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Abstract

This essay recovers the devalued aesthetic dimension of the Bollywood film/song from its political over-determination as national allegory. The qualities attributed to the film/song, such as effeminacy, irrationality, fantasy, and non-synchronicity, which I term its postcolonial whimsy, and its surplus value as the Bollywood film’s most transnational component, allow for the free play of the imagination. This admits the possibility of another performative public culture and imagined community not premised on exploitation, calculability, and passive spectatorship and consumption. The film/song enables affect without literal linguistic comprehension, especially among those unfamiliar with the indigenous languages and musical traditions. What is derided as the sentimental aspect of Bollywood films and as its most embarrassing element is its whimsical aesthetic. The film/song as the film’s fanciful, hopeful, and dreamy core and its unmoored quality broaden the scope of its possible political meanings. The film/song dis/plays what is unsung in spite of being spectacular (inferior) excess: the dreams and aspirations are still possible in everyday life.

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