CSCS Culture and Democracy Lecture Series: Ashish Rajadhyaksha
Duration: 02:17:46; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 26.069; Saturation: 0.040; Lightness: 0.608; Volume: 0.163; Cuts per Minute: 0.515; Words per Minute: 160.429
'Culture and Democracy', a flagship course at the Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), has served as an exploration of how the connections between culture and democracy may be theorised. An integral part of this course is a guest lecture series by CSCS faculty and visiting scholars, in which they reflect on their own work.
In 2007, these lectures were opened to the public and documented on video.The course was anchored by S. V. Srinivas and invited speakers included Ashish Rajadhyaksha, M. Madhava Prasad, Kakarala Sitharamam, Vivek Dhareshwar and S. V. Srinivas.
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is Senior Fellow at CSCS (http://www.cscsarchive.org/Members/ashish/cscs_people_view/
) His lecture, titled 'Cinematic Governmance', was the first of the series. Rajadhyaksha touches on, among other things, citizenship, the "cinema effect", spectatorship and cultures of viewing.
For more on CSCS, see http://www.cscsarchive.org/
Centre for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS)
SV: I'll start with a short introduction of the lecture series. This is the first of the CSCS Culture and Democracy Lecture Series for this year. I hope it will not be the last. As all of you know because of the announcement, this is the last part of the Culture and Democracy PhD course for this year - our first semester PHD course for 2007. For the last three years, Culture and Democracy has been the one course where CSCS ideology is imparted and 'indoctrinated' into first year students. This year we took that responsibility a little more seriously; specifically, giving the brief to speakers to reflect on their work and its relationship (although Ashish will summarise I think I should say it now) to the question, "What is cultural studies? What does CSCS have to say about cultural studies?" To explore this question, we shall look at the relationship between culture and democracy as a critical area of taking the question forward i.e. (to ask) what is the relationship between culture and democracy, and how does addressing this question throughout, or address the larger question of what cultural studies might look like, or what cultural studies practice is in a few parts of India.
For this series, we only have one non-CSCS speaker, Madhava Prasad, and this also follows the pattern of the culture and democracy course in the last couple of years where you have only one sort of non-CSCS, guest faculty member coming in. But as we go along and as the series takes other forms like, you know, writings, production of books, and other such materials, we will have the occasion to listen to and greet practitioners from other parts of the country, other cities, other institutions, including of course CPHIL, and JNU, and such and such institutions. So I invite Ashish to begin and thank you very much, Ashish, for agreeing to begin the series. Ashish will speak for about an hour, and it will be followed by about an hour of discussion - if we need to go on we will go on - but one hour. Is that enough for you?
AR: So this background, many backgrounds actually, we've stated, and for those of you who came in late - as we say ab agli khadi
. There are many contexts and I suppose the fact is this is SV's course; while I don't know what SV's course has been about, I have a certain idea, a certain kind of theory about what the course must have been about because I know his preoccupations and obsessions. In many ways, I mean, what I have decided to do talk about clearly is - and I mean this in the nicest possible way I attribute to SV's work which has been deeply significant in terms of my own work at a certain very important point, and I'm offering this to you as some sort of contribution to what I understand of the sorts of concerns that SV has brought into film studies in India, and very much the first to do so at the time, and what I have made of them. This work also goes back to another key and epochal moment; there were several such, one was in coming on the film studies scene. The more complicated moment was film studies itself came onto the Indian social sciences map. We were all younger then, I suppose, we were all fairly privileged, I think, to have to have been in on the top floor, as they say, to have been in on the show from its very inception. And there were a number of such inceptions which are now old enough for us to recall them. The first was the founding of the department of film studies in Jadavpur University, Calcutta. The founding of the department founded the discipline, as Partha Chatterjee states "the founding of the Indian state founds nationalism," the department first and then the discipline, more or less in that particular instance came to being.
AR: The other was, of course, the 'Making Meaning in Indian Cinema' conference that Ravi Vasudevan http://www.amazon.com/Making-Meaning-Indian-Cinema-Vasudevan/dp/0195658671
organised in Simla which was where a lot of these ideas originate, and I'm particularly sort of grateful for that. The third is actually what I would see as the significant history of cultural studies in India. Rekha is here, so Rekha must have -
I remember at another epochal moment Rekha was there, and so was I; SV, it was the first time I met him as well i.e. the first CSSSC Cultural Workshop where, you know, those of us who were euchre(younger?) and coming from a political history - I remember saying rather sharply to Rekha, that "Rekha, the frontier of the political movement is not the department of English!" And, in a sense, there were such moments when I do think cultural studies comes out out from a certain set of disciplinary moves that take place at that particular time. And those of us who have our memories will recall either the department of English - Nathi - or the department of History, which was another key location for new thoughts to take place, and of course, various other disciplines, from Sociology, and so on; but post-colonial theory of some kind or the other came in on the scene.
AR: Now what is curious when I get back to thinking about the time, is that in hindsight, the real move actually didn't take place there, but it took place within a certain dimension of political theory that one thinks back on. Partha Chatterjee's work remains in some ways so foundationally significant in a way, that those of us who even recognised (its significance) at the time may not have anticipated its centrality to Cultural Studies, partly because the discipline of Cultural Studies as it came to be defined then, wasn't easily accommodating this new work. But when I think back on it in time, and I think back on a moment in Modern Indian Social Sciences when the word 'politics' and the word 'culture' came to be more or less mutually interchangeable, where one word could be used for the other in this particular tradition of political science that was able to accommodate this tradition. And a number of very famous anthologies, Sudipta Kaviraj, Partha Chatterjee, and others found it simple enough. I find it quite interesting to see how film studies was in on the ground floor, as it were. It was the discipline that curiously enough, at that point of time was almost first off the block in terms of adducting and assimilating what it learned from this particular trajectory of culture and politics.
