This article studies the impact of the American cinema on British India in the early twentieth century. Cinema is a valuable lens with which to study the triangular relationship between the United States, Britain, and South Asia because American films were popular and controversial across national and social divisions and dominated over 90 percent of the film industry in colonial India in the 1920s. The discourse around the film industry constituted a locus in which stereotypes about identity and attitudes toward empire and toward the United States were debated if not resolved. The article argues that American films of the 1920s posited an alternative notion of whiteness and the West that stood for democracy and social mobility, clashed with the traditionalism and hierarchy of empire, and undermined the notion of an Indian identity at odds with foreign technologies and entertainment.

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