Congratulations! How was the defense of your dissertation?
“Thank you! Well, I was hoping we would have a covid-free ceremony where all committee members would attend in person. Unfortunately, three were tested positive, one after the other. Then the same thing happened to three photographers. The latter reported “I was sick just when my car drove into the university, a few hours before the defense. I had already given up having no pictures until I realized I could ask the European Championship photographer. Maybe that was the idea.”
It almost sounds like a movie!
“Yes absolutely. My father taught me his philosophy that whatever happens is best and what does not happen is best.”
What is your dissertation about?
“It’s an interesting question to ask, especially after the defense. I still have some repercussions, such as a hint in the household, about how I would answer a particular question. I keep reminding myself: now it’s done. looking back, my dissertation is on media tourism in the Bollywood context.In general, media tourism research focused on Western issues, such as Game of Thrones or Harry Potter.I have tried to diversify this field of research by focusing on Hindi films from different angles.An example is the film genre itself with certain routines like singing and dancing and how it mobilizes people to travel. “
How do Bollywood songs inspire people to travel?
“Bollywood movies are built around a lot of dancing and singing, just like every 30-40. minute. They are used to portray a leap in history or a dream and play a fundamental role in the Bollywood film genre. In one of the cases I watched, the main characters got a dream and ended up in Iceland. The songs are very popular in the broader Indian media landscape and therefore they tend to also shape the destinations and potential travel flows. An example of this is the increase in the number of people from India visiting Iceland after 2015 since the video clip gerua (from the movie Dilwale) come out. The increase was so great that there was a direct flight from New Delhi to Reykjavik. ”
“I was also looking at a Bollywood amusement park in Dubai. And to the Hindu community in the Netherlands, the largest Indian diaspora community in Europe since Brexit. It was very interesting to see how the community took different ideas about India and built a relationship with India while watching Bollywood movies. “
How did you find that community?
“When I came to live here six years ago, I had no idea about the local Hindu community. In that regard, my arrival here was a success because it opened my eyes to the diversity of the Indian diaspora. I lived in Rotterdam-West and explored local supermarkets when I found a store with many products from India. They played familiar Bollywood songs but remixed with a Caribbean beat. I told the cashier that I knew and liked the song and she told me that her great-grandfather was from India. It raised a lot of questions for me, and when I got home, I started reading about Hindu society. They became an important part of my research. Out of a total of 56 interviews, I conducted 18 interviews with members of the Hindu community, and I am grateful for the new insights and contacts I have gained. ”
What was your main conclusion?
“One of the things I discovered is how experiencing Bollywood movies and their stories outside of India creates a sense of national pride for Indian visitors. They are proud to have their culture celebrated in a foreign setting.”
How did you come to write your dissertation on Bollywood tourism?
“I finished my studies in India when I came across this project by my supervisor Stijn Reijnders. He had been awarded a grant by the European Research Council to conduct a non-Western comparative study on film tourism. I really felt a call, also because I have a deep interest in Bollywood movies and saw that it had potential as a research topic. ”
Have you had a hard time getting a PhD?
“Yes, it was not easy. Besides the PhD challenges, I was far away from my family and because of covid I could not visit them as often as before. Fortunately, I got married halfway through my PhD and also had one here support system† I have also had some problems, including with my mental health, coping with the various challenges of a PhD. during a pandemic and all that. It really helped to discuss it with my supervisor, but I often had a hard time staying motivated and continuing. I also often doubted the relevance of my study during the most severe period of the covid pandemic. But above all, it made me aware of the contribution and relevance of my research. I think it ultimately kept me as a researcher empathetic and aware of changing circumstances. Media tourism may seem superficial, but do not underestimate it. As people travel less, they increasingly want to give their travels a deeper meaning that mass tourism may not. “
I read in your gratitude that your supervisor helped you maintain the balance between work and private life. How did he do that?
“Especially by being a good example. My supervisor organized various events such as spring drinks or brainstorming weekends for his PhDs. This gave us as colleagues the opportunity to take a break from our work. He encouraged me to go out, play sports and have a life next to my PhD, which showed that work is just a part of your life. It has helped me find a balance in my own PhD course. ”
So in conclusion, for those unfamiliar with Bollywood, do you have a few tips to watch and listen to?
“My personal favorite is a 1995 movie: Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge† A romantic story that begins in London, about a Eurail journey through Europe. Interestingly, Eurail also recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the release of this film, and it is important that the impact of the film is still felt, even so many years after its first release. “