AR: It did this partly because there was no great legacy, I mean, it did not track this legacy back into Birmingham or other origins of cultural studies that came into being at the time. Nor did it, in fact curiously enough, even draw from the work of British Screen Theory, or you know, the whole sort of post-structuralist work that cinema studies had been so centrally involved in at the time. Nor indeed did it in India, draw work from film-makers such as Jean Godard, who were such foundational figures for the new cinema movements at the time. I mean, you know, Godard continues to be, I think, the one European film-maker who can draw full houses in Kerela for instance. And there is a certain sort of an impact that that particular kind of film-making had on the new cinema, which Film Studies in India pretty well bypassed. And I don't really see Film Studies as having engaged with any of these foundational concerns. What it seemed to have done was, it seemed to have to have sort of engaged with this particular tradition of what we today call Cultural Studies, which I'm not sure - and Rekha can argue with me on that - whether the department of English ever quite - (?) wants to come in - ever quite captured at the time. And I think the subsequent sort of moves that may have taken place would have much to say to that trajectory as it develops. And it's sort of in that context that I want to talk about that the cinema. So, in a sense, just to summarise, I mean, the mini-points, so one is when I first met SV, the second is when the CSSSC workshop happens, the third is when the discipline of film studies comes on the scene; and all this is happening at that point of time almost exactly ten years ago, we'll pick intervals. And then of course, CSCS comes into being.
AR: The formation of CSCS which is now going to be ten years old, and which is the reason for why this camera is here, is I think to draw attention to the fact that there was at that point of time, such as it was, some sort of a coalition of concerns, that those of us who helped start the centre had come together with; which coalition of concerns clearly are now either at their end or at... There is a lot that's happening that's going to require us to move, move along, move on. One is, of course, as some of your may know - by the way, Madhava Prasad is not an external person to that extent, he was one of the founding members of CSCS so it's very nice to have him back in the series, and I really see it as probably the last time, and I'd like in fact, you can see this camera coming in on me - the eye camera in a sort of Godardian sense - coming in as a kind of record of those of us who helped set up the centre at the time may have to say to that time and what has happened since. Because I suspect that times will move on, I think that younger people are already on their weigh in, in the centre, we've hired younger people and they're looking to transit the discipline, sorry, the institution to quite a new set of concerns; ones that... We have dominated this. So, all of those things actually have come in on my concerns, as it were, as I return to Film Studies as it had come to being at the time.
AR: My concern primarily was this - and I think the concern of all of us was primarily this - it was that there was a certain use to which cinema was being put, a certain sort of application of the cinema for social aims. You know, spectators, but not in spectators, you know, institutions, even the state, would deploy the cinema for certain sorts of uses, which we can, but I'd rather simply call (it) political, and they probably were political in some large sense of the term, or at least in the kinds of innovations that took place in the definition of the term 'political' at the time. But what was curious was, that particular use to which cinema was being put was not easily answerable, it was not easily accountable within Film Theory as it had come to be, and that Film Theory as it had come to be at the time was not easily accountable to very much more than the new cinema movements as they had come to be at the time. So the real challenge was this - I myself come, as I think most of my generation comes, contra to SV, and I think of Madhava Prasad for example, or Ravi Vasudevan,and all of us happen to be almost the same age, down to a few months, I mean, exactly the same age, everyone's turning fifty just about now - and all of us, I think, would see ourselves in some form on another coming from the new cinema context, I mean, that was where we found our metier. And, udhar se
(from there) I should also say that Chabildas Theatre Movement was the other movement in when one found one's metier, and these were the sorts of forms and structures that one's foundation of coming of age in one's twenties, in that context. My purpose then at the time was this, my purpose at the time was to try and see what my understanding of film theory as it came from the new cinema would have to say to film at large. That was the point, that was what was concerned in me at the time. Right?
AR: It was curiously not an easy transition to make, although in hindsight it's going to be rather simple, because "why would a film theory not want to speak to the cinema as a whole?" is a question that, you know, as you think back on, it may yield either curious answers or curious difficulties in answering simple enough questions which younger film scholars simply don't face, I think. At least those students now doing their PHDs in Film Studies or related disciplines would not think of even asking such questions; (but) it was a big issue at the time.
Therefore in very methods and the business about how the use to which cinema was put required us to I think, think through a set of contradictions, a set of conflicts that arose. And I'm going to try and talk about those, and I want to talk about one specific location that's putting to use of the cinema was for me a very foundational moment, and this is Bombay, the city of Bombay, roughly speaking from the early '70s to early 1980's; an incredibly turbulent moment in the city's history, associated primarily with the textile strike of 1984, but it was politically, an incredibly charged moment in the literature, (Namdeo Dhasal) and so on. And a lot of other film-makers, and in fact this particular thing dedicates this section to three major people - Namdeo Dhasal, Sudhir Patwardharn and Saeed Akhtar Mirza. http://www.jmionline.org/jmi5_1.htm
AR: Saeed Mirza is somebody whom I have never paid enough tribute to as the man who founded Bombay, in the sense in which we understand it today, via somebody like Ram Gopal Varma. You know, that particular form of city realism that is associated with Bombay, and which you can talk about (with respect to) Nana Patekar and many others; Saeed Akhtar Mirza, I want to say on the record, founded that kind of cinema in his early films. And I don't think he's been adequately for having done that. So that then would be the trajectory of this movement.
I'll just show you... I've unfortunately not had the time or the energy to create powerpoints, so this serves - I'm just going to show you little clips of excerpts from my essay as I've written it. On your left, the film spectator. Images from Jonathan Torgovnik's Bollywood book http://www.cscsarchive.org/dataarchive/textfiles/textfile.2007-10-23.9511251302/
(I don't know if it's dark enough. Can you try and increase the image?) You know, a particular sort of activity that goes on in the movie theatre was something that suddenly came to be of interest. This was a completely new thing that happened in Film Studies; SV was a key person in making that happen. Film Studies to my knowledge had never taken the social activities inside the movie theatre seriously until this theory; this was a big development.
