Rethinking Indian Cinema: Toward a Cinema of Multiplicity
This thesis explores the ways in which cinema’s in India have articulated the idea of the Indian Nation, and presents the argument that a national cinema must be necessarily multi-faceted in nature. Nationalism and Nations are invented traditions and there is an inherent relationship between Indian Cinema and nationalism. The thesis discusses the concept of national identity and invented traditions, and how cinemas in India use the construct of a national identity as a tool to reinforce or challenge the status-quo. It raises questions of difference and sameness and how citizens of that nation understand their place within the conditions produced by each. The key argument of this thesis challenges the articulation of the Indian nation that is presented by Bollywood Cinema as the dominant form and holistic representation of India’s national identity. It asserts that there are multiple elements that are a part of the national imagining, rather than the lone representation of the North Indian (male) Hindi speaking subject. The alternative cinemas discussed in this thesis problematize the singular conception of national cinema in India. Chapter one outlines the formulaic construction of the Indian nation as presented by Bollywood and the hegemonic ideology that it reinforces. This chapter outlines the formula that Bollywood repeatedly uses in order to uphold the status quo. Chapter two examines Tamil cinema from 1930-1970’s in relation to its articulation of an ethno-nationalist ideology centred on Tamil heritage, challenging Bollywood as India’s national cinema. Chapter Three uses the work of Mani Ratnam, and his Terror Trilogy, in particular Roja (1992), to articulate another alternative cinema, but one that ultimately endorses the secular pan-Indian identity portrayed in Bollywood cinema. This is a significant intervention into the usually ethno-communal cinema that dominates Tamil cinema. Chapter four uses the work of Canadian Indian director Deepa Mehta to discuss her representation of the Indian nation through her depiction of a lesbian relationship in a traditional joint family situation. The representation of women in Fire (1996) caused huge controversy in India at the time of its release because it went against the normative depiction of women and their roles in society. Because the image of ‘woman’ is intrinsically linked to the building of the nation (Mother India), Mehta’s film explores another, darker alternative to the mythical India portrayed by Bollywood. Chapter Five discusses the work of documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan, whose films are highly critical of the nationalism constructed and endorsed by Bollywood. His work uncovers the national tensions and issues that are not addressed in Bollywood cinema, again giving a very different view of the nation.
Advisor: Devadas, Vijay
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Media, Film and Communication Department
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: India; Political; History; Bollywood; Film; Nationalism; Identity; Gender; Documentary; National Identity; National Cinema; Multifaceted representations; Multiplicity; Indian Cinema; Deepa Mehta; Anand Patwardhan; Mani Ratnam; Gender Politics; Ethno-Nationalist; terror trilogy; Cultural Colinisation
Research Type: Thesis