Facets of Indian Cinema

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2FS1044

Semester and Year Offered: Winter

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr Rajan Krishnan and team

Email of course coordinator:

No pre-requisites.

Course Objectives/Description:

In spite of the mind boggling variety films produced in India, there has not been many systematic attempts to grasp the meanings of various modes of film production in India and the diversity of film narratives. It constitutes one of the two courses on Indian cinema among the seven core courses. It has a crucial role to play in making students familiar with the variety of film making practices and the scholarly reckoning of them through which they can identify their own research interests.

Course Outcomes:

Enable students to understand historical and theoretical ways of thinking about cinema. Thus, producing disciplinary knowledge of film studies.

Cinemas of India are part of the socio-political-cultural habitation in various regions. In asking students to investigate cinema in the region this course promotes a rigorous investigation of elements of gender, caste, local nuances etcetera. This in turn produces (a) critical thinking, (b) analytical reasoning, and (c) awareness of socio-political-cultural histories and cross-cutting issues.

This course allows for an engagement with a variety of forms and elements of cinema, prompting discussions of various aesthetic values and an appreciation thereof.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

This course is designed to introduce students to the different forms of Indian Cinema from its beginnings to the present, with a particular focus on Hindi cinema. The course will provide a background to the industrial landscape of Indian cinema as well as trace the specific genres, thematic concerns and formal makeup of popular cinema. The course will journey through the silent cinema of the early studio years, the coming of sound, the auteurs and new studios in the post independence period, the consolidation of the star system and the globalization of contemporary cinema. Along with this, the ‘Art’ Cinema and B/C circuit productions will be situated to understand the complicated location of the debate between high and low culture.

Also, see reading list below.

Assessment Details with weights:

  • Class participation (attendance, responses and class presentations) (40%)
  • Response Paper (20%)
  • Final paper (5000+ words) (40%)

Reading List:

Week 1

Introduction to the course, readings and assessment.

Taxi Driver / Dev Anand / 1954

Week 2

Indian Silent Cinema

Kaushik Bhaumik, ‘Cinematograph to Cinema: Bombay, 1896-1928’, Bioscope, v.2, no.1, January 2011, 41-68. pdf

Anupama Kapse, ‘Around the World in Eighty Minutes: Douglas Fairbanks and the Indian Stunt Film’, in Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space, Bloomington: Indiana UP, 210-34. pdf

Rosie Thomas, “Thieves of the Orient: The Arabian Nights in Early Indian Cinema,” in her Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2014, 31-65.

Screening: Selections from Indian Silent Cinema

Week 3

The Coming of Sound: The 1930s/40s- The Historicals & The Devotionals

Rosie Thomas, “Distant Voices, Magic Knives: Lal-e-Yaman and the Transition to Sound in Bombay Cinema,” in her Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies, New Delhi: Orient Blackswan, 2014, 66-91.

Ira Bhaskar and Richard Allen, “The Muslim Historical,” and “Pukar” from their Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2009, 24-43, 111-122.

Screening: Pukar / Sohrab Modi / 1939

Week 4

The 1930s/40s- The Socials & The Stunt Film

Valentina Vitali, “Women in Action Films in the 1920s and 1930s,” in her Hindi Action Cinema: Industries, Narratives, Bodies. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. pdf

Rosie Thomas, "Not Quite (Pearl) White: Fearless Nadia, Queen of the Stunts," in Raminder Kaur, Ajay J. Sinha, eds. Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema through a Transnational Lens. New Delhi, Thousand Oaks, London : Sage Publications, 2005, 35-69.

Screening: Miss Frontier Mail / Homi Wadia / 1936

Week 5

Bombay as the Site of Indian Modernity

Madhava Prasad “Realism & Fantasy in Representations of Metropolitan Life in Indian Cinema” in City Flicks: Indian Cinema and the Urban Experience Calcutta, New Delhi: Seagull Books, 2004, 83-99.

Ravi Vasudevan “Shifting Codes, Dissolving Identities: The Hindi Social Film of the 1950’s as Popular Culture” in Ravi Vasudevan ed. Making Meaning in Indian Cinema Oxford University Press: 2000, 99-121.

Screening: Chalti ka Naam Gadi / Satyen Bose / 1958

Week 6

The Auteurs – Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak

Ravi Vasudevan “Nationhood, Authenticity & Realism in Indian Cinema: The Double Take of Modernism in the Work of Satyajit Ray” Journal of the Moving Image no.2: 2001 pg. 52-76. pdf

Bhaskar Sarkar, “Ghatak, Melodrama, and the Restitution of Experience,” in his Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009.

