1956 Hungarian Revolution (Initial Look)

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Hmm so I guess I did this a little backwards, with a post focusing on the 50th anniversary of this revolution coming before a post dedicated to the revolution itself. I’ll continue gathering details related to the events in October-November 1956 throughout my researching process, but for now here is a quick overview.

First, after poking around a bit on YouTube, I managed to find a succinct summary of the events leading up to and stemming from the Hungarian revolt that started in late October 1956 and went into the first few days of November of the same year. This video was the least biased that I could find, although it does definitely appear to be made using a pro-Hungarian/West perspective. Also, it was the few that was composed mostly of actual film footage and not a series of photographs with voice-over narration:


My Own Notes from the Video:

-after WWI: run as Stalinistic dictatorship…Stalin died 1953
-1953, New PM Imre Nagy showed potential for reform
-waves of demonstrations led by students and intellectuals in October 1956
-groups of armed factions; fighting spread throughout Budapest
-looked like it was going to be a Hungarian success through the last week of October
-Imre Nagy became PM officially for a few weeks
-Nov 4 1956, USSR forces came back after a temporary ceasefire/retreat
-1958 Nagy executed after being tried for treason

*Interesting part at the end that Soviet Union allowed for even more liberal policies in Hungary than any other East European country…might be useful to look into that from a legislative perspective and then think about possible cultural ramifications of that*

Just for me to have some visuals, here are a few pictures that I found online:

This is a shot of a main intersection in Budapest sometime in late October 1956; the physical damage from the revolt (and the subsequent Soviet response) significantly affected daily Hungarian life and had longer-enduring infrastructural effects.

This is Prime Minister Imre Nagy (1896-1958), who was one of the main instigators of the  revolt and was later executed on charges of treason by the Soviet Union.


Hungary’s Film Tax Incentive System


Starting in the 1960s, the Hindi film industry became very cozy with Switzerland, using it as a filming location for many of its bigger budget movies. Switzerland’s urban areas could easily represent the typical European city, and its many hills and mountainous regions functions as popular exotic settings.

Although there is still a demand to use Swiss shooting locations in Bollywood films, several factors have led to a shift towards other East European locations (especially Poland and Hungary):

  • costs associated with filming have shot up dramatically in Switzerland over the past decade
  • infrastructural development in East European countries has provided new locations with viable industrial support that are still much cheaper than the more  traditional locations
  • the climate in this general region of Europe is similar enough for creating necessary “looks” for movie scenes
  • VERY IMPORTANT: East European nations have made deep tax policy changes to make themselves even more tempting for foreign movie producers/directors

This is where Hungary’s recent Act on Motion Picture (2003) becomes particularly significant. Among other things, this Act aimed to “turn Hungary into one of the most attractive and most competitive motion picture locations in Central Europe” and “generate new funding resources for the Hungarian movie picture sector” (see link below).


  • as part of the 2003 Act, Hungary contributes up to 20% of the local filming/production costs to the foreign movie companies — this money comes mainly from corporate investment paid by Hungarian companies (this number of 20% is one of the highest offered by countries that serve as shooting locations)
  • why would these companies want to pay these film taxes? There are governmental policies in Hungary that say that if these companies pay a certain amount of money that goes towards this film production investment, their taxes overall will be reduced
  • this is an interesting relationship between the private sphere in Hungary (being motivated by government/financial policy) translating into infrastructural support in the country’s audiovisual/cinematic industry, which in turn affects other countries’ (private sphere) movie production companies
  • the above link has much more detail with graphs and tables

Bollywood Films Shot in Hungary


It’s been a little hard to find a comprehensive list of Bollywood films shot in Hungary…here’s what I’ve found so far:

1) “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” (1999), directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali


  • half the film was shot in Hungary: at the Danube River, and in various locations around Budapest


  • this was one of the first major Bollywood films that used Hungary as an alternate shooting location to Switzerland
  • as a bigger demonstration of relations between the two countries, “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” premiered in Budapest at the Puskin (Pushkin) Theater; the President at the time, Árpád Göncz, attended the screening

2) “Aks” (2001), directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra


  • film was shot partially at the Royal Castle in Budapest

I’ll have to search around more thoroughly to find more recent examples, but hopefully this can work as a starting point…

50th Anniversary of 1956 Revolution – India’s Recognition

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Here are some documents related to a publication by the India Minister for Tourism and Culture, Ambika Soni, in late 2006. The publication was a book “India and the 1956 Hungarian Revolution: Materials from the Archives of the Ministry of External Affairs.”

These documents should help in terms of mapping relations between the two countries stemming from the 1956 Hungary Revolution, which I’m using as the starting point for analyzing political/economic/cultural interactions.

1) http://www.indianembassy.hu/html/TnCMinister/1956-Ind%20President%20APJK%27s%20Msg-Ew.htm

This document is a letter from the President of India from 2002-2007, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, sent August 10, 2006, around the same time as the book’s publication. It addresses the 50th anniversary of the revolution and explains one of the reasons why India was so open in showing empathy for the Hungarian people: having just won its independence eight years earlier, India fully understood the motivations behind the revolt and the hope for the future after the fact.

