MMIC, Ch 3: Shifting Codes, Dissolving Identities – The Hindi Social Film of the 1950s as Popular Culture (Vasudevan)

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Vasudevan, Ravi, ed. Making Meaning in Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

  • “My basic premise about the dominant critical discussion of the cinema in this period was that it was related to the formation of an art cinema, that it addressed a (potential) art cinema audience and, in turn, was premised on a notion of social difference” (100)
  • Vasudevan explains that 1950s cinema focused a lot of melodramatic effects and sensational aspects
  • drama was favored over realism in film plots
  • mid 1950s: growing consensus that Hindi films weren’t able to measure up to Western films NOT because of linguistic barriers but rather cinematic standards (102)
  • defining Hindi films in 1950s: “In the Bombay cinema of the 1950s the ‘social’ film, from which I take the illustrations in this article, was the genre which the industry understood to address the issues of modern life. Within these films, and much more widely in the cinema of that time, a number of modes of staging and narrating story events are in evidence” (105)
  • ambiguity in hero’s representation often paralleled real-life issues of identity shifting in post-independence India
  • “The mixture of codes, generic and sensational elements, and a narrative undermining of social identity, makes the social film of the 1950s an imaginary space in which a popular audience of mixed social background were offered a rather fluid system of signs, modes of address and social positions. Industry observers had their particular explanation for this mixture. They believed that the ‘social,’ initially conceived of as a conventionally middle-class genre, had become an omnibus form in which different social groups were being catered to by different elements of the film. One observer noted that, whereas in the 1930s dramatic and social values appealed to the middle and upper middle classes, and stunts and action dramas appealed to workers, in the 1950s a ‘new type of social realism also came to occupy the screen. Actions, thrills, magic and stunts were introduced into the stories to attract the masses'” (113)
    • there was a significant democratization of film production in the 1950s to appeal to a wider audience

MMIC: Introduction (Ravi Vasudevan)

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Vasudevan, Ravi, ed. Making Meaning in Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

  • “popular film is treated as an entry point for understanding the legitimization of social and political power through narrative forms commanding the widest of social constituencies” (1)
  • “The state as it evolves policies of censorship, taxation and institutional formation, is an influential player in the processes which define the status of cinema as a cultural institution” (6)
  • “It is possible that the success of the Indian cinema in North Africa, the countries of the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and China points to a suggestive international constituency for a narrative form addressing the problems associated with modern social and political transformation” (8-9)
  • mid p14: idea of 1950s cinema as moving beyond reality to new idealized society; as a social commentary on how society could develop in a country that was still working through its independence