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PhD Study on UKZN Bollywood Theatre in Durban



PhD Study on UKZN Bollywood Theatre in Durban

PhD Study on UKZN Bollywood Theatre in Durban. Dr. Verne Munsamy groundbreaking PhD thesis, titled Exemplifying South African “Indiannessthrough a Bolly-World Experience: Staging Bollywood Theatre in Durban, South Africa, delves into the rich history and evolution of South African Indian theatre.

His research provides an auto-ethnographic exploration of producing and staging Bollywood theatre, reflecting on the shaping of local Indian identities into archetypal characters.

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A Personal Connection to Bollywood

Dr. Munsamy fascination with Bollywood began in his childhood. “I grew up watching Bollywood movies with my Aiya (grandmother) and was always engrossed in the colours and the music, even though I didn’t understand the words,” he recalls. This early exposure to Bollywood ignited a lifelong passion for theatre, eventually leading him to become a lecturer in Drama and Production Studies at the Durban University of Technology.

Contribution to South African Indian Theatre

Under the mentorship of Drs. Miranda Young-Jahangeer and Andrew-John Bethke, Dr. Munsamy has made significant contributions to the emerging field of South African Indian theatre. His daily involvement in writing, directing, and staging theatre productions inspired him to tell the stories of his community through his creative work.

The Journey to ‘Bombay Chasers’

Finding a venue for his show took two years, but Dr. Munsamy persistence paid off. He self-funded his five-times sold-out production, Bombay Chasers, which formed the basis of his thesis. His research revealed that South African Indian theatre is evolving, incorporating Bollywood Theatre—a style adapted from Bollywood cinema that resonates deeply with South African Indians by reflecting their local culture.

Bollywood as a Cultural Platform

Dr. Munsamy notes that Bollywood cinema plays a crucial role in shaping and expressing the cultural identities of the South African Indian community. “It resonates with the Indian diaspora all over the world because it exemplifies Indianness.

Likewise, Bollywood Theatre exemplifies South African Indian culture through the language choices, the types of archetypes that resemble popular Indian characters and the culture, the dress, the expressive nature, and family goals,” he explains.

Inspiration from Personal Experiences

The archetypal characters in Dr. Munsamy show were inspired by outspoken personalities from his own life, such as his aunt and older brother, as well as his childhood memories. He believes that Indian culture is a significant part of South African culture but often lacks adequate representation.

Theatre as a Cultural Mirror

Dr. Munsamy emphasizes the importance of theatre in representing, creating, and questioning culture. For the South African Indian community, theatre provides a space to exemplify and challenge their values, culture, and daily lives, while also offering entertainment.

“Popular theatre is made by the people, for the people,” he asserts.

Preserving Cultural Identity

Highlighting the need for authentic representation, Dr. Munsamy advocates for theatre that exemplifies his cultural identity rather than being diluted under the broad label of South African Indian theatre. He aims to give voice to his cultural experiences on stage.

Overcoming Challenges

Dr. Munsamy journey was not without challenges. Despite the sacrifices, his determination enabled him to complete the first draft of his thesis within three months of the COVID-19 lockdown. He expresses gratitude to his supervisors, the NIHSS for scholarship funding, his friends for their support, and the strong women in his life who nurtured and guided him.


Dr. Verne Munsamy research on Bollywood theatre in Durban highlights the importance of cultural representation, demonstrating how theatre can preserve and celebrate the unique identities within South African Indian culture.

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