Radical Cinema and the "Film Society" Movement in India

Humanities Open House Day Lecture by Assistant Professor Rochona Majumdar, South Asian Languages and Civilizations
Saturday, October 23, 2010 - 2:00pm

To cinema lovers in different parts of the world, Indian cinema today is best known by the moniker “Bollywood.” This label refers to films that are usually three-hour long melodramas in Hindi, featuring five or six song and dance sequences in exotic locales, with a hefty dose of nationalist sentiments. These films are products of an industry based in Mumbai and have become a model for other Indian regional language film industries.

But, Majumdar says, there is a lot more to Indian cinema than Bollywood or its variants in other languages. By focusing on the "film society" movement in India during the period 1947-1975, Majumdar will discuss how a segment of Indian cinephiles responded critically to popular commercial films. To them, “good cinema” was not Bollywood films but a particular kind of film made in parts of Europe, Japan and Cuba and by a small group of Indian filmmakers. Good cinema was politically responsible and socially progressive.Through discussion of the film society movement, Majumdar will shed light on various aspects of avant garde cinema in India.

Rochona Majumdar (Assistant Professor, South Asian Languages and Civilizations) is a historian of nineteenth and twentieth century India. Her book Marriage and Modernity: Family Values in Colonial Bengal, 1870-1956 (Duke University Press, 2009) analyzes the changing configuration of the "joint family" in the context of shifts in the institution of arranged marriage and the marriage market in Bengal. She is a co-editor of From the Colonial to the Postcolonial: India and Pakistan in Transition (Oxford University Press, 2007). Majumdar is currently completing a book Writing Postcolonial History, which analyzes ways in which postcolonial theory has influenced the historian's craft. She is also engaged in a longer-term research project on the history of Indian cinema.

Presented by the Division of the Humanities.