South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - “Song” Booklets and Short Circuits - Of Words and (Moving) Images

Saturday, July 7
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

The circulation of cheaply printed song booklets for Hindi films proliferated alongside the emergence of the talkie. An object of interest for collectors of film memorabilia as well as historians, the song booklet allows not only explorations of various histories of print culture, visual culture, and film culture, but also reflections on methodological questions of how such objects are used as evidence in historical accounts. Absent among the song booklet's present lives, however, is its use as such - that is, as a booklet of lyrics with which to sing along with films. Yet, the very form of film booklets themselves that were printed and sold in Bombay - as multilingual and rife with colorful, eye-catching images - begs the question of whether song booklets were ever used primarily as singalong aides. Through case studies of two 1930s booklets, for Bombay studio-era productions MAZDOOR (1934) and BLACK EYES (1936), this paper notes the specificities of this tension - between the particularity of language and the universality of the image - in the very forms of the so-called song booklet as well as press booklet. This tension, I argue, was a fundamentally cinematic ambivalence that intensified with the coming of the talkie. 

Samhita Sunya

University of Virginia, United States

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