Bollywood Film class brings new narratives of Indian culture to Puget Sound

Students are able to learn about Indian film, history and culture in Puget Sound’s returning course titled Bollywood Film. According to the course’s website, Bollywood Film is listed as both an English and Asian Studies class. It covers themes of Bollywood as a film industry that is part of a larger genre of Indian film, and discusses cinema chronologically from the 1950s to the present.

The class is taught by Priti Joshi, a professor in the Department of English and the James Dolliver National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Co-Professor. She specializes in 19th-century British literature and culture and post-colonial literature and film.

Although she has done a lot of work in the past with 19th-century English literature, she has taught a wide range of classes, from courses on the Brontës and Dickens to Indian fiction.

The class takes place Mondays and Wednesdays for 80 minutes, during which students learn about different aspects of Indian cinema and popular culture. Classwork consists mainly of readings about these topics and a weekly lab period, which Joshi uses to screen a Bollywood film. These screenings happen every Monday at 5:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.

According to junior Amelia Boyer, the students have watched films ranging from elaborate and colorful movies of the early 2000s to more serious and artistic movies of the 1950s.

“We talk about the themes in the films and how they relate to the period at the time, so all of our classwork feels really related to what we’re doing, and we’re looking chronologically at themes and how they develop and stuff like that,” Boyer said.

Throughout the class, students develop an understanding of how Indian history ties into Bollywood cinema. The course website says that the class goes into Bollywood film history and how the changing attitudes of people in India can be seen through film. “We just finished a unit on movies from the 1950s, talking about Indian movies and what it means to be Indian,” Boyer said.

Students looking to study English, Asian Studies or both, can find this class useful for completing their credits. Through this class, they can do so in a way that students might not have seen in other class structures. The film aspect of the class adds an attractive element for students who are used to classes with only reading and writing assignments.

“This one was one of the only ones that fit into my schedule, but I was also super interested in the fact that it didn’t sound like a traditional English course, since it’s a film course,” Boyer said.  

Additionally, this class brings a fresh perspective on history and popular culture that may not be very known. Boyer pointed out the relevancy of the course content in the context of the University of Puget Sound environment: “It’s a really cool perspective and narrative to see because it’s often not looked at,” she said. “I think it’s really important to study narratives and see whose voice is heard that’s not often represented at a university like this.”