Contending Simulacra: Tarzan in Postcolonial India

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Starting in the 1930s, India’s dominant Bombay/Mumbai Hindi film industry (aka “Bollywood”)1 produced about thirty Tarzan films.2 Given the 150-200 films this industry has produced annually in recent decades (Ganti 3), this is actually a small number. Most of the Hindi Tarzan films are “B” movies, made and directed by marginal figures at low budgets, and currently the majority of these texts are not available. Despite the eagerness with which the popular Hindi film industry appropriates and mimics Western icons-from specific figures like Charlie Chaplin and Elvis Presley to generic tropes like the femme fatale, pop hits and fulllength filmic texts-Tarzan was never a significant figure in the Indian popular cinematic spheres.3 And yet, a small number of Indian Tarzan films are distributed in the mainstream, domestic format of DVD and the extremely low-cost format of VCD (Video Compact Disc). Why are these films distributed in these formats? Because the reason cannot be ascribed to the popularity or high status of Tarzan in Indian visual culture, it may be useful to address the iconography endowing both Tarzan and his female counterpart with minimal clothing. This detail is considered highly provocative in terms of the relatively limiting conventions of the Hindi film. In addition, the classic Tarzan narrative formula tells of the encounter between a man and a woman far away from civilization, thus hinting at a “raw, " unconstrained sexuality. No wonder then, that Indian Internet websites often classify the Hindi Tarzan films as “adult” or “blue” movies-softened terms for mere pornography.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGlobal Perspectives on Tarzan
Subtitle of host publicationFrom King of the Jungle to International Icon
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781136447921, 9780203125014
ISBN (Print)9780415897242
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012


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