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Elusive Golden Age

Sheena Jain

By Chidananda Das Gupta
Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1981, pp. 196, Rs. 70.00

VOLUME V NUMBER 4 January-February 1981

Most of the books on Indian Cinema which have appeared so far rest content with a chronological listing of films made, simplistically categorized, and garnished with high sounding but essen­tially superficial analyses and evaluations. Chidananda Das Gupta's 'Talking About Films', in contrast, is a collection of eighteen short essays that discuss various aspects of film in India as well as film in general with refreshing lucidity. Taken from writings published over a long period (1957 to 1975) in newspapers and periodicals in India and abroad, the essays, as the preface states, range over a variety of subjects and 'are by no means comprehensive or integrated into a structure'. While some are essentially analytical, as for instance, the one en­titled, 'The Cultural Basis of Indian Cinema', a few, such as 'Films Remem­bered' and 'Cinema in the Sixties: Some Trends', are more rambling, though never mindless. In fact, they all reflect a prob­ing and sensitive mind, honestly concern­ed with the state of Indian film and culture, and knowledgeable 'about wider cinematic and societal trends. Why are Indian films made the way they are? What elements have governed the changes in their pattern of develop­ment? and what courses of action can improve the climate of cinema in our country? These are some of the basic questions the author is concerned with in the first section, entitled, 'Indian Cinema: High and Low'. The approach, fortunately, is not pedantic. In fact it is significant, that in discussing a highly sensuous medium like the Cinema, the author communicates his ideas without eliminating the feel of the atmosphere in which the questions arise and attempts are made to answer them. In the essay called, 'The cultural basis of Indian Cinema', he delineates the reactionary role of the Hindu formula film; and relates its emergence to the growth of certain social classes and 'to particular economic and cultural situations. More generally, the problem is seed to stem from the fact that cinema, a medium distilled out of previous modes of expres­sion, synthesized by science, has been transplanted to a country where only a tiny segment lives in the scientific ambience of the twentieth century, 'while the rest, is one enormous anachronism strug­gling to leap into the present'. Particu­larly after the Second World War, 'the Hindi cinema found itself forced to address its appeal to a culturally impove­rished nouveau riche audience, ...

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