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Since at least 1947, India’s history has been shaped by its encounter with the twin forces of modernity and the West, and popular Hindi cinema has tried to tell the story of this complex history. There are two distinct stages, Nehruvian and post-Nehruvian, to this “culturalist” representation of India’s encounter with the West and modernity. Characterized by an alignment with a mixed form of socialist modernity and a rejection of market capital, the Nehruvian stage is best caught in the black and white films of the fifties, affectionately known as the Golden Era. Raj Kapoor’s Jagte Raho (1956), Guru Dutt’s Pyasa (1957) and B. R. Chopra’s Naya Daur (1957) exemplify this period. Marked by a dramatic shift away from socialist modernity and an active espousal of market principles, the post-Nehruvian stage is perhaps most ably captured in a range of NRI (Non Resident Indian) films, including Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), Pardes (1997) and Hum Tum (2004). My paper provides a critical account of the dynamics of this history as captured on celluloid.