex histories of India, performance traditions and cultural history, A Bollywood State of Mind is a love letter to cinema, an invitation to learn about the largest film fandom on the planet, and a window onto the rise of modern India.

Like all Indians, Sunny Singh was born and brought up in a country of film fanatics. She and her friends waited impatiently for the latest releases, listened to the songs on radio and wore clothes inspired by those seen on screen. They learned about India and the world, determined their enemies and friends, and chose their moralities thanks to films.

Her personal, intellectual and emotional journey crosses five continents and 50 years of modern Indian history and cinema and to understand why Bollywood means so much to so many across the globe. She explores how this exceptional cinema retains its hold on the national imagination, how Bollywood has enhanced India’s global standing in the 21st century, and how its characteristics endure despite the social and political changes. 

Bollywood – and indeed all popular cinema in India – defies classification or even genre distinctions. It prides itself on grand spectacle, mind-boggling twists and turns of plot, and a rollercoaster emotional ride. Over the years, budgets have grown, as have the markets in and outside India. New technologies and new ways of watching cinema have emerged. While India continues to undergo dizzying political, social and economic changes, this form of filmmaking retains its grip on contemporary national culture.  

A Bollywood State of Mind traces key characteristics of the ‘Bollywood film’, situates it in a long trajectory of performance traditions and cultural philosophies, and outlines ways to watch this cinema. Ranging over history, aesthetic theory and politics, it also explores encounters with Bollywood in the market places of Dakar and Marrakesh, in the nightclubs of New York, Barcelona and Mexico City, and in the ruins of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, Petra and beyond. It shows how the pioneers and heroes of Bollywood cut across national, linguistic and cultural lines not only in India but in far reaches of Somalia, Peru, Malaysia and Russia.

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Photography: M-PHOTO

About the author

Sunny Singh is a writer, novelist, public intellectual, and a champion for decolonisation and inclusion across all aspects of society.

She is the founder of the Jhalak Prize for Book of the Year by a Writer of Colour, the Jhalak Children’s and YA Prize, and the Jhalak Art Residency.

She is the author of three critically acclaimed novels – Nani’s Book of Suicides, With Krishna’s Eyes and Hotel Arcadia. Her first book of non-fiction was Single in the City: The Independent Woman’s Handbook, a first-of-its-kind exploration of single women in contemporary India. Her pioneering study of the Indian superstar Amitabh Bachchan was published in the BFI Bloomsbury Film Stars series. Her short stories are published in The Drawbridge, The Good Journal and World Literature Today, and her creative non-fiction and academic writing is published in international journals and anthologies. She writes in English and Spanish for newspapers and magazines around the world.

Sunny lives in London where she is Professor of Creative Writing and Inclusion in the Arts at the London Metropolitan University.