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TitleIdeology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN 139780195642186
CategoryArts - Film
File Size31.9 MB
Total Pages140
Document Text Contents
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Page 70

122 • Ideology of the Hindi Film
leadership was all that the industry could manage 4 The most that
such government pressures on the mainstream industry achieved
was to inspire some producers to include, within a formally unaltered
framework, 'progressive' elements which they hoped would win
government approval. S Sometimes this led to the granting of
entertainment tax cuts or exemptions.

However, the Film Institute and the Film Finance Corporation
together formeo part of very different kind of intervention which
was to have a lasting impact. While the institute offered training in
the technical as well as performance aspects of film-making, the
corporation, after a few years of lethargic and unimaginative
functioning, launched a financing policy aimed at the development
of 'good cinema', which for most people associated with the project,
meant a cinema that was realist, narrative-centred, developmental,
and culturally distinctly Indian. Although the change in policy had
been initiated in 1964 by Indira Gandhi when she was the Information
and Broadcasting minister, its decisive implementation roughly
coincided with the arrival of a number of trained directors, actors
and other technicians from the Film Institute.

The FFC had hitherto functioned somewhat like other state
financial institutions, supplementing the budgets of mainstream film-
makers (and of individuals with international standing like Satyajit
Ray). Now, changing course to became a producer, the corporation
entered into direct competition with the mainstream industry.
Although the protests were muted in deference to the prevailing
mood of populist mobilization, this development caused great panic
in the industry. The industry had for a long time been demanding
that the FFC should expand its operations by increasing the capital
available for lending, to provide state support for the transformation

4Even this form of feudal allegiance without specific commitments on policy
came under severe strain in these years of political turmoil. Thus, at a meeting
addressed hy the prime minister, I.S. Jc)har who was at the time the head of a producers'
organization, responded to the prime minister's criticism of the industry (Mrs. Gandhi
is reported to have said: 'We do have an impression that this industry is only interested
in making money'!) by reminding her of the 'obscenity of poverty' (Screen, 2January
1Y70, p. I). This led to an uproar in the industry, with several major figures writing
letters of protest, publicly dissociating themselves from Johar's position and even
writing letters of apology with a promise of good behaviour to the prime minister
(Screen, YJanuary 1no, pp. 1,(,; 1(, January 1970, p. I).

5Some tried easier ways to align themselves with the 'socialist' power. Thus,
Shyam Behl, in his Gold Medal (1970), had sequences shot at the annual Congress
session, and presented a reel containing these scenes to the prime minister (Screen,
20 Fehruary 1Y70, p. I).

The Moment ofDisaggregation • 123
of production relations within the eXisting industry. But it had not
anticipated the form of expansion that the FFC finally chose. While
depriving the industry of even the meagre finance hitherto available,
it now established a parallel industry with an alternative aesthetic
programme. No longer Content to produce newsreels as ao
instructional supplement to the entertainment film, the government
was now expanding the sphere of state-sponsored production to
the aesthetic realm. However, the crux of the matter was not the
ideological dangers of state-sponsored cinema (which were minimal
since the FFC policy was administered by an independent bodY),6
so much as the economic danger of the emergence of a formidable

The implications of the new FFC policy gradually became clear
with groWing signs of audience interest in the promise of novelty,
and Wide support from the press for the ventures. The
industry was also preoccupied with the more immediate dangers
foreboded by rumours of an impending nationalization, Gujral's active
pursuit of the Film Council idea, the calculations within the industry
about the mode of accommodation with the government's new
socialist agenda, etc. As president of the Film Federation of India,
Sunderlal Nahata called for internal unity and discipline as the only
way of side-stepping the encroachment by the government which
was seen as the main purpose for the institution of the Film Council.
Unity was to be supplemented with a stance of co-operation in the
national project:

Big social changes are taking place in the country. Society has been
awakened to the: realities and SOcialistic trends are on in the country
for the welfare of the nation . the government can ill-afford to
ignore our prohlems when we prove to it that we share in the
responsibilities to contrihute to the welfare of the nation in our own
humhle way as any other industry does7

But with the visibility achieved by Mrinal Sen's Bhuvan Shame
(969), which won awards and had a limited but surprising
commercial run, it became clear that a substantial challenge was
gathering strength. In the past, figures like Satyajit Ray had developed
their own individualistic trajectories which precluded any

(,Several prominent members of the FFC board, led by Hrishikesh Mukherjee
and B.K. Karanjia. resigned in 1n(, when the Emergency leadership started interfering
in the affairs of the corporation (Fil1ri!are, 11 June 1Y76, p. 35>-

7Screen, 14 :-.Iovember 1969, p. 8.

