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Of Imagined Worlds

Darshana Sreedhar

By Rachel Dwyer
Hachette, India, 2014, pp. 295, Rs. 499.00


Of Imagined Worlds Rachel Dwyer’s Picture Abhi Baaki Hai is a de-tailed account of the films produced in India from 1991 to 2001 and the nuanced ways in which the imagination of India and its ‘New Middle Class’ enters the circuit of Bollywood. Originally published as Bollywood’s India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Contemporary India (Reaktion Books, 2014), the title of the Indian edition is an evocative take on one of Shah Rukh Khan’s dialogues in the Hindi film Om Shanti Om (Dir. Farah Khan, 2007) and reminiscent of the title of another Hindi film Mere Dost Picture Abhi Baki  Hai (Dir. Rajnish Raj Thakur, 2012). Dwyer takes the onset of economic liberalization and the opening of the markets to international players as a key moment to chart the changes that soon culminated in the consolidation of the new middle classes. Her account taps into the larger picture where the diasporas emerge as crucial stakeholders and a sizeable viewer base for Hindi cinema in the years following the 1990s. Dwyer focuses on how these films drew synergies from the larger discourses on the aspirational mobility of middle classes and their urge to succeed in a space chiselled out by changed configurations and power hierarchies. The book maps out the imagined worlds mobilized in these films and how these reflect the nation’s hopes, anxieties, fears and dreams. One of the most interesting facets of the book is the deeply personal touch that Dwyer brings into play in a section immediately after the preface titled ‘A Personal Note’, where she nostalgically refers to the time when she watched many of these films on VHS in the early 90s, struggling with limited proficiency of Hindi and her excitement on re-watching the same after years in a ‘clean print’. In stark contrast to the objective and impartial engagement which is prioritized in academic circles to unpack the object of enquiry, Dwyer acknowledges her position as what she calls an ‘acafan’ (academic fan) and even outlines her personal preferences for the analyses of certain kinds of films, as for instance religious dramas over rape/vigilante films (p. 36). Dwyer concedes right at the outset that her endeavour to explore the films is shaped by a ‘loose interpretation of psychoanalysis’ (p. 33) and its attempts to unravel the missing links to read into subtexts and unrealized possibilities. However, it is the reference to extra diegetic factors and how ...

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