AR: On my right, or rather on my left, I'm talking about your right, is a poster from the Carribean, of Indians; it says "The Cutie Kutchi Dancers" and - what does it say? I'll read it from here - it says "The Soca Paradise New Image "Dil-E-Nadan" with heatthrobs Raymond, Rennie, Richard and Ramnarine. Ladies free. Guest artists Nadia Madoo, Krishendath "Blues" Singh, The Nightingale Saraswatie Maraj, and many more. M.C. Krishna George and so forth." The other truly important location which was again something not something that Film Studies had taken seriously was again talking about the uses to which cinema is put, the way the Indian Diaspora was taking its cinema seriously and making something of it somewhere else. This is Trinidad, and you are actually getting a whole kind of "Chutney Soca" sort of culture, which apparently uses the cinema to ends that Indian film spectators certainly were very, very confused by.
AR: Now what is funny is was that, I think the impact of British-Asian popular music i.e. the bhangra movement - I mean, people like Bally Sagoo and so on - on Indian popular music, so that the whole remix culture, was actually also politically important in the sense that for the very first time a diasporic Indian cultural practice was reimported into India and became mainstream here. I mean, until very recently, not the case. And we do know that the problems that are caused - and again something that cinema draws attention to - the problems that are caused when the Indian state has no real theory for accommodating people who, as I've said, people who call themselves Indian but cannot be citizens of this country. That difficulty, you know. And we're not talking about a few people; we're talking about millions of individuals, you know, in the Caribbean, in the Fiji, in South Africa, in various other places. And the Indian state had no position on this until now with the whole Prawasi Bhartiya
(Non-resident Indians) sort of structure, and the 'Person of Indian Origin' sort of mechanisms have now come in place. And there is some effort to do this, probably with great cynical, extreme cynicism.
But the kind of cultures of the cinema that these people would bring in, and curiously enough, authenticate, in the strange way, the inauthenticity of Indian cinema becoming authentic culture to a Caribbean-Indian for example, and the importing of that into India via England was also one key for the moment at the time.
AR: Just move on. I can't there being (anyone) in SV's cinema class and not knowing this. Have you taught this in class or not? Oh, you haven't! The Chunduru massacre, an extraordinary key episode involving the cinema. I'll just give you a second to read this, if you like. Can you see? I just have to go down. There's a place in Chunduru where you have this movie theatre which has two classes of tickets i.e. the floor class and the chair class. And caste culture insists that the Dalits purchase floor class tickets, and upper class viewer the chair class. On a particular date, 4th July, 1991, a Dalit graduate decided to purchase a ticket for chair class; and this offence is that he crossed his leg which then touched an upper class viewer, "upper caste (Reddy in this case) arrogance could not countenance this blow" and violence erupted. The reprisal was swift; the Dalitwadi united in support of Ravi's family, and so on. And this was actually what triggered off the massacre of Dalits in Chunduru in 1991. This is from the Civil Liberties Report of the Samata Sanghatana. This Became in some ways, an iconic document of the time, talking about the kind of social tensions inside a movie theatre that now arise.
AR: The Samata Sanghatana goes on to say that there are multiple effects of the cinema,"a caste, class and gender segregated reality of life, evident in the politics of the floor and chair class in the Chunduru cinema hall, contradicts the egalitarianism and the social mobility fantasised in the film narrative and imagery... And the additive effect of the cinema's influence on the attempt to redefine boundaries" and so on and so forth. Okay.
Now comes a curious problem. I've got a few more quotations. This is Samira Biswas, a Fort Lauderdale housewife, who says "We go to the movies to keep our culture alive," and this is Manas Ray - "Kids in Bombay go to night clubs to become Western. Here, in Brisbane, we go to assert our Eastern identity. The basic difference lies there." A couple of further quotations - Hamid Naficy, "We find that, in addition to 'hailing,' there is much haggling in cinematic spectatorship." Nice line. And this is a very famous line by Madhava Prasad, "In the realist aesthetic the spectator has the opportunity, the right, to repeat the production process – the processing of raw material to generate meaning – that has already been accomplished by the producer/ artist." Now, what is happening is -this is very curious - because a film pre-exists the spectator, right? The film exists already; the spectator comes in and reinvents the film in his head, as a spectatorial practice. "Even if all the spectators arrive at the same meaning, they must be assumed to have done so individually, through their own labour of interpretation. (Recent
film theory thus makes a virtue out of a necessity when it claims as its own discovery the fact that spectators are active producers of meaning rather than passive recipients of it. This productive labour of the spectator is assumed by the realist text and does not constitute either a sign or a guarantee of resistance.)"
AR: Okay. This is now, in some ways, my background. And let's just sort of move on. We have a problem straightforwardly that arises, in the case of Film Theory. One of the curious problems is that Film Theory is actually very good in talking about spectatorship. Spectatorship is a film theory image, if you like. It's not strictly that, I mean, the famous examples would be Umberto Eco's 'The Role of the Reader' http://www.amazon.com/Role-Reader-Advances-Semiotics-Umberto/dp/025320318X
and much of the kind of literary origins of spectatorship, you know - what constitutes an ideal reader, the manner in which the text constructs its reader - these are formulations that do have some sort of a status. I've, in theory, adopted these completely, using as is famously known, a mechanism of looking. Now, looking is something that may need a moment of explanation. You should know that when the cinema dies out of celluloid technology, roughly speaking, it might be approximately the late 1980's, when digital technology starts taking over every component part of the production process except the original shooting which is on celluloid, and the final print which is on celluloid, the entire intermediate structure is nothing to do with celluloid. As post-celluloid technologies start more or less taking over, you also have the era of television and eventually, the era of the internet, and you have all sorts of apparatuses, if you like, that the spectator has in his hands, the most famous ones being the zapper, you television console in your hand, and of course, your mouse in your hand. You cannot think today of seeing without these things in your hands, right? I mean, you cannot just sit and watch like that any more; you know, your fingers start itching if you don't have these gadgets in your hands.