Page 71

124 • Ideology ofthe Hindi Film

Shome's body learns strange new dialects: Utpal Dutt in Bhuvan Shame
(Mrinal Sen 1969). Courtesy National Film Archive of India, Pune.

institutionalized aesthetic programme. The industry had found it
possible to acknowledge Ray as the 'Master' and a national cultural
hero, without jeopardizing its own system of production and values.
As Bikram Singh observed at the time, 'It is mainly the institutional
forces and the strength they began to gain in the late sixties which
the established film industry has found less easy to ignore than it
did Satyajit Ray,.8 While providing opportunities for a variety of
styles and political and aesthetic positions, the new aesthetic
programme was unified by an oppositional stance towards the
commercial cinema. The political dimension of the challenge posed
by this initiative was not lost on the mainstream industry. In a review
of Mrinal Sen's Interoiew, Screen, while acknowledging its strengths,
called it biased, and nervously observed that the film may appeal to
a 'now growing type of Indians' but not to a 'normal' audience.9

.Among the many compromises that the mainstream industry explored
as a means of defusing this challenge, one was particularly significant
for the manner in which it sought to blunt the political thrust by
foregrounding the 'artistic' dimension of the new movement.

In response to Nandini Satpathy's speech at the National Awards

flPilm!are, 10 January 1975, p. 26.
9Screen, 11 December 1970, p. 19.

The Moment ofDisaggregation • 125
presentation reiterating the cultural policy of the Indira Gandhi
government, Screen published a long 'critical study' of the speech.
Noting that the speech seemed to be an indication of the policy of
the 'new radical leadership', the writer drew attention to Satpathy's
approving comments on the 'new wave' films. The government was
mistaken in thinking that these films fulfilled the aims of cultural
policy, the writer warned. 'Mrs. Satpathy could be wrong about the
Indian "new wave". Its inspiration appears to be outlandish and
there is little of Indian reality in its products.' 10 By contrast, the
Bombay film 'has been a vehicle of Indian thought, culture and
ideals'. Moreover, the government was warned that by encouraging
the 'new wave' it was playing with fire. The virtues of the Bombay
film lay in their 'innocuous' story-telling technique, while the
'committed film-maker, committed to advance a particular ideology,
can pose a serious danger to society'. On the economic side, the 'new
wave' was a loss-making venture and it was 'unethical', a 'grievolls
misconception of priorities' to encourage such indUlgence in a poor
country. The article concluded by suggesting that instead of the
new FFC programme, an academy of motion picture arts should be
set up with Satyajit Ray-'the undisputed master of the medium'-
at its helm.

The mainstream industry had good reason to invoke the authority
of Ray to serve as an aesthetic focal point that would reduce the
importance of the political dimension. Ray's opinions on the 'new
wave' were first aired in an article 'An Indian New Wave?' published
in Film/are (8 October 1971) and again in a review article 'Four and
a Quarter', published in Indian Film Culture in 1974. 11 In the first of
these, Ray drew attention to the practical constraints on the ambitions
of the neW film-makers. Debunking the trendiness of their enthusiasm,
Ray pointed out that narrative was central to cinema, that 'experiment'
was costly and bound to fail where audiences were untrained in
cinematic language. This criticism was based on the assumption
that experiment necessarily entailed an imitation of 'Godard', a code-
word for experimental cinema. Welcoming the new FFC policy, Ray
nevertheless implied that products of such a policy were not going
to succeed with the audience at large. Besides, films like Bhuvan
Shame, which had been hailed as the harbinger of a new movement,

1OScreen, Ifl February 1972, p. 4.
11 130th are now available in Ray's Our Films Their Films, pp. 81-99; 100-7


Page 139

256 • Index
peasant struggle, in new cinema 196,

199, 209. See also Ankur

Phalke, Dadasaheb 2, 33, 133
Phir Bhi 187
Pixerecourt 70 n.15
political cinema 16, 129, 131, 199 n.3,

Ankur as. See Ankur
commercial exploitation of 130-1

popular cinema 4, s-6, 15-17, 23,
24, 25, 49, 79, 118

contemporaneity of 17
cultural content of 49
feudal family romance in. See

feudal family romance
and Indian culture 15
lack of authenticity in 5 n.5
melodrama in 57
production mode in 48, 49

popular cinema (contd)
romantic love in 110-12
textual form of 30

nationalism 52
nation states 12, 52-3

cultural autonomy in 54
dominant classes in 53, 53 n.l

post-marital conflict, depiction of

private vs. public sphere 78-9, 92,
94, 96-7, 98, 99

producers, independent 38-40, 46
production modes 220

in Bombay 31-2
in Hollywood 42, 47-8
in popular cinema 48, 49
prohibition. See censorship

