A Bollywood State of Mind

A journey into the world’s biggest cinema

Sunny Singh

A Bollywood State of Mind


‘Wake up, Westerners – Bollywood is the future. Prepare to laugh, sob and dance: this lively history of Indian cinema is imprinted with the memories of a life-long cinephile’ 4 Stars, The Telegraph

‘Singh’s book is an easy read that encourages you to research further. It draws the expert and the layperson in with equal charm. Like a good keynote speaker, she has been able to pack a lot of references, theories, ideas, and history in this book that both, the lovers of Indian cinema and the uninitiated, will find useful.’ Asian Age

Like all Indians, Sunny Singh was born and brought up in a country of film fanatics. She and her friends waited impatiently for the latest releases, listened to the songs on the radio and wore clothes inspired by those seen on screen. They learned about India and the world, determined their enemies and friends, and chose their moralities thanks to films.

Her personal, intellectual and emotional journey crosses five continents and 50 years of modern Indian history and cinema to explore how this exceptional cinema retains its hold on the national imagination, how Bollywood has enhanced India’s global standing in the 21st century, and how its characteristics endure despite many dizzying political, social and economic changes.

Bollywood – and indeed all popular cinema in India – defies classification or even genre distinctions. It prides itself on grand spectacle, mind-boggling twists and turns of plot, and a rollercoaster emotional ride. Over the years, budgets have grown, as have the markets in and outside India as new technologies and new ways of watching cinema have emerged.

A BOLLYWOOD STATE OF MIND traces key characteristics of the ‘Bollywood film’, situates it in a long trajectory of performance traditions and cultural philosophies, and outlines how to understand and enjoy this cinema to the full. Ranging over history, aesthetic theory and politics, it also explores encounters with Bollywood in the marketplaces of Dakar and Marrakesh, in the nightclubs of New York, Barcelona and Mexico City, and in the ruins of Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, Petra and beyond. It shows how the pioneers and heroes of Bollywood cut across national, linguistic and cultural lines not only in India but in far reaches of Somalia, Peru, Malaysia and Russia.

An exhilarating journey through the complex histories of India, its cinema, performance traditions and cultural history, A BOLLYWOOD STATE OF MIND explores how and  why this exceptional form of filmmaking means so much to so many across the globe.

‘Singh has an encyclopedic knowledge of Hindi cinema and there is an infectious energy to the entire narrative that transmits onto the reader, the rasa seeps from her pages into the reader.’ Asian Review of Books

‘A fascinating and enjoyable account of the many journeys and multiple lives of one of the world’s most popular and enduring cultural institutions.’ Priyamvada Gopal, Professor of Postcolonial Studies at the University of Cambridge, and author of Insurgent Empire

‘I loved this joyful, wonderful book with my whole heart, I’m setting it for all of my students as the book that best gets to the heart of what Bollywood and its stories and songs really mean, and I am rereading it as we speak, once more with feeling.’ Katherine Schofield, Senior Lecturer in South Asian Music and History, King’s College, London

‘Totally engaging. It felt like Singh was writing just for me and I was transported back to the cinema with my family or indeed pushing the video cassette into the VHS and settling into a Sunday afternoon viewing. In the world she deftly creates, I can hear violins cascading as the all dancing Bollywood  heroines, heroes and villains lip sync to delicious lyrical songs. Singh’s book is an unrivalled celebration of Bollywood films, there is so much mirch in this masala of drama. For me the nostalgia unfurled the sepia vignettes of memory from a distant almost forgotten past into the glittering joy of the present day.’ Shobna Gulati, actor, presenter and author of Remember Me?

‘Bright, brilliant and beautifully researched, this glorious book is my biggest recommendation of the year. Sunny Singh’s honouring of story and history shine through powerfully – an exquisitely enjoyable read!’ Nikita Gill

‘Part history, part personal reminiscence, A Bollywood State of Mind is a thoughtful, magical journey through the annals of the world’s largest, most spectacular and most vivacious film industry. A gem of a book and a must for film lovers everywhere.’ Abir Mukherjee

‘A masterful memoir, Singh’s love story with Bollywood is one told with precision, authority and panache, capturing the all-singing, all-dancing joy and wonder of Indian cinema.’ Monisha Rajesh

‘A deeply personal, deeply political dive into one of the most popular forms of entertainment today. Part memoir, part film criticism, part cultural excavation, Singh writes with passion, clarity and introspection.’ Nikesh Shukla



  • Footnote Press UK; Bonniers India

Material: finished copies (272pp)