AR: Now what you must know is that the looking machinery in the cinema did all those things on its own. So, your looking required you to perform the same set of activities that zapping and browsing does today, using additive structures. And so you should actually see the multiple structures of looking, as constituting the same sort of consequence. The first look, second look, third look, fourth look - don't worry about it, it's a kind of whole set of complex negotiations into a topology of looks that goes on when you're looking at camera, camera looks at actor, actor looks at someone else on screen, and you get over the shoulder shots - the entire apparatus of editing in celluloid film, for example, which works with all these structures.
AR: Now, when celluloid film via the structure of looking, integrated itself into spectatorship theory from literature, suddenly spectatorship theory seemed to have much to say to film narrative, right? Suddenly it was a site of intelligibility. But what was the case clearly was that no spectatorship theory that you knew from theory could accommodate this phenomenon, you know, the Chunduru type phenomenon. Now what was the spectator doing was the question. Now comes the real problem, the really hard problem which is - if there's social activity of significant consequence in the movie theatre, if Chunduru is right, if there is actually violence going on in the movie theatre as you come and sit, and as you come and watch, and if you're not a silent spectator, of you're doing things, if you're whistling, if you're walking and walking out, if Rajnikant, as he comes in, greets his fans, clearly some definition of film theory had to come about that would accommodate this form of social activity into a way of understanding Indian film narratives. Okay? This was not possible until then; the two existed autonomously. The social activity of the movie theatre had its own domain of analysis, its own domain of regulation - which was the police, and which was the whole set of social action structures on the one hand, and the textual organisation which was the business of the sense of word, and other such agencies, and they simply didn't talk to each other. So there's actually a systemic difficulty that now arose when Film Theory as we knew it had nothing to say to this form of social activity in the movie theatre. Until S.V. Srinivas comes on the scene, and actually sort of proposes that there is a link here between the two.
AR: Now, this is then my point of origin for the present paper, and I've already taken about almost half an hour of the hour I'm entitled. So I'm going to very quickly sort of skim through this problem. A well known aspect of post-World War to decolonisation amidst the founding of new nation states in the southern hemisphere - and you know, you have a whole series of independent states, that took place in the second world war - has been the "instituting" of the individual in large parts of the non-Western world as a rights-bearing citizen. Right? It was quite an effort, you know, to actually say that now the new states came out with new constitutions, and the new constitutions defined their new citizens as citizens. India, of course, famously as we have already discovered did so unequally. So for example, you have this problem of large numbers of people who call themselves Indians living in Pakistan, large numbers of Pakistanis who call themselves Pakistanis living in India, relatives and so on and so forth, for which these two states have not had a theory; they've not had a means of accommodating what could be people in their millions, and a lot of violence and so on that has taken place. And it appeared that cinema actually was entering those spaces and saying things to those phenomenon in India, right?
AR: As new nation-states were expected to replace what were primarily considered communitarian structures at the time, the new citizen became a standard bearer of an unambiguous university applicable principle that rights can only be held by individuals and only individuals can be citizens of the modern state, a principle globally incarnated in 1948 Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations.
Now, what is funny is that in Europe, European theory itself, it is well known that such a citizen is in fact the spectator. Spectatorship theory, even in Europe, in the 19th Century, so for example, Habermas speaks of the great public that formed in the theatres, museums and concerts of Europe. These were then the apparatuses that produced the modern citizen, you know; in a curious way, the spectator has a historical role in producing a citizen, in a certain sense. And in India, you now have a situation where a certain form of citizenship is present, and a certain form of spectatorship is present, and there is some difficulty in bringing these two things together, broadly speaking.
AR: I'll just kind of skip the rest of it; I mean, I have tried to draw attention to how European Film Theory has been very interested in the question of the spectator, to quote Christian Metz, "the I who am at the cinema, I am present at a film, I am present, I help it to be born," - this is Christian Metz - "I help it to be born, I help it to live, since only in me will it live, since it is made for that purpose." http://www.amazon.com/Imaginary-Signifier-Psychoanalysis-Cinema/dp/0253203805/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1236111129&sr=11-1
This peculiar form of spectatorial arrogance, if you like, when you say that "this entire apparatus is me, I am it, I am watching, it is watching." The capacity to not recognise in Europe that there was a politics to this, that there was a sort of a difficulty in a sense, that Europe was having in drawing attention to the fact that such an 'I' was a citizen, you know, and dubiously a citizen, and so forth. These were the kinds of confusions that we were going into.
AR: On the other hand, I mean, what I have drawn attention to in this essay is to show how non-European practices - and I'm thinking about Latin-American cinema, and also African cinema - has been profoundly interested in this phenomenon and to a great extent have talked about it. So, for example, in Africa, the Fèdèration Panafricaine des Cinèastes of Apache, it's a very important Pan African film agency which runs the Ouagadougou Film Festival, and was established in Algiers in 1969, to use film as a tool for the liberation of the colonised countries, and as a step towards the total unity of Africa - and it works as a close participant of the OAU, the Organisation of African Unity - was actually an informed signatory to the African Charter of Human and People's Rights, better known as the Banjul protocol, adopted in 1981. This Charter of Rights constitutes an explicit commitment to the individuated conception of the rights-bearing citizen, declaring, in fact, (it) echoes the UN, universal declaration of Human Rights, that, I quote, "fundamental human rights stem from the attributes of human beings, which justifies their national and their international protections, given that" - I quote the report - "human beings are inviolable. And furthermore that the family shall be" - not the tribe, not the community - "the natural unit and basis of society. It shall be protected by the state, which shall take care of its physical health and moral health."
