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Locating Indian Cinema

K. Hariharan

By Manju Jain
Primus Books, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 274, Rs. 900.00

By Meredith Mcguire
Tranquebar, New Delhi, 2009, pp. 314, Rs. 295.00


This is indeed a monumental attempt to start off some kind of a discussion on the complex location of Indian cinema. And to make it accessible it has also been ordered in a kind of chronological order beginning with censorship issues in the twenties as analysed thoroughly by Madhava Prasad to the truth of the gaze in the 21st century. The last section namely ‘Literary and Cinematic Imaginaries’ somehow does not seem to fit well and works more like an esoteric anti-climax. Not that the discussion in it is incorrect but considering the fact that there are so many other Indian ‘Narratives’ waiting to get attention, the 34 page analysis of Remains of the Day despite the ‘post-colonial’ tag, is simply misplaced. I realize that it is easy to find faults with such a diverse collection of essays but apart from the lone article by Priya Jaikumar on Mani Ratnam’s Kannathil Muthamittal (Peck on the Cheek) the ‘public sphere’ of Indian cinema concerns only the works of Bombay filmmakers and this disadvantages the book seriously. The second big disadvantage is giving such a huge responsibility to not-so-experienced academicians pursuing English/ Cultural Studies to author such a book thereby denying the readers any kind of ‘filmic’ perspective. All said and done the driving force behind this book is the serious discontent with the state of Indian cinema expressed by the intelligentsia who believe that this industrial story telling device which can actually ‘reproduce’ utopia ends up with bizarre ‘representations’ of all kinds of value-conflicts. This betrayal is expressed way back in Lalit Joshi’s article where he quotes Premchand saying in 1935, ‘Tastes have become so inferior that the public does not enjoy cinema unless such harmful and shameful scenes are included. People are not organized and a sense of good or bad is completely absent’. However I am struck by Premchand’s reference to the word ‘organized’ because the true ‘Narrative’ emerges only in the collective perception of ‘Cinema’ while films can only provide ‘Narrations’. Films cannot provide ‘Narratives’! And this is exactly the debate that both challenges and illuminates Anuja Jain’s article on sectarianism in Hindi Cinema with reference to Mani Ratnam’s Bombay, a film that has been beaten to death by all concerned political analysts in India! Her comparison with Suma Josson’s Blood Yatra is very well written. Similarly Rashmi Doraiswamy’s analysis of the Indian ...

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