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The Melodramatic Warp and Woof of Indian Cinema

C.S. Venkiteswaran

By Ravi Vasudevan
Permanent Black, Delhi, 2010, pp. 459, Rs. 795.00

VOLUME XXXIV NUMBER 12 December 2010

Writing on film in India was for a long time mired in different kinds of bias and untouchability. While only certain kinds of films and filmmakers in the realist tradition were considered worthy of critical attention, bulk of the films produced here was considered trash. As for the writings, most of them were urbancentred and products of the initiated, who applied theories and concepts, values and norms, more often developed in the West in the Indian context. Obviously, it was a period of great masters and venerated icons. But the advent of cultural studies and the new attention it brought upon mainstream cinema during the last decades reversed the trend. Academics all over the world began to look at the film scene afresh: from texts and their formalaesthetic and socialideological meanings, the attention turned to reception and the audience. In the words of Dudley Andrew, a cultural history of cinema proceeds neither through the direct appreciation of films, nor through the direct amassing of relevant facts associated with movies, but through an indirect reconstruction of the conditions of representation that permitted such films to be made, to be understood, even to be misunderstood. Many scholars, working in universities in India and abroad (in the case of many among the latter, film was one major and continuing connection they had with India), produced works that were global in perspective and were sensitive to the nuances of the regional. This outbreak in film studies threw many a canon into the dustbin, energizing film writing and producing a plethora of writing that were iconoclastic in nature. They opened up new insights and also continents of hitherto unexplored experiences and sensual terrains related to the scopic regime. Multidisciplinary in approach, these studies were illuminated by and also triggered developments in different disciplines. As far as Indian film studies is concerned, recent years have witnessed a virtual explosion. One could consider 200910 as a landmark: because, the much awaited books of some of the most prominent scholars on Indian cinema came out in this period. Ashish Rajadhyakshas Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency, (New Delhi: Tulika/Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009) S.V. Srinivass Megastar, (Oxford University Press, Delhi), 2009, and now, Ravi Vasudevans The Melodramatic Public: Film Form and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema. This book brings together Ravi Vasudevans scholarly writings and theoretical interventions on film during the last few decades. ...

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