Global Fandom Jamboree Conversation: Innocent Uwa (Nigeria) and Swapnil Rai (India)- Part 1.” Confessions of an Aca Fan

Bollywood Fandoms: The West versus East (Germany and Nigeria)

Rai: All right, so the first question of that I had for you is how is the Bollywood fandom itself feminized in a global more Western context. This is something I’ve been mentioning is the case in Germany. But I’m curious to know if it is similar in Africa, or is it more dispersed because in some of the examples that I saw of Bollywood fans hailing from let’s say Africa or other countries, living in western context both men and women equally consume the cinema. What are your thoughts in this for Nigeria, specifically?

Uwah: Fandom in Nigeria can be witnessed by looking at the contexts of film consumption – for example, where and how is Zee world consumed? The media act with attractions to audiences, like football game, music, film, or whatever help us to appreciate the nature and dynamics of fandom. That is what obtains in speaking about Zee world here.

Rai: it is similar to what you get by looking at Bollywood?

Uwah: Whatever I say Zee world stands for Bollywood which I concentrated on while discussing fandom as can be seen in my write up. Therein you see how, especially young couples, follow and consume Zee world; you discover that for homes that have aspirations and share values together, they look out for what to see in Zee world series.
So, they do a whole lot of things together, and everything they tend to share seems to revolve around the Zee world values. You also discover that apart from couples doing things together. Most women, consume it because there’s some sort of escapism in it, because so many of them would love the canons of the story from the angle of romance.
The angle of love. and the way issues of life relationships are treated in Zee word are well captured in its stories. So, Zee word has a whole lot of patronage in Nigeria, because of its thematic thrust, focus of its relationships, because of its high points in humanness among young people. Again, because of its high appeal, people tend to enjoy how it goes about family issues and therein one can discover the dynamics of huge familyy life from one generation to the second and even up to the third.

Every story is in fact too wide to collapse, so many people here in Nigeria practice living with extended family members and it is one thing you see sustaining family relationships in Zee world where everybody is involved, you don’t take any person for granted. And sometimes the need of the baby can even be seen in the act of a granny, and the joy of the wife has implications for the husband, or the affairs of the house can make someone declare war in the family…so it makes people look up to the stories that resonates with their circumstances and feel good.

People also use it to explore the culture of the Indians. Look at the kind of traditional attires they put on as costumes as well as the way people handle spoken English spoken, most young people want to have aaccess to best practices in other words people also learn grammar through this, so they have a lot of things that bring up treasures to them from the screen experience and these things are some of the reasons why because zee world is hugely patronized and consumed on TV rather than on websites many would have gone online in Nigeria as a collective, but because not so many people can access the digital world from their homes, emphasis is on consuming it on television screen. The most they have to do is to buy the watch their favorites on TV unlike how it is done in the Western world where fans would connect each other online.

We have people in Nigeria that can follow a particular series of TV wherever they are by going online, and then watching it on screen, but people prefer to follow it live on television in Nigeria and watch it on TV. So that’s how the zee world fandom sounds here.

Rai: So, what I’m hearing here is that there are a lot of factors that create these cultural resonances so one is age factors and generational. You said young couples, so the romance of it becomes important. You’re also saying that family values, and the kind of resonances that exist in the way that Indian families are structured, that kind of reflects in in the narratives of the world, resonates with the African way of life as well, because it, it places emphasis on family bonds and children on like filial piety and things like that.
You also pointed to some platform issues that there is sort of this digital divide, wherein the access primarily comes through TV.

Uwah: Yeah.

Rai: For my part I can actually begin with contrasting this with how Zee exists in other contexts, and how the consumption of Zee which is this big TV conglomerate has a very interesting history in India . Zee’s parent corporation was a large industrial corporation Essel that had now media interests before they started Zee. And when, at the beginning of point of globalization, you know, when star and Rupert Murdoch and others wanted to enter the Indian market Zee stood up, as this entity who did not like these white skin channels to dominate the Indian mediascape .They were sort of the real original powerful Indian media conglomerate.
So, and they existed like that for a long time. And, like in their heyday even now, they have operations in over 169 countries now. Mostly they operate on the kind of cultural resonances that you’re talking about so they started with markets where they had that sort of resonance, but they built on Bollywood. Because Bollywood has had a global circulation and popularity as you and I already discussed in Africa.

And so this cultural resonance with Bollywood is something that they banked on to then identify where else should they start their next channel and that this would function but then, like you also said genre elements the fact that a lot of their soap operas and stories were based on romance this sort of family drama and traditionally operated through a very melodramatic narrative. So those became key factors but often like they started with culturally proximate markets, but oftentimes Bollywood was sort of their touched on, to figure out whether their content would work in this specific market or not. Now, Germany, the context that I talked about in my blog post and is sort of a newer context.

In contrast to Africa in Germany Bollywood only became popular as it started to get globally popular in the 2000s with. And this was several factors that contributed to the global presence of Bollywood which was the industry itself was changing got globally ambitious got recognized by the Indian state as a legitimate industry so then could be a part of the global market in a way that it couldn’t have been in the past and that changed a lot of things in the early 2000s. And then you’ve got a movie like Slumdog Millionaire, which essentially was an homage to Bollywood actually was an Indian story used Indian actors used bollywood, bollywood tropes and kind of this Hollywood director presented a cultish Bollywood for the rest of the world but are most of the elements, a lot of the elements of the movie were Indian so so this kind of Bollywood becomes a thing, a cultural form that people look up to and it becomes globally popular and is in that moment that a German channel sort of picked up on Bollywood movie to show, and this one particular star becomes really famous and and his films kind of start to get exported andthis whole thing starts. And that’s when Zee also begins to think that okay well maybe there is a market here, and they start a channel of the Germany, but mostly as you know to see world It isn’t just Bollywood but it’s also Indian soap operas, and all of those kind of are intermixed as cultural forms both operate within similar structures of melodrama and music and so forth, which works well, let’s say in a more culturally proximate market like Africa, but was and didn’t work all that well in Germany consistently and it’s only until they actually shut down their channel in the midst of the pandemic because they were incurring losses.

So how Bollywood continues to circulate is through the fans. These cultish fan followers these white women that are older women and younger women that are all very fond of Bollywood predominantly for how it emotionally moves them. But, unlike Africa, the difference is that they do not see any direct resonances to their real life or circumstances because that being a very Western context, the society is individualistic and not so community family driven, that those kind of resonances would be possible. But it’s mainly around sort of the romance of it. And I’ve seen how now those fans have now carried the baton and want to create an Industrial structure which is sustained by them so these fans actually went ahead and started a Bollywood magazine, and they have their blog, they do film festivals.

So, even though industrially with nodes like Zee, Germany seems to be a place where they have sort of given up or do not have a concerted strategy around this market. The fans have become this industrial node that they are sustaining these flows and the Bollywood industry itself, draws from them.

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