Screening: Meghe Dhaka Tara / Ritwik Ghatak / 1960

Week 7

The Sixties: Crime, Music and the Modern Vamp

Sabeena Gadihoke, ‘Sensational Love Scandals and their After-lives’, Bisocope, July 2011, v.2, no.2, 103-128. pdf

Ranjani Mazumdar “Aviation, Tourism and Dreaming in 1960s Bombay Cinema”, Bisocope, July 2011, v.2, no.2, 129-155. pdf

Screening: Kashmir ki Kali / Shakti Samanta / 1964

Week 8

The 1970s - ‘Angry Young Man’ Era

Madhava Prasad “The Aesthetic of Mobilization” – chapter from his The Ideology of the Hindi film: A Historical Reconstruction Oxford University Press, 138-159. pdf

Ranjani Mazumdar, “Rage on Screen” from her Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 2007, 1-40. pdf

Screening: Deewar / Yash Chopra / 1975

Week 9

The Documentary Tradition

Anuja Jain “The Curious Case of the Films Division: Some Annotations on the beginnings of the Indian Documentary Cinema in Post Independence India, 1940s-60s in The Velvet Light Trap 71, 2013: 15-26 pdf

Vinay Lal “Travails of the Nation: Some Notes on Indian Documentaries,” Third Text 19, no. 2 March 2005. pdf

Screening: Excerpts from Documentaries will be screened in class

Week 10

B Film Circuits

Ashim Ahluwalia ‘Going Underground: Notes on an Uncontrolled Cinema,’ ArtConnect, 7(1): 4-18, Jan-Jul 2013. pdf

S.V. Srinivas (2008) ‘Missing in the Original: Twin Dragons Remade in India,’ Journal of the Moving Image; Kolkata: JU. pdf

Lalitha Gopalan ‘Avenging Women in Indian Cinema,’ Screen, 38 (1): 42-59; 1997. pdf

Valentina Vitali, 'The Evil I: Realism and Scopophilia in the Horror Films of the Ramsay Brothers' in Dwyer and Pinto eds. Beyond the Boundaries of Bollywood: the Many Forms of Hindi Cinema, London: OUP, 2011.

Kartik Nair ‘Taste, Taboo, Trash: the Story of the Ramsay Brothers,’ BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, July 2012 vol. 3 no. 2, 123-145. pdf

Screening: Bandh Darwaza/ Ramsay Brothers/ 1990

Week 11

Globalization and Film Form

Lalitha Gopalan “Bombay Noir” in Journal of the Moving Image Vol. 15. 2015, 64-91. pdf

Ranjani Mazumdar “Gangland Bombay” from her book Bombay Cinema an Archive of the City Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press, 2007. pdf

Screening: Company / Ram Gopal Varma / 2002

Week 12

Aparna Sharma “India’s Experience with the Multiplex” in Seminar 525: Unsettling cinema, May2003,42-46(

Ashish Rajadhyaksha “The ‘Bollywoodization’ of Indian cinema: cultural nationalism in a global arena” Inter Asia Cultural Studies Vol. 4, No. 1, 2003, 25-39. pdf

Jeebesh Bagchi ‘Acceleration and Conflicts: Comments on the Cinematic Object in the 1990s and After,’ Journal of the Moving Image; Kolkata: JU; 2006. pdf

Screening: Love Sex aur Dhokha/ Dibakar Banerjee/ 2010.

Week 13

Film Analysis/Writing/History

Ratheesh Radhakrishnan “The Gulf in the imagination: Migration, Malayalam cinema and regional identity” Contributions to Indian Sociology Vol. 43, No. 2 (2009): 217–45. pdf

May Adaol Ingawanik “Mother India in Six Voices: Melodrama, Voice Performance, and Indian Films in Siam” BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, July 2012 vol. 3 no. 2, 99-121. pdf

Recommended Material

  • Pather Panchali / Satyajit Ray / 1955
  • Mother India / Mehboob Khan / 1957
  • Aradhana / Shakti Samanta / 1969
  • Aakrosh / Govind Nihlani / 1980
  • Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro / Saeed Mirza / 1989
  • Raja Babu / David Dhawan / 1994
  • Satya / Ramgopal Varma / 1998
  • Dabangg / Abhinav Kashyap / 2010
  • The Roja Debate in EPW
  • Particularly, Tejaswini Niranjana, "Integrating Whose Nation? Tourists and Terrorists in Roja," Economic and Political Weekly, 15 January, 1994, 79-82.
  • Roja / Mani Ratnam / 1992