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Border Gazing

Shohini Ghosh

Edited by Meenakshi Bharat and Nirmal Kumar
Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 239, Rs. 650.00


This anthology of essays and interviews dealing with Indo-Pak relationships in Cinema attempts to demonstrate the ‘gradual but distinct’ move by Hindi cinema from a Pakistan centric and partition related construct of the national self-image to an increasingly self-reflexive and self-reflective one. This, according to the anthology, is due to the improved relations between the two countries. The editors suggest therefore that from blatantly Pak-bashing films like Border and Gadar, ‘Hindi Cinema’ has moved towards more conciliatory themes in later films like Veer Zaara and Mein Hoon Na. The book has four broad sections titled ‘Negotiating the Border’ (comprising three essays by Kishore Budha and Adrian Athique), ‘Drawn Lines’ (four essays by Meenakshi Bharat, Claudia Preckel, Savi Munjal and Kamiyani Kaushiva), ‘Rapprochement’(four essays by Sunny Singh, Nirmal Kumar, Aparna Sharma and Shjakuntala Banaji). In addition to the eleven essays the last section contains interviews with M.S. Sathyu, Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhatt and Aijaz Gul the cast from Pakistan. The introduction states that the essays in the book will ‘help trace the historical trajectory of these relations: how films are reflective of these tensions that simmer along the line of control and how cinema ultimately becomes a means to understand the complex agenda of forging a sense of “nationality” and the concept of nationhood in films and how it sometimes moves away from political rhetoric to reiterate the need to maintain links of love and common heritage’.   If you approach the books with high expectations, you are not to blame. In the introduction to the book, the editors write:   This volume is a very first effort in this direction. Academics and Filmmakers from all over the world have come together in this commitment to a fresh, cultural assessment and integration of the subcontinent, all recognizing the fact that the time has come for cinema and cinematic colloquy across the border to be taken seriously.   However, if on reading on the book you are disappointed, you are not to blame either. Not only does the anthology fail to live up to its promise, it gives the impression that scholars of film have hitherto never considered this question seriously. On the contrary, the implications of Indo-Pak ‘border’ relations and the attendant issues of nationalism and secularism have been persistent concerns for film scholarship in India. Take for example, the important essays written on Mani Ratnam’s Roja by Ravi Vasudevan, Tejeswini ...

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