AR: Curiously, the Latin-American tradition as well, you know, given the landmarks here - the foundation of the Fundación, there's the Fundación del Nuevo Cine Latinoamericano i.e the New Latin-American Film Foundation, and the third world film school, Escuela Internacional de Cine y TV; and as Anna Lopez shows for example, "the New Latin-American cinema is not just a film-making movement, it was a social practice intimately related to other movements struggling for the socio-cultural, political, and economic autonomy of Latin America." And there are these famous manifestos - Fernando Birri, the famous Argentinian film-maker who asked this question, "for which audience do you make films," says, "we can no longer put off the question" and lists who he makes his films for in some considerable detail. He will make them for the best of working class and a peasant audience, but also for urban and suburban proletariat in areas of newer industrialization, and peasants, small farmers and herdsmen on both small immigrant farms, large estates and so on. And to quote another famous essay of Tomas Gutirrez Alea, the Cuban film-maker, who says "we can say therefore the condition of being spectator - this is Thomas Alea - "the condition of being spectator at a moment in the process of the subject's appropriating or interiorising – a reality which includes, of course, the cultural sphere as a product of specific human activity – is fundamental."
AR: So you can see spectatorship theory in the sense in which you are talking about it is starting to be born, but Europe is not particularly drawing attention to it. In other words, European fourth looks or third looks' structures don't seem to recognise this dimension to spectatorship theory. Militant, active, engaged spectatorship theory, where, as I've said earlier, the putting of cinema to use towards a certain end is starting to be put in place.
AR: Now, while recent Film Theory in india, and as I was saying, I've rarely taken a course and barring present company, the other key figure in doing this was M.S.S. Pandian because I think that Pandian's landmark book on M.G. Ramachandran http://www.flipkart.com/image-trap-ramachandran-film-politics/0803994044-96w3fv3vnc
and M.G. Ramachandran's own extraordinarily complicated and politically tyrannical role within Tamil Nadu, as compared to the extraordinary sort of fan following the man had, required for Pandian to accommodate this particular brand of political spectatorship. While these stood at the time, I mean, in today's standard exceptions to the general tradition of Film Theory in India which I don't think even today has actually fully risen to the challenge of accommodating this movement, and indeed, I mean, may been seen as a missed opportunity to the extent that with the demise of celluloid film that particular form of politics, which I was saying can be interchangeable with the term 'culture' may itself come to an end. I mean, you know, young bloggers for example, may not see that activity as political anymore. So it may be hard now to recap on the promise of that moment as Film Theory would have accommodated it.
AR: While Film Theory has rarely taken this route in India, there is a larger theoretical tradition that makes the problem of "rights-like competencies" - this is a nice phrase by Tanika Sarkar - "rights-like competencies," a certain sort of a competence which masquerades as rights, and you know, in this particular case it was a form of spectatorial knowledge that made you, you know, a qualified watcher of a film - you knew what was going on, you knew how to behave, you knew - it was a form or a right of passage, an entry into a social universe where, you know, the narrative would accommodate you and respond, as it were to your requirements. The rights-like competence is central to the transactions that took place between what I'm now describing as newly emergent nation states and the numerous representations made to them on grounds that one could loosely call cultural, including at different times and different contexts, questions of caste representation, of the peasantry and gender, to say nothing about the debates around history and the past. In my view, the landmark book at the time - I mean in fact, the book that has had an impact like almost no other in Modern Indian Political Theory, I think Partha Chatterjee's 'Nation and its Fragments' http://www.amazon.com/Nation-Its-Fragments-Postcolonial-Histories/dp/0691033056/ref=sr_11_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1236117540&sr=11-1
, I mean, you know, I doubt if any other book has been this widely read, this widely assimilated - draws attention to the extent to which the Indian state at that point of time, in maintaining the alliance of interests that helped it win independence, could as a narrative practice - and that's precisely the sort of narrative practice that I'm talking about, you know, they needed to be accomodative of political activity in the name of spectatorship - could neutralise, attack, compromise, the dominant groupings that were now to be brought round to a "position of subsidiary allies within a reformed state structure." Within the broad context of what he called at the time "a passive revolution," that he said then was the general form of transition from colonial to post-colonial states in the 20th C. There is on the one hand the unquestioned, hugely celebrated, thematic reification of the nation located in the body of the state, in the "body
politic," and on the other hand, this peculiar form by which the state worked, the concept of nation, you know, actually deployed the concept of nation, as something that could be shared, I quote him, "with other governing groups and its transformative role
restricted to reformist and molecular changes;" you know small-small changes, I mean, very precise changes taking place at macro levels, at micro levels, in the sense, you know that particular structure of narratives.
AR: What I've talked about in that context is this idea that, he calls it "administrative-acculturation" - it's a nice concept. What he's saying is that basically, you know, like for example, the way the Indian state would deal with Kashmir is to get into administrative-acculturation; you actually first recognise the problem as cultural, we create cultural structures that would as it were bring them into the mainstream, to use the words, state terminology; to bring these parties into the political mainstream, and then see the solution as not a political but an administrative one, you know?
