Sunday, 7 October 2012

seminar on hindi cinema

Hindi Cinema @ 100: A Retrospective 
(16-18 October 2012)
Hundred years of Hindi cinema’s existence should be an occasion to rewrite familiar histories in unfamiliar idioms and modes, especially when the contemporary cinematic moment seems to mark a distinct break from its immediate past. The emergence of digital technologies including the Internet and satellite television, globalisation and liberalisation, and a rapid urbanisation has reshaped Indian cinema as we knew it till the 1990s. It is not just the content and form of the cinema that has been aesthetically restructured but also the conditions of its production, distribution, trade, revenue, exhibition, viewing, relay, appreciation, notions of hits and flops and so on.
Conferring of industry status to the cinema in the 1990s made way for its corporatisation, rise of multiplexes, and the gradual fading away of single screen cinema halls in big cities, but also increasingly in smaller towns. This along with the growth of the internet has changed the nature of film viewing and appreciation across India. Film festivals that were earlier the mainstay of metropolitan centres are now travelling to smaller cities where a growing number of people desire to see cinema that is made outside of Hollywood and Bollywood. A case in point being the annual international film festivals held in places like Dharamshala, Gorakhpur, Faizabad and Ladakh. At the same time easy and inexpensive access to film-making equipment, has ensured that more and more people are turning to film-making with basic tools such as mobile phones and digital cameras.

Globalisation and liberalisation opened up gates for the inflow of legal money and the industry was no longer dependent on a handful of identified producers and other dubious resources. The multiplex phenomenon further opened up the business of film-making and film viewing practices. While this enabled independent film-makers to make and release films on unconventional themes and subjects, persistence of the old star-system and inflation in publicity and marketing budgets continues to haunt new trends. At the same time film-makers and the public are creating alternative avenues in terms of tv/internet releases, film festivals, and internet downloads. Excluded from the multiplexes, the subalterns have in turn invented their own shanty town khomchaplexes.   

It is not a coincidence that the period is also marked by an unprecedented rise of Film Studies. Recent years have seen a steady growth of scholarly output of monographs, anthologies, essays and seminars, matched by a proportionate rise in journalistic and popular writings on cinema. New areas of research such as fan cultures, diaspora films, film music, gender, visual culture, aesthetics and studies in early cinema have evolved in interesting ways. As the scholarly, the journalistic and the amateur reflections on cinema gain immediate, widespread visibility and rub shoulders with each other on television and the Internet, the older and arguably limited canons start giving way to thematic revisions based on larger, more encyclopaedic databases. New curatorial and analytical models of looking at old as well as contemporary films have thus come into play.

That the name Bollywood – howsoever disputed and imprecise - should gain currency as an omnibus descriptive term is in part a signature of this crisis of naming the above transformation. Implosion of various filmic energies into unheard channels of nomenclature yield terms like 'Jhollywood'(and such other terms) for cinema from Jharkhand .Thus, the contemporary cinematic moment, paradoxically, is as much about 'Hinglish' movies being made for diasporic and urban communities, as it is about Bhojpuri films displacing Hindi films from a part of its traditional stronghold in Bihar and UP. At the same time however there is also a resistance to “Bollywoodisation” of Hindi and other cinemas. In fact, most film scholars make a distinction between Bollywood cinema and Hindi cinema. They describe a certain type of cinema as represented by filmmakers in the 1990s as Aditya Chopra, Karan Johar and Subhash Ghai catering to an NRI audience as Bollywood. So this ascription of the emergence of the term Bollywood in the 90s provides certain formulaic and predictable ways of both film-making (such as the formula of item numbers) and film-classification. In contrast to the dominance of this term certain others argue that more interesting films are in fact being made outside of “Bollywood”.
We propose to revisit Hindi cinema @ hundred from a wide angle perspective in order to examine, situate and re-evaluate both Hindi cinema and film studies. Here are some possible themes and speakers:
  1. Film Studies historiography: major achievements, landmarks, turns, revisions, issues, dead ends, analytical terms, controversies, etc. emergent, exciting areas.
  2. Hindi Cinema @ 100: Continuities and discontinuities in themes/locales/aesthetic practices.
  3. Middle of the road cinema and its continuing popularity/whatever happened to art cinema?
  4. A history of Hindi Film Music: Production and consumption/listening cultures and practices gramophone/radio/television/youtube/mobile phones.
  5. Archiving cinema: official and the popular practices.
  6. Film Viewing and Appreciation: Then and now.  Film Society movement/travelling festivals in small towns.
  7. Reporting cinema: A history of journalistic interface with Hindi cinema.
  8. Changing languages and the invisible regional within the Hindi heartland.
  9. Khomchaplex
  10. A panel discussion on the historicity of creative processes in Hindi cinema.

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