Bollywood and Bolsheviks: Indo-Soviet Collaboration in Literature and Film, 1954-1991 is an oral history and exhibition project that charts the dynamic literary and cinematic exchange between India and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Combining a range of audio, video, and print material it highlights India’s role in shaping Soviet movie-going culture and the critical role that translation and new forms of print technology played in bringing Soviet literature to readers in India and Bangladesh. From the casting of Bolshoi ballerinas and Soviet circus artists in hit Bollywood productions to the engagement of hundreds of South Asian translators in Soviet publishing houses, this site aims to immerse you in the interconnected Indo-Soviet media and technoscapes of the second half of twentieth century.
The physical exhibition was on display during the spring of 2016 in the Allen Lobby of the University of Washington’s Suzzallo and Allen Libraries. Installation shots can be viewed on the slideshow below.
Click on the oral history tab in the menu bar to hear the stories of those who helped build the networks of cultural and technological exchange that bound India and the Soviet Union together for decades. All of these interviews were filmed during the summer of 2016 in both India and Russia. Most are conducted in English, but a few are in Russian (with subtitles). Interviewees include writers, translators, publishers, actors, and film producers. More interviews will be added throughout 2017, so please check back again!
The effects of Indo-Soviet cultural collaboration are transnational and relevant today in the United States. Indian children who grew up learning math and science from Soviet textbooks or reading Soviet literature have ended up in the Seattle area where they work as highly skilled software developers, engineers, professors, health care providers, and doctors. To learn more about this vibrant, transnational afterlife of Indo-Soviet cultural exchange, you can also watch oral history interviews with Seattle-area community members. These narrators spent their childhoods either reading Soviet literature in South Asia or watching Bollywood films in the Soviet Union. Their stories speak to the transformative power of foreign cultural encounters, the magic of translation, and the historical value in looking at the Cold War through the lens of the Indo-Soviet relationship.
On the documentary tab, you will find two short-form documentary films. The first relates to the Soviet Union’s embrace of popular Hindi-language films after the death of Joseph Stalin. The second tells the story of the production, circulation, and consumption of Soviet literature in India during the Cold War. Enjoy!