AR: A lot of political phenomenon are under commission, for example. A number of phenomena that would be seen as politically irreconcilable, or unacceptable to the Indian state have been administratively resolved in some other interesting ways. I mean, think about the kind of desire for statehood of say, Jharkhand, or another such (example) which would be inconceivable, have been actually managed within the Indian state structure as a certain sort of mechanism of accommodative acculturation, if you like. That's the idea about the nation in its fragments, which I think in some ways has to accommodate our concept of narrative as we are now bringing that concept of narrative into cinema. I go on to suggest that the term 'culture' now has to be seen as doing a certain sort of work, as actually performing a certain sort of - come in. Come, come - as performing a certain sort of role, a political role, in the definition of the political at the time. And requires us to actually have a definition of 'culture' as an active agency, as not something that can be accommodated by definitions such as say, 'sanskruti
' or 'parampara
,' you know, which are, let's say more passive structures. You know, culture is a much more active presence, and does things.
AR: In that context... I mean, (it's) very interesting how the Indian diaspora, the Pakistani diaspora at times, were telling us things that we should have known about ourselves. This is stock in point, Germany - "Here, the Bollywood film (but also the Pakistani media) is deployed as a 'helping hand' for first generation migrants to communicate that 'culture' is a given, something that one has to appreciate like family photographs. This invocation steps in when institutions, such as schools, and networks, such as cultural and religious centres, in the diasporic context are seen as failing to provide adequate socialisation. Migration as such becomes a 'danger zone' in which essentialised values and ideals are felt to be constantly challenged, destabilised and thus weakened. The film media serves as a backdrop for negotiations, dramatisation and dichotomisation of 'we Muslims don't do that' versus 'they are doing it.'" This is Christiane Brosius. Sorry. You are getting a sense in which cinema is now actively working towards such certain sorts of facilitations. I mean, it's a kind of a narrative structure that does it.
AR: The obvious assistance that the cinema has provided at this point of time in defining the content of post-colonial multiculturalism in places where people of Indian origin formed substantial minority populations, particularly the production - and this was very interesting, that by this time, the strictest definition of the history of Indian cinema, which, you know, Mrinal Sen for example would say that nothing of value has happened in Indian cinema before Pather Panchali http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048473/
- is actually replaced by the production of a 'golden age.' There was no real 'golden age' of the cinema until this time, you know. And the 'golden age' was basically the great melodramas of the 1950's. And this stuff becomes the 'golden age' of cinema; I mean, so this is a profoundly new construct that is taking place towards these kinds of things. And the second construct taking place was of course, Bollywood, about which more on another day.
AR: The role of the movie theatre in articulating a key institution thus, of the new public sphere is nevertheless only part of the story, perhaps the most superficial. The 'golden age' nostalgia question would be the more complicated on. There could be yet another one, where for a whole section of migrant labour - the access to home which in the instance of the Indian immigrant in Britain, South Africa, Fiji, Mauritius, South-East Asia, or the Caribbean, or the Middle East often directly equated access to home culture with access to its cinema - has meant ways by which the community could re-group and relive their memories, a different location for such regrouping opening up after the War in the form of cinematic spectatorship. So you actually have a whole tradition of film spectatorship which is now being put to use within global conditions towards specific ends.
Now, what's curious is as Philip Larkin shows, or as the Rajnikant phenomenon in Japan would show, it is not only Indian spectators who are affected by this kind of Indian cinema, leading one to perhaps propose that the cinema's modes of address may actually capture - in Nigera in one instance, in Japan in the other, in Korea - a different sort of address that needed to be thought through. Because it seems that this particular address was not culturally bound, and the form of spectatorial knowledge that could be acquired by people who weren't necessarily linguistically familiar with that context.
AR: Now, what I have tried to do is, therefore, to demonstrate that there is a certain sort of spectatorial knowledge, and spectatorial knowledge, you know, is in a sense, put together by texts which are supposed to perform a certain sort of role. And this kind of knowledge, what I eventually call the 'cinema effect,' you know, is something that Indian cinema needs to (incorporate), requires us to define it in order to draw attention to what a film narrative here is all about, recognising the rather complex definition that narratives now have come to set, post 'The Nation and its Fragments.'
AR: I'll move on. I want to draw attention here now to the fact that a number of people other than film-makers have been very interested in what I'm calling 'the cinema effect.' You know, on this side, " hazaro saal ek, hazaro saal baad. Purab paschim ki Kahani.
Opening soon in nearby theatres! Jab pani ulta bahega, jab apan ke paas maal ayega, tab paschim desh mein apan dhoti kurta style bechega.
And it goes on to say produced up Upstream Dutch East India Company. 400 years of celebration. Directed by Shilpa Gupta.
Shilpa Gupta is an installation artist, a young installation artist and what she is - a very curious thing she's done - she thinks that, for example, that the handicapped, the physically handicapped in India are not well looked after, so she actually devises a kind of a wheelchair, a mechanised wheelchair for these people. And these are the handicapped people. So it's a work of art, so I don't know if the wheelchair works or not. So this is a peculiar image that she has on the back of the wheelchair. Now, what does this mean, is the question. What now is the 'cinema effect,' and what is sort of mode of production, if you like, of a certain sort of definition of cinema.
AR: I just want to show you other visual artists in India. M. F. Hussain in his extraordinary and bizzare 'Gajagamini' works Madhuri Dixit as a work of art of his. You know, by this time actually what was extraordinary was also the number of contemporary Indian artists in fact, who seem to, almost more than film theorists, try to explore this aspect of a film narrative. This fact that a film narrative of this kind was doing a certain sort of work, and they wanted to explore the properties of this form of textual overspill. It's a form of textual excess that required this kind of spectator nexus. I have a fair bit of work on M. F. Hussain and 'Gajagamini' sort of work. As you might remember, those of you who have seen that film, you know this is a good thirty minutes before which Madhuri Dixit simply doesn't show her face, when you just see her back, and she's really Maharashtrian in this particular sort of lauwni
, I suppose, dance. But then he goes on - there's this gathadi
which is a sort of oedipal bundle that she brings in. And there's the other reference to Hussain, who curiously enough, comes from Pandharpur. Did you know that? M. F. Hussain is actually from there. And that whole sort of "Vithal, Vithal
", that sort of movement Madhuri Dixit's own, sort of, use.
