Epiphanies in My Bollywood Experience

In my previous post, I got incredibly excited discussing my plans to begin exploring the world of Bollywood! I discussed which films I planned to view and further note my understandings and experience as well as those from family and friends. In this blog, I will discuss my epiphanies, as discussed in ‘Ellis et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview’ as well as various other features of the Autoethnographic experience that can be found within my initial experience with Bollywood as well as looking into how my cultural framework has affected this experience.

Born and raised in Australia within a white Christian family, there isn’t much reference to Bollywood within my cultural framework as the films that are predominately advertised and further shown in cinemas within my culture are those of Western orientation. Movies with white actors and the basic narrative storylines flood my mind when I think of the kind of movies I was raised on as well as those I choose to see in cinemas today. Although there is a range of diversity appearing within movies, a growing rate of female leading roles and a variety of multicultural people occupying previously white orientated roles, there really is little reference to India let alone Bollywood.

No wonder my first experience with a genuine Bollywood film left me amused, slightly disorientated and overall engaged.

Reflecting on my first blog, I came to find that I was writing, and planning for my final project, to write in a manner that is how authentic autoethongprahic researchers write. This is through “first discerning patterns of cultural experience evidenced by field notes, interviews, and/or artifacts, and then describing these patterns using facets of storytelling (e.g., character and plot development), showing and telling, and alterations of authorial voice.” (Ellis et all, p.13) This can be reflected partially in my initial blog through my initial own cultural experience and the process of story telling, and further in my final blog through the process of interviewing. I also believe explaining my cultural framework is important to help readers and those engaging with my work to understand the perspective’s that I may have and opinions I may develop.

I discussed in my previous post my limited experience with Bollywood that was initially sparked by 12-year-old Caitlin watching Slumdog Millionaire (2008), potentially the first of many epiphanies from the overall experience. My discussion earlier on in the blog post can further be seen as an epiphany as I discuss how my travels in India instilled in me a deep interest in Indian culture and encouraged my earlier interests in Bollywood.

“When researchers do autoethnography, they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity” (Ellis et all, p.8)

One thing I was made aware of through the process of the autoethnographic experience was to avoid comparing East to West, a process I feel I may struggle with as my final assignment is being compiled. With limited experience with Indian styled films, and no experience with Bollywood, I will struggle to not compare these films to those that I have grown up watching but am sure I am capable of doing with proper attention and care.

Something I didn’t consider before in my original blog (blinded by my excitement) that I only begin to wonder in hindsight. I didn’t consider that there was potential for the friends and family I expose to Bollywood to already have an initial dislike towards the style of film. Carried away with my own enthusiasm I didn’t stop to wonder whether this could therefore affect my final findings, potentially this is a good thing? Maybe they won’t even like Bollywood (surely not). The idea Neelam Wright explores this concept in her book Bollywood and Postmondernism (2015). “What is it about these films that puts off some Western viewers? Is it really that they have no appetite for song and dance and cannot tolerate anti-realism or excessive displays of open emotion…? Or is it something deeper-rooted than this: a special kind of film language that Indians are better programmed or conditioned to understand and tolerate?” (Wright, p.25). An interesting observation with a certain level of truth to it as westerns are predominately adjusted to a style of film that is perhaps more serious when it comes to open emotional topics?

According to a 2008 survey undertaken of Australian non-Indian film consumers watching Bollywood films that found that “70% of young Australians exhibited an interest in consuming more of these films”, (Wright, 2015 pg. 26) this leaves me feeling more confident about how my family and friends will respond to these films.

I think the overall product of the final assignment will include layered accounts, which will discuss my experience with Bollywood alongside “data, abstract analysis, and relevant literature” (Ellis et all, 20). Although this wasn’t the case for the initial blog as there wasn’t any data aligned with the experience, the final assignment will contain a range of all round information to create a balanced assignment of both personal and researched to maintain the autoethnographic approach.




Wright, Neelam 2015 ‘Bollywood and Postmodernism’, Edinburgh University Press, pgs. 54-56, <https://books.google.com.au/books?id=HT4kDQAAQBAJ&pg=PA55&lpg=PA55&dq=can+westerns+appreciate+bollywood&source=bl&ots=hqQff55RRy&sig=nswD1ok4Hm8oFTZ03S-8tvAeZKY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwifuvbSu6bWAhVMTbwKHYv7CoAQ6AEIRjAF#v=onepage&q=can%20westerns%20appreciate%20bollywood&f=false&gt;

Ellis, C., Adams, T.E., and Bochner, A.P. (2011) ‘Autoethnography: An Overview‘, Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12:1. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/index.php/fqs/article/view/1589/3095


One comment

  1. Hey Caitlin! I really enjoyed how well you integrated the methodological procedure discussed by Ellis et al into your analysis, without compromising your depth in personal analysis. Your engagement with past experiences in India is refreshing and demonstrates your clear excitement for the culture.

    Your reflection on the perceptions your family and friends may have indicates your understanding of bias in response, and I am intrigued to see how you research this further. Just carefully, when making the comparison between the responses of Eastern and Western viewers, it might be helpful to acknowledge that comparison and difference in styles and preferences explicitly.

    Overall, I think the statistics provided really support your analysis and line of questioning and the bolded extracts draws a clear focus to your intentions in your Autoethnographic research. I look forward to reading more from you! 🙂


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