Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid : For Bollywood to the Emergency

Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid : For Bollywood to the Emergency

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Author: Ashish Rajadhyaksha
Publisher: Tulika
Year: 2009
Language: English
Pages: 441
ISBN/UPC (if available): 81-89487-52-3


Nowhere has the cinema made more foundational a public intervention than in India, and yet the Indian cinema is consistently presented as something of an exception to world film history. What if, this book asks, film history was instead written from the Indian experience?

Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid reconstructs an era of film that saw an unprecedented public visibility attached to the moving image and to its social usage. The cinema was not invented by celluloid, nor will it die with celluloid’s growing obsolescence. But ‘celluloid’ names a distinct era in cinema’s career that coincides with a particular construct of the twentieth-century state. This is not merely a coincidence: the very raison d’etre of celluloid was derived from the use to which the modern state put it, as the authorized technology through which the state spoke and as narrative practices endorsing its authority as producer of the rational subject.

Arguing that there was a ‘spectatorial pact” around the attribution of state authority to the celluloid apparatus, Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid explores the circumstances under which social practices surrounding the celluloid experience also included political
negotiations over its authority. While modern states everywhere have put the cinema to varied and by now familiar uses, in India we had the politicization of key tenets associated with the apparatus itself. Indian cinema throws significant new light on the uses to which canonical concepts such as realism could be put, and on the frontiers at which cinematic narrative could operate.

The book throws new light on a phenomenon that is arguably basic to all cinemas, but which India’s cinematic evidence throws into sharpest relief: the narrative simulation of a symbolically sanctified rationality at the behest of a state. This evidence is explored through three key moments of serious crisis for the twentieth-century Indian state, in all of which the cinema appears to have played a central role. Bollywood saw Indian cinema herald a globalized culture industry considerably larger than its own financial worth, and a major presence in India’s brief claim to financial superpower status. The debate on Fire centrally located spectatorial negotiations around the constitutional right to freedom of speech at a key moment in modern Indian history when Article 19 was under attack from pro-Hindutva forces. And the Emergency (1975-77) saw a New Indian Cinema politically united against totalitarian rule but nevertheless rent asunder by disputes over realism, throwing up new questions around the formation of an epochal moment in independent India.



0 A Theory of Cinema that Can Account for Indian Cinema

‘Bollywood’ and the Performing Citizen

1. ‘Bollywood’ 2004: The globalized Freak Show of What Used to Be Cinema
2. When Was Bollywood?: Textual and Historical Discrepancies
3. The Cinema-Effect 1: Cultural Rights versus the Production of Authenticity
4. The Cinema-Effect 2: Social Lineages, Spectatorial Ability

The Cinema-Effect and the State
5. Administering the Symbols of Authenticity Production, and Revisiting a 1990s Controversy
6. ‘You Can See without Looking’: The Cinematic ‘Author’ and Freedom of Expression in Cinema.
7. ‘People-Nation’ and Spectatorial Rights: The Political ‘Authenticity-Effect’, the Shiv Sena and a Very Bombay History

1970Ss Questions: The ‘Cinema-Effect’, the National-Symbolic and the Avant Garde
8. The Detour of the Nation: Realist Complicities, Nationalist Excesses
9. The Indian Emergency: Aesthetics of State Control
10. The Problem: A ‘Co-production of Modernities’
11. The Mechanism: ‘Taking’ the Shot

The Practice: Two Films and a Painting
12. Bhupen Khakhar’s List: Revisiting View from the Teashop
13. Mani Kaul and the ‘Cinematic Object’: Uski Roti and the Rulebook of Cinema
14. Gautam Ghose’s Maabhoomi: Territorial Realism and the ‘Narrator’

15. The Cinema-Effect: A Concluding Note