South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Studios, Geographies and Aesthetics: The Case of Vauhini as ‘Asia’s Finest’ Studio in the 1940s in South India

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

One of the historically proposed and argued achievements of Vauhini Pictures, which came into being in 1938 in the colonial city of Madras to create  ‘meaningful cinema’ for the diverse geographical entities of the Madras, Mysore and Nizam states, was to standardize melodramatic entertainment in terms of coulds and shoulds  beyond mythological story-telling. In this paper, I wish to look at the histories of south Indian cinematic entertainment using the particular case of Vauhini (which literally means river), its specific musicality, its negotiation of political and linguistic geographies through studio spaces and cinematic production, and its aspiration for an ‘Asian’ reach in building reputation and glory.


As a complex south Indian flagship of ‘successful cinema’ that appealed to emerging Telugu middle classes through the representation of ‘authentic’ sub-culture(s) in its use of music and language for melodrama, Vauhini represented a unique union of capital and creativity in a way that carved the careers of stars such as Bhanumati and Nagiah among others, infused genres such as drama, the devotional and the social with ‘purpose,’ and obtained a reputation as ‘Asia’s finest’ for technical sophistication. This studio’s subtle maneuvers at ‘taste’ and ‘quality’ and its tenor of idealism changed for formulae and fantasy following its merger with Vijaya Productions in the late 1940s at a time when, ironically, changing borders, both nationally and internationally, invited new production strategies to sustain melodious intent for melodrama, across genres.


 

Kiranmayi Indraganti

Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, India

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3 - Studios, Geographies and Aesthetics: The Case of Vauhini as ‘Asia’s Finest’ Studio in the 1940s in South India



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