2) http://www.indianembassy.hu/html/TnCMinister/SmtAmbikaSoniSpeechEng.htm

This is a speech by the Minister for Tourism and Culture Ambika Soni, given on October 24, 2006 to a crowd in Hungary that included Foreign Minister Kinga Goncz. She was representing India at the 50 Year commemoration of the 1956 Revolution at a ceremony held in Budapest. Minister Soni summarizes the Indian National Congress and PM responses to the revolution at the time as well as asserting confidence for the continuation of friendly relations between India and Hungary.

3) http://www.indianembassy.hu/html/TnCMinister/1956-HunPrez%20Msg%20in%20Eng.pdf

This is a message issued by the President of Hungary in 2006, László Sólyom, in response to the publication of Minister Soni’s book. He touts India’s demonstration of solidarity during and shortly after the 1956 Revolution, and also voices his admiration for how the two countries have interacted since then.

Things to Think About:

  • What are the political implications of India as a newly independent country visibly asserting its solidarity with Hungary? Keep in mind the West’s conception of India as a colonial entity at the time to consider how the rest of the world might have viewed this demonstration…
  • More generally, why/how is it important that a traditional “Eastern/Asian” country took an active role and producing a message that traveled East –> West?
  • Are there any good resources to find archives of newspapers during the 1956 events to see how other countries (especially UK, US) reacted to India’s actions?

Proposed Bibliography

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Here’s a list of the books I’m currently considering as sources for the project; the Amazon links are there to include access to a brief summary of the book — and also a rough estimate of the prices, assuming I get them new…

1) Appadurai, Arjun. Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.


2) Cunningham, John. Hungarian Cinema: From Coffee House to Multiplex. London: Wallflower Press, 2004.


3) Kavoori, Anandam P. & Aswin Punathambekar, eds. Global Bollywood. New York: New York University Press, 2008.


4) Rajagopalan, Sudha. Leave Disco Dancer Alone!. New Delhi: Yoda Press, 2008.

http://www.yodapress.com/Others.html (have to scroll about halfway down to find a summary — couldn’t find one on Amazon)

5) Thussu, Daya Kishan, ed. Media on the Move. New York: Routledge, 2007.


Research Proposal

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When considering the global role of Indian films today, we often think of places with strong Indian diasporas like the US or UK. This has led to an academic focus on these hubs, often ignoring other regions that should be studied. For example, Hungary has recently emerged as a film shooting location due to higher costs of filming in larger European cities. Film festivals involving India and Hungary have also become more common. What are the broader cultural reasons behind this relationship? More importantly, what are the historical and discursive influences behind the globalization of Indian cinema that make such a relationship possible?

To answer these questions, I will first investigate the history of popular Hindi cinema’s globalization. The first part of my project will implement secondary research, drawing on academic work studying global media flows and the growth of the Indian film industry. Initially, I will study the formation of India’s identity as an “Oriental” by the West and the historical implications of this skewed relationship. What is now known as Bollywood emerged in the 1930s, when Great Britain ruled India. Because of this, certain colonial discourses, such as the binaries of active/passive and civilized/exotic, strongly influenced how film developed.

I will then study more contemporary developments, using press releases and other publications within the entertainment industry to follow patterns of distribution and reception. Here, it will be interesting to note correlations between diasporic movements and the global spread of Hindi films. I will also analyze how the government’s financial support of film directors impacts the industry – economic incentives that translate into cultural change. Using such official support, Indian films have entered international contests and screenings. Academics such as Arjun Appadurai and Daya Thussu address this unique East-West movement of Indian cinema during the 20th century, a phenomenon that defies traditional flows of information.

To answer the other half of my research question, I will explore the basis of Indo-Hungarian relations dating from the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, where Hungarian nationals challenged established Soviet rule. At this time, popular Hindi cinema was going through a period that would later be known as the Golden Age, gaining respect and awareness from other countries. Despite being a non-aligned nation, India officially supported Hungary’s political move; this was the modern foundation for political and economic relations between the two countries. Consequently, it will be the starting point for my analysis.

After establishing these political-economic relations stemming from the Cold War, I will continue my research using a more modern lens. For the past fifty years, India has supported Hungary’s development as a multi-party democracy and a free-market economy. Films have taken up a role of cultural bridging; former Hungarian PM Ferenc Gyurcsány pushed to set up Indian film festivals in Hungary as a reflection of political sympathy. Cheaper shooting locations like Budapest and Szeged are now in growing demand. Here primary research will help: I will travel to Hungary in August and visit sites where Indian films are screened, gather local news articles, and potentially contact a distributor to learn more about Hungarian reception.

Hungary’s significance comes from how it straddles multiple identities: it belongs to the European “West” yet is seen as non-Western due to its Communist past. It is an emerging model of trans-national media flow; much can be learned from its dialogical interactions with India using cinema as a vehicle. This research project aims to analyze this new type of cultural negotiation between two nations that are overcoming discursive obstacles of being the Other. Ultimately, I hope to map the evolution of popular Hindi cinema and use Indo-Hungarian cinematic relations to show the dynamic two-directional conversation that characterizes global media movement today.