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January 10, 2004

Early Bollywood/Early Hollywood

I've been thinking more and more about Bollywood lately, and while reading Cubitt's The Cinema Effect, I've been intrigued by Cubitt's discussion of Dadasaheb Phalke, considered by many to be the "father of Indian cinema" (IMDB). Phalke, among other accomplishments, legitimated showing women on-screen in Indian films and provided the "genotype for the Bombay melodrama" (59). Phalke also accomplished his impressive body of work without the benefit of being involved in the European cinema cultures in anything more than a peripheral way.

Cubitt compares Phalke's films to the fantasy films of Georges Méliès, the innovative director who used stop motion, mattes, and other special effects to produce what are often regarded as the earliest fantasy films, including his most famous film, Le voyage dans la lune (1902). What I find intriguing about Cubitt's reading is that he argues that while Méliès's urbane fantasies might be associated with the "cinema of attractions," in which visual pleasure derives from spectacle rather than narrative development (and eventual closure), Phalke's films tend to privilege narrative, specifically as it might be connected to Hindu epic tradition.

I (perhaps obviously) don't have much background in Bollywood or in Phalke, but Cubitt's discussion seems to highlight a gap in how film is studied in the United States. Specifically, I'd suggest that Anglo-American film theory seems to either bracket off or ignore Bollywood viewing experiences and practices. I realize there is a lot of good scholarship out there on Bollywood, but in much of the scholarship I've read and many of the introductory film courses I've encountered online, I rarely see theorists paying much attention to such an important and influential film culture.

Any suggestions? Do any of my readers have experience with teaching Bollywood or dicussing it with their students?

Posted by chuck at January 10, 2004 3:37 PM

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Hm, did my comment get deleted?

Posted by: Chris at January 14, 2004 2:07 PM

I don't remember seeing it. I have a comment spam filter, but I don't think that would have caused a problem. After all, this comment came through without any problem.


Posted by: chuck at January 14, 2004 2:48 PM

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