Rajnigandha 161, 175-8
Ramachandran, M. G. 158
Ramanujan, A. K. 7 n.6
Rama Rao, N. T. 17

Ratnam, Mani 217
Ray, Satyajit 5 n.5, 14, 15, 106, 123,

124, 125, 126, 198
comments on Ankur 198
emphasis on narrative 125, 126
realism of 160-1, 190

realism 58, 73
Bazin's theory 21-3, 50, 61, 62
in Bhuvan Shome 191-2
and democracy 56, 58
developmentalist 24
in feudal narratives 55, 193-4
FFC commitmentto 160, 161, 190
fictional 59 n.5
and frontality 20-1
in Guddi 172-4
in Hollywood 62
internal distancing and 193, 194
metalanguage of 58, 59, 73

realism (contd)
and melodrama 56, 58, 62-3, 71,

modes of 61-4
national 64
as national project 190-1
nationalist 61, 62
in new cinema 61, 62, See also

new cinema
in popular cinema 63
of Satyajit Ray. See Ray, Satyajit
Shyam Benegal's contribution to.

See Benegal, Shyam
statist 25, 196

cinema 5, 161

in India 5
regional 192-3, 194-5
sexuality and feudal power in

See also realism; new cin-
ema; new-wave films

theatre, and classical cinema 102
voyeurism 97

regional cinema
influence of Bombay films 5 n.5
realism in 192-3, 194-5

Renoir, Jean 190
report of

Committee on Public Undertak-
ing 131

Film Enquiry Committee 34, 37
Report of the Indian Film Industry's

Mission to Europe and
America 32-3

Report of the Working Group on
National Film Policy 36

Raja 218,221,225,228,230,231-3,
235, 236

romantic love, in popular cinema

Rousseau 94
Roy, Bimal 160
Rulfo, Juan 59

Sahni, Balraj 44
Salim-Javed 133, 134, 135 n.19, 142,

152, 157
Sangam 81-7, 157
Sara Akash 127, 161, 161 n.l, 162-3
Satpathy, Nandini 121, 125
scopic activity, in cinema, 100-1

and darsana tradition 75--6
narcissistic 73-4
unauthorized 101
voyeuristic 73

screenplay 44
Balraj Sahni's views 44
new approach to 139, 142

in Bombay films 44
in Hollywood films 44

sectoral need, theory of 107

in Damini 224--5, 228-30, 235--6
in film industry 24,25, 118, 127-31

Index • 257
Metzian 223
in Roja 225, 226-7, 235-6

Sen, Mrinal 123, 161, 188, 191
serial manufacture 42

in Hollywood 42, 43
sexuality, feudal 215
Shahani, Kumar 29, 128
Sholay 79, 153-8

films 83, 87, 137, 136
emergence of 46
public spectacle in 79
reformed 137

hegemony 10
reality, and fantasy 221

socialism, Nehruvian 33
southern film makers, popularity of

spaghetti westerns 156
spectation 78

in Indian cinema. See darsana;
darsanic gaze

structure of 73, 74
spectatorial gaze 193-4
speech. See dialogue

as ego ideal 74
image 133

of Amitabh Bachchan 133, 133
n.17, 138, 140, 140 n.3

in feudal family romance 133
in Hollywood 133

mobilization effect of 158-9
as public persona 134
system, alternative 156-7

control over conjugal space 96-7
form, in India 12
as ideological apparatus 11, 12
intraventionist role of 53, 121-2.

See also Film Finance

Page 140

258 • Index
and nation, relation between

place in narrative 219
role of 32
ruling coalition in 55

statist realism 25, 196
still photography 3, 3 n.1
studio companies 38, 39-40
studio era 46, 47. See also studio

companies above
subjectivity, female 181-3, 186, 187
Susman 216

Tamil cinema 158
technology, film 1-3
Telengana, peasant struggle in 209
textual form, integrity of 21
theatre and cinema, difference

between 101, 102
theatres 41-2

for foreign films 190
for middle-class cinema 128
open, frontality in 19
owners of, nexus with distribu-

tors 126
rentals of 190

theatrical voyeurism 101-2

m SiC : xq

of capitalist social process 12
cultural, contemporary 54
film 1-2, 5
Freud's, of dreams 221
Jameson's of interpretation219-20
Marx's, of formal subsumption 13
of sectoral need 107

titles, of films 48 n.16
tradition vs. modernity. See moder-

nity preservation of 105,106
27 Down 162

Uski Roti 128

Voyeurism 73, 100, 101
cinematic 101-2
communal 183
in Indian cinema 102, 103
realist 97
theatrical 101-2
voyeuristic scopophilia 73

western cinema 3, 5, 6. See also
Hollywood cinema

women's melodrama 56, 79, 81, 83,

Zanjeer140, 142-4, 155

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