South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Gender, Melodrama and New Social Imaginaries in Bombay Cinema Between the 1930s-50s

Friday, July 6
8:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Location: Casuarina, Lower Ground Floor

The adoption and adaptation of sound technologies by film studios in India led to a radical restructuring of not just the film industries of the region, but also that of aesthetic form such that there emerged a new charged language of cinematic emotion. This was mobilized to articulate the contradictions of the constitution of modern subjectivities, at a time when the conflicts around the forces of tradition and modernity were crucial for the struggles of the new nation to be. This paper will deploy an understanding of the Indian cinematic melodramatic form, foregrounding the crucial role of music, especially songs, and a stylized, saturated mise-en-scene to examine the articulation of gender identities, and the historical possibilities or lack thereof for the emergence of new forms of selfhood, even as a struggle over the constitution of new social forms was taking place. Drawing upon examples from films made during the 1930s-1950s like Achut Kanya (1937); Tarana (1951); Pyaasa (1957); Barsaat ki Raat (1960), the paper will explore the struggles over identity, gender, social being and the manner in which the historical moment pressured cinematic aesthetics and pressed forth significances that articulated the conflicts and discourses of the moment. Furthermore, it will explore Indian melodrama as responding to global melodramatic idioms even as the confluence and convergence of different local cultural, aesthetic and performative traditions took place to create the hybrid form that characterizes the Indian melodramatic as a distinctive mode of cinema.


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