Main Campus: New Course on Modern India – Cinema and Democracy

S. V. Srinivas, the new ICCR Visiting Professor in Indian Culture and Society, is offering a new course on modern India.  Those who are intersted are welcome to attend.

CULP-409 Modern India: Cinema & Democracy Instructor: S.V. Srinivas Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00am-12:15pm

This course will outline the history of the cinema in 20th century India to show how intimately it is linked to the transformation of the country from a British colony to a modern democracy. On the face of it, the need for such a close examination of the cinema appears self-evident from the increasing numbers of film stars from across India contesting elections. Further, since 1977 two south Indian states have been ruled intermittently by film stars.

The course offers insights into deep connection between cinema, a modern capitalist entertainment form driven by the need to maximise revenues, and the emergence of novel possibilities of imaging the nation as a unity of diverse if unequal peoples. In India, the political significance of cinema was brought into sharp focus by widespread illiteracy that limited the role of print in political communication. Early filmmakers of colonial India were acutely aware of the cinema hall’s potential to constitute and address a “national” public. The possibilities and tensions resulting from what could potentially be an explosive mixture of unequal, and at times antagonistic, social groups among the cinema’s public has shaped the evolution of storytelling techniques as also the content of Indian films. Students will learn about this history of cinema as a political form and how analyses of democracy in India may be enriched by a detour into the neighbourhood cinema hall.

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