In the years since its release, Moulin Rouge! (dir. Baz Luhrmann, 2001) has emerged as the harbinger of Bollywood cinema's growing visibility in the West. We argue here that while the film's visual excesses are immediately recognizable as citing “Bollywood style,” viewers and critics are unaware of the extent to which the film draws on Bollywood's affective economy, generic idioms, and performance traditions. Few would recognize that the heroine Satine's transformation from conniving showgirl to tragic heroine recalls the tawaif (courtesan) figure in popular Hindi cinema, while the love-addicted hero Christian relies on the sentimental codes of Bollywood masculinity. Our task in this article is to archive these less-visible debts and to query the logic of the absent/present form that Bollywood takes in this film, appearing as style but remaining obscure as structure. This article suggests that Moulin Rouge! is indeed global cinema in the sense that it weds two cinematic traditions—Bollywood and Hollywood—yet it is hardly a marriage of equals. The global cinematic aesthetic Luhrmann promotes relies on Bollywood elements primarily to revivify Hollywood. Consequently, many aspects of this supposedly new aesthetic resemble cultural appropriation and cannibalization strategies that have been identified with colonial formations.

You do not currently have access to this content.