Essays in Celebrity Culture

Essays in Celebrity Culture

Stars and Styles

By Pramod K. Nayar

This book examines specific aspects of celebrity culture, from biopics around celebrities to celebrity victimhood, activism and politics. 


Hardback, 250 Pages


May 2021

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
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About This Book

The book is a full-length study of Indian celebrity culture, including fandom, celebrity philanthropy and celebrity activism, which are established features of life today and which constitute a major component of pop culture’s coverage of sports/film stars.

The collection of essays in the book moves from the largest domain of celebrity culture in India – Bollywood – through celebrity life writing and biopics and, finally, to the politics of and by celebrity culture. The book begins with an exploration of films made around women celebrity victims – Phoolan Devi, Bhanwari Devi, Jessica Lal and Kiranjit Ahluwaliato – and moves on to show how the vernacular cosmopolitanism of Bollywood stars’ philanthropic and humanitarian work enables their insertion into a global humanitarian project wherein the Bollywood campaigner for women’s rights, environmental causes or animal welfare generates a membership in the global citizenship of benevolence and charity. Celebrity charisma and its role in the current era of ‘post-truth’ are studied to show how Bollywood charisma as a form of mimetic capital generates a sensuous fidelity in the audience, inducing a certain cultural ignorance.

The book goes on to show how star memoirs reinforce star-value through the generation of an interart work, in which the life story is framed within the film history of the individual, and the films are framed by the life of the actor. The hagiographic biopics around cricket stars M.S. Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, the criminal Charles Shobhraj and Neerja Bhanot, the air hostess killed by hijackers, make a case for an argument that the family and the nation remain nodal points in the representations of the lives and careers, and how these representations enable the making of certain aspirational models for the country. Reading cancer memoirs by Bollywood stars shows how these celebrity somatographies move outward, from a focus on the star’s body to the biosocial network. 

The final collection of essays are at the intersection of celebritydom and celebrity politics that starts with the examination of the genre of Indian writing in English as a celebrity within the context of literary festivals and the demand for the postcolonial exotic. The River Narmada as a cultural icon and its iconicity generates a whole new grammar of protest, having become a part of India’s collective cultural memory. Reading Arundhati Roy as a celebrity makes a case for her ‘insurgent celebrityhood’ created through her mobility into and across many public domains. The desacralization of the iconic Ambedkar statues, which occurs periodically in parts of India, is a mode of once again rendering the Dalit an ‘outcast’. Reading the websites of celebrity Indian authors, Ashok Banker, Devdutt Pattnaik and Amish, demonstrates how a certain self-fashioning by these authors occurs through a careful engagement with a Hindu ancestry and tradition. The self-fashioning is linked to, and manifests as, their literary location within a scriptural-mythological narrative.


‘Pramod Nayar has built up an extensive body of work on Indian celebrity, as this vivid and wide-ranging volume showcases so well. The book is an important and engaging contribution to the transnational field of celebrity studies.’ — Professor Jo Littler, City, University of London, UK.

‘In this outstanding collection of essays, Pramod K. Nayar explores both the molecular and cosmic reach of stardom and celebrity as it travels across Indian art and culture. Addressing film, literature, biography and the social media, Nayar writes with eloquence, analytical power, as he explores modern India through the arteries and veins of fame.’ — Professor Sean Redmond, founding editor of Celebrity Studies, Deakin University, Australia

Author Information

Pramod K Nayar teaches at the Department of English, University of Hyderabad. He is the author of many books, including Indian Travel Writing in the Age of Empire (2020), and has contributed to essays in leading journals.


No series for this title.

Table of Contents

Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction: Stars, Styles, Society and Spectacle; Section I: Bollywood and Celebrity; 1. Victims, Bollywood and the Construction of a Cele-meme; 2. Brand Bollywood Care: Celebrity, Charity and Vernacular Cosmopolitanism; 3. Celebrity, Charisma and Post-truth Relations: Agnogenesis, Affect and Bollywood; Section II: Celebrity and Life Writing; 4. What the Stars Tell: Celebrity Life Writing in India; 5. Biopics; 6. Bollywood Stars and Cancer Memoirs; Section III: Celebrity, Culture and Politics; 7. Indian Writing in English as Celebrity; 8. Watery Friction: The River Narmada, Celebrity, and New Grammars of Protest; 9. Mobility and Insurgent Celebrityhood: The Case of Arundhati Roy; 10. Desecration and the Politics of ‘Image Pollution’: Ambedkar Statues and the ‘Sculptural Encounter’ in India; 11. Authors, Self-fashioning and Online Cultural Production in the Age of Hindu Celevision.


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