Welcome to “Bollywood Songs and South Asian Culture” (MUSIC3470, ASIAN 3336)!


Tuesday & Thursday, 11:40-12:55,

Lincoln 149, Cornell University


This discussion-oriented seminar focuses on Bollywood, the largest film industry in the world, and explores the world of Hindi film songs: the entertaining song-and-dance sequences that mark it. How have Hindi film songs and musical styles changed over the last half-century? What is the social life of filmi songs, both as they relate to and are independent from the films for which they are composed? Taking Hindi film songs as a celebratory yet critical guide to South Asian history and culture, we will examine issues such as gender, nationalism, and globalization. Combining literature on South Asian history, society, and music with numerous film viewings and close analysis of songs, we will develop a culturally grounded and musically sophisticated understanding of why these songs hold such meaning and appeal, both within South Asia and abroad.

This course is guided by several key questions:

  • What is the relationship between Hindi films and Hindi film songs?
  • How do we engage Hindi film songs as both aesthetic and social objects?
  • How do we grapple with the nature of Hindi film songs as simultaneously global and resolutely “Indian”?

We will encounter and tackle these questions through our readings, discussion, writing, film viewing, song analysis, and creative practice. In so doing, we will gain a deeper understanding of Hindi film songs as musical, cultural, social, and political “objects”.