Bombay Cinema's Islamicate Histories (Book)

Popularly known as Bollywood, Bombay cinema conjures up song, dance and starry-eyed romance. Where do those conventions come from? Many derive from the historical influence of Muslim cultures interacting with other traditions in the Indian subcontinent. Contributions by major scholars of South Asian cultural history and Indian Cinema 105 b&w illus.


Following Marshal Hodgson, the term “Islamicate” is used to distinguish the cultural forms associated with Islam from the religion itself. The term is especially useful in South Asia where Muslim cultures have commingled with other local cultures over a millennium to form a rich vein of syncretic aesthetic expression. Comprised of fourteen essays written by major scholars, this collection presents an engaging account of the history and influence of cultural Islam on Bombay cinema. The book charts the roots of South Asian Muslim cultures and the precursors of Bombay cinema’s Islamicate idioms in the Urdu Parsi Theatre; the courtesan cultures of Lucknow; the literary, musical, and performance traditions of north India; the traditions of miniature painting; and various modes of Perso-Arabic story-telling. Published at a time of acute crisis in the perception and understanding of Islam, this book demonstrates how Muslim and Hindu cultures in India are inextricably entwined.

Richard Allen is chair professor of film and media art and dean of the School of Creative Media at City University Hong Kong


Ira Bhaskar is professor of cinema studies at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India

Introduction: Bombay cinema’s Islamicate histories

– Richard Allen & Ira Bhaskar


Part One: Islamicate Histories


  1. Passionate refrains: The theatricality of Urdu on the Parsi stage

Kathryn Hansen


  1. The Persian Masnavī tradition and Bombay cinema

Sunil Sharma


  1. Reflections from Padminī’s Palace: Women’s voices of longing and lament in the Sufi romance and Shiʿi elegy

Peter Knapczyk


  1. Situating the awāʼif : Nostalgia, Urdu literary cultures and vernacular modernity

Shweta Sachdeva Jha


  1. Mughal chronicles: Words, images, and the gaps between them

Kavita Singh


  1. Justice, love and the creative imagination in Mughal India

  Najaf Haider


  1. The ‘Muslim presencein Padmaavat

Hilal Ahmed


Part Two: Cinematic Forms


  1. Ali Baba’s open sesame: Unravelling the Islamicate in Oriental fantasy films

      Rosie Thomas


  1. The textual, musical and sonic journey of the Ghazal in Bombay cinema

  Shikha Jhingan


  1. The Sufi sacred, the Qawwali and the songs of Bombay cinema

 Ira Bhaskar


  1. Avoiding Urdu and the awāʼif: Re-gendering Kathak dance in Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baaje

Philip Lutgendorf


  1. The poetics of Pardā

Richard Allen


  1. Transfigurations of the star body: Salman Khan and the spectral Muslim

  Shohini Ghosh


  1. Terrorism, conspiracy and surveillance in Bombay’s urban cinema

 Ranjani Mazumdar



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