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Celebration of the Local

C.S. Venkiteswaran

By Avijit Ghosh
Penguin, 2010, pp. 297, Rs. 399.00


… at a time when regional political parties continue to assert their identity, the rise of Bhojpuri films is only part of the remodeling of Indian cinema. The availability of cheap technology has allowed dozens of ‘little cinemas’ to flourish in dialects such as Chattisgarhi, Kumaoni, Gharhwali and Khariboli. Even Ladakhis have begun making films in their local dialect. Avijit Ghosh, Bhojpuri Cinema (p. 94) Within a few years of its inaugura-tion at Grand Cafe, Paris, cinema had cast its magical spell over people in all continents luring a number of showmen and entrepreneurs who made it the most massive mass art ever in the history of humankind. Though cinema has such an international history, enthralling people and drawing them into its global network and idioms, it also has ‘national’ and ‘local’ histories with its own specific characteristics. The latter exhibit a great variety as they followed trajectories of their own depending on local narrative traditions, existing conditions of performing arts and appreciation, openness to new forms, and of course, the socio-economic environment that enveloped all these. One can see that the new magic of cinema illuminated several hitherto unrealized/unrealizable desires of ‘seeing’ as well as ‘making visible’. In this process of seeing and making visible, the medium—as an industry with a mass base/market—had to necessarily contend with existing or constantly evolving global formats on the one hand, and on the other, the narrative and scopophilic desires of the local. Moreover, it was not just a question of making oneself visible to the world outside; it was also an attempt to make oneself visible to oneself—something that unleashed many a hitherto repressed facets of social and psychological lives in the public domain. Ironically, they were largely played out and imagined within the idiomatics of the national/global, as an assertion of the marginal/regional vis-a-vis the centre/national/global. And to imagine into being its ‘pure’ untrammelled self, it more often resorted to imitations and ‘remakes’, and brings into play interesting discourses about ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’. When films flop, the blame is put on the avaricious producers from ‘outside’. When they succeed it is due to the verve and vigour of the land and its indigenous culture. But like any cinema of the local, even while it celebrates one’s own ‘culture’, its thematic concerns are with its discontents—casteism, class exploitation, dowry system and illiteracy. The ...

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