Return of the native: Swades and the re-thinking of diaspora

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This paper looks at Ashutosh Gowariker's film Swades: We the People (Homeland, 2004), a cinematic narrative dealing with a non-resident Indian's return to his homeland, to argue that this film challenges the paradigm Bollywood films have set for representing the Indian diaspora by questioning the idea of originary bond between the diasporic subject and his homeland. I argue that Mohan's return is not, unlike his Bollywood predecessors, determined by either a metaphysical cultural re-turn to an idealized homeland or an expression of what Aihwa Ong terms as 'flexible citizenship.' Rather, the filmmaker locates this narrative of return within the context of the material and the everyday. The paper argues that the filmmaker accomplishes this by destabilizing the discourse of oedipalic and homing desire that has been used by Bollywood cinema to dramatize the diaspora's belonging to the motherland. Deploying the character of a foster-mother and the spatial metaphor of a caravan, Swades brings in the element of praxis or thought-action to engage with the Gandhian politics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)185-196
Number of pages12
JournalSouth Asian Popular Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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