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The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies, 7 Volume Set by Fabienne Darling-Wolf, Radhika Parameswaran, Erica Scharrer, Vicki Mayer, Sharon Mazzarella, Kelly Gates, John Nerone, Angharad N. Valdivia

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13

Language and Indian Film Audiences

From Political Economy to Ethnography

Sunitha Chitrapu

ABSTRACT

This chapter makes a case for political economy and audience studies to complement each other, using Indian film audiences as an illustration. From a historical point of view, linguistic diversity has played an important role in state formation and politics on the one hand, and in the sphere of media and culture, including Indian film production, on the other. The reception literature on Indian film audiences reveals that films in the local languages hold great attraction for speakers of these languages; however, expensive and slick productions in languages other than the mother tongue do sometimes manage to capture audiences as well. Further, the language of a film determines its territorial site of viewing and therefore the extent of revenues that can be earned by that film; additionally, class acts as another mediator of film consumption. Film audiences in states with larger linguistic populations have access to a different set of films from the one accessible to film audiences in states with smaller linguistic populations. Fleshing out these connections, the present chapter raises questions that are of interest to audience research. If political economy directs audience studies toward considering the influence of regulations, policies, and the economics of production and distribution on film viewers' taste cultures, the messy realities and contradictions uncovered in audience ...

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