Now here is a particular sort of film narrative which is not, in using a major movie star, which does not make sense unless you understand what he's trying to explore, you know; what is it that he's trying to do, what is the phenomenon that he's trying to think about. And I think that the only thing (it) can be understood as a form of exploration of the cinema effect.
AR: I'll just move on to a bunch of other artists who are very interested in this kind of use of cinema. Nowadays what is happening, of course, is that with access to Pakistan is becoming so much easier - you know, we have an almost daily sort of contact with friends from Pakistan - and this is actually a bit early, when Indo-Pakistani collaborations were not that common. These are artists from Pakistan and India who collaborated and put together these sorts of posters. On this side is a use of a movie poster from India and Pakistan - or at least, some set of posters near Pakistan - made a jigsaw puzzle. So, you know, you actually had to sort of assemble the jigsaw puzzle as a set of images. And which you only do by knowing who these images were of, you know. So you had to know that this was a particular sort of movie star who looked like this; otherwise you couldn't assemble (the) jigsaw puzzle anyway.
In the centre it says "Id Attraction." On the left here is Urmila Matondkar, and on this side is the major Pakistani movie star, Shaan, who were together in a fictional movie called ' Kabhi Haan, Kabhi Na
'; this is to do with the whole Indo-Pakistan friendship thing. And of course, here is this thing about "Kaho Na Pyar Hai
." You're starting to get a sense of the kind of use of cinema, the use of the 'cinema effect,' an exploration of the property of 'cinema effect' in this larger context.
AR: And there were a lot of other individuals, a lot of other artists. I mean, this is a very, very fine photographer called Samar Singh Jodha who talks about (it) in a way, again, that Indian Film Theory has not quite done. But something that Korean film scholar Kim Soyoung has done work on, on what she calls 'trans-cinema' or 'cinema in social spaces.' Cinema ubiquitously present in social spaces. What he does it, he goes into all sorts of social places where he sees cinema play. Here is the television screen, here is probably a video screen, here is another screen, you know. And he will simply go around and look at the extraordinarily bizarre circumstances when people watch movies, however they do it. I mean, movies in railway station, movies standing on the street, you know, movies of people standing looking into shop windows - all those sorts of circumstances that movies go in. Soyoung called it the 'trans-cinema.' She said that what's curious is this kind of ubiquitous presence of the social presence of the moving image, in constant in LCD screens around you, particularly in Korea; I mean, this is really incredibly ubiquitous. I think it's happening more and more here in India. But in Korea and so on - Nojo can confirm this - you literally cannot be anywhere without a moving image somewhere around you doing this. Now she said that can be this be a form of socially ubiquitous cinema, that the concept of cinephilia could recoup. If so, the only art form, or the only form that was putting the studio, which was advertising, needed to be displaced and other sorts of social uses could be put for this kind of phenomenon.
AR: So obviously Jodha is trying to do this, not even in terms of what he described as the hyper-consumption of metropolitan Korea, but in a sort of standard Indian setting too. In this context, I want to very quickly come to my Bombay example. I won't bother to show you images, but then they are there. That I've found... Actually, I'll show you some images. Just let me find this. This is a somewhat bizarre, again a kind of very interesting visual art experiment. This is an artist called Ravinder Reddy who has a gigantic nakshis
(tribal art), that sort of enormous figures. And this is a very fine dancer called Navtej Singh Johar who does this kind of dance in front of those nakshis
. This is the kind of phenomena that otherwise I don't think can be explainable, except to maybe look at them in terms... in this particular instance, not so much the cinema, but it's more a kind of question of authenticity, and the kind of curious role that post-modern or late-modern constructs that the cinema contributes to them, have to say to this kind of authenticity.
AR: A quotation from - before I come to Bombay - Patha Chatterjee. He says, "there is no doubt that the fundamental problematic of the post-colonial state... has given rise
to numerous ambiguities in the legitimation process." And he goes on to talk about how there is this kind of curious opposition, that the proponents of the former argument in each opposed pair have emphasised the dynamic of accumulation while those who are outside have emphasised the importance of legitimation. What should be pointed out, however, is... that these ambiguities are necessary consequences of the specific relation of the post-colonial developmental state with a phrase that he calls "the people-nation." You know, it's a very interesting formulation, and I've used it, in fact, to title my section.
This is an English translation of a famous Namdeo Dhasal poem, in Marathi it's 'Tyanchi Sanatan Daya.'
Their Eternal Pity no taller than the pimp on Falkland Road
No pavilion put up in the sky for us.
Lords of wealth, they are, locking up lights in those vaults of theirs.
In this life, carried by a whore, not even the sidewalk is ours.
AR: Bombay, arguably, in this particular moment, haan
, before the late 70's into the early 80's, as a form of political militancy, was I think, speaking about a kind of spectatorship, a certain form of, if you like, the man - typically man; it was very masculinist I'm afraid - often Dalit - and remember the Dalit literature of Bombay in the 70's and 80's - Pantawane (?), Baburao, and many other people - was Bombay in a way that few Dalit movements in India have been; there is almost no metropolitan Dalit culture that I could think of except for the Bombay one. And it was very, very city-based, as it were. So you know, all these reference to Falkland Road and so on are things that... You have to know what Falkland Road (is). How many people know here about about where Falkland Road is? I think everybody does. Never mind; you don't need to know.
AR: In the section, which is my concluding section; I'm just going to quickly summarise it. What I was very interested in was a certain form of performative politics, a definition of politics as performance. Okay? Let me tell you what I have in mind. On the left here is the political gesture; this is from Anand Patwardhan's Canada film 'A Time to Rise.' In the centre is a certain form of Bombay cricket politics; you know, the idea about vociferous militant spectators, you know, who are not silent. And this side is an extremely famous painting of the political gesture, something that I think a lot of 20th Century artists have been very interested in, but which Bombay at that time particularly drew attention to. This is, of course, not Pahunde(?), it's called 'Safdar and Moloyashree.' For those of us who were, I think, growing up back in the 80's in our twenties, some nearly thirties, Safdar Hashmi's death was an epochal moment, I mean a sort of a signal point of a certain kind. Safdar's Moloyashree - wife- Moloyashree Hashmi used to perform their street theatre. There's one extraordinary famous moment they used to perform, I tell you. I think what had happened was I think there had been this kind of ritual beating up of the poor and something like that. And Moloyashree who used to typically wear this kind of thing - a deep purple sari - would hold this red flag. And there was this moment when she would turn round and the flag would come out, and that was the gesture that - as you can see Moloyashree, that sort of "hands up" gesture which Gawat Sundaram captures.
But there was a certain sort of a definition of the political symbolic, if you like, which I think a lot of artists at the time in Bombay were extremely fascinated by. And I think that the idea of the political symbolic as a form of symbolic structuring bears, I'm going to suggest, some resemblance to my 'cinema effect' as I'm calling it. Because I think that Bombay in this point in time, and this particular idea of the spectator in the city who is trying to describe what he sees, and use of the political as symbol gesture towards production of a description of the city, in the way that Namdeo Dhasal does it in that Falkland Road essay, tells you something about the cinema. It is not coincidental perhaps that much of the cinema I'm talking about is Bombay cinema at that point of time, cinema coming from Bombay.
AR: I'll just take another about six minutes of your time. In defining my effect, my symbolic effect in this case, as a form of political gesture, you know, a sort of gestural politics in a sense, I need to further define what I propose, some of the explicit rights-bearing - I remember we talked about rights-bearing citizens - and this idea about having to perform rights-bearing activity, in a sense; rights-bearing properties of the symbolic gesture. I want to try and inject through the gesture - this particular political gesture - key elements of supposedly rational state operation into the very domain of social power. Again, the way I think Bombay allowed you to do that. This injecting process typically develops an expressivity, generated through its apparent ability to slice through ranged formal oppositions, and thus through the regulatory mechanisms of realism - and now we will go on to just how realism __________? of a certain kind. I think, Ashutosh Potdar, a Marathi playwright, and therefore we share a certain sort of a history; Vijay Tendulkar, a certain sort of theatre associated primarily with someone like Tendulkar, which remember, is in-held by Govind Nihalani, and indeed, Sayeed Mirza - Sayeed Mirza's 'Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastaan
' is written by Tendulkar - a certain form of performed realism, which is profoundly metropolitan and very, very Bombay; the kind of gutteral, visceral realism of the city. A sort of realism that would insist on such trans-historical representations which was incorporated by the symbolic political gesture as replacing something that (was) a sort of political activity that was being rendered both impossible and illegitimate.
AR: Some more images. On the left is Sudhir Patwardhan. Sudhir Patwardhan's realist paintings of Bombay are very, very famous because I think that he was by no means the only, but very much now the most famous of the Bombay realists. That particular form of Bombay realism would go a long way earlier, but there is a certain metropolitan life - I mean, these cramped spaces, these individuals, etc. In the centre is Raghubir Singh, the very famous still photographer, he has these vary famous Bombay photographs. Again, you get a very sort of pictorial realism which is not unique to, but is very much associated with, the city. On this side is - I don't know if you recognise it - Vivan Sundaram's 'Memorial.' This is a newspaper photograph of a Muslim man who's lying dead, heaving been shot by the police in the 1992-93 riots that take place in the city. And what Vivan Sundaram did was that he tried to, as it were psychologically, in his head, tried to give him a burial, tried to give him a cremation, tried to, you know, find a way as though this particular dead man would not receive a natural death, you would now do something to, to do justice to him. This is actually a halo of nails that you have in Vivan Sundaram, and this is a kind of a glass box. And he did a whole series of things where he would actually, where he created a whole coffin for him basically, in his work. Very, very famous work called 'Memorial.'
AR: Again. My examples, therefore, as you can see with all these instances. I'll just make one quotation from Raghubir Singh where he refers to the city of Bombay as having what he calls a 'pitiless eye' which became a part of, he says "your artistic equipment, your artistic sensibility, coming out of Bombay, the Mayanagari
or the 'City of Wealth', where 'optimism' equates with 'Dharavi,' and other desperate places, seeing the people on the pavements." My examples are drawn from a political practice in the Bombay of the 70's and 80's; a Bombay directly relevant, in fact I want to suggest, to the politics of Bal Thackeray. And I will go on to suggest that one of the reasons for why the Shiv Sena's politics is so fascinating is because it's a spectatorial politics. You know, Bal Thackeray produces himself as a spectator, as a film spectator. And I think that the peculiar legal loophole which I work on elsewhere, in my work on 'Fire' where the invisibility, legally speaking, of the spectator, and the hyper-visibility that the cinematic author as the producer of free speech has received, has led to a difficulty in terms of the law understanding this. And Thackeray uses that loophole, and you will see systematically, all of Thackeray's cultural politics is spectatorship politics. The most famous example is, of course, 'Fire.' But there will be numerous other examples where he will present himself as the wronged spectator.
AR: I'm referring now to a particular sort of realist art practice well known in its literature, theatre, poetry, film and the visual arts. While the city commonly produced the verisimilitude that liberal imagination required of it, the realism
commonly went further, reproducing the characteristics of rationality itself on a different, expressly political, dimension, even going so far as to reconstruct on different turf realism's capacity to embody and to disburse specific rights. I remember that we'd earlier talked about you know, the Indian state as actually... I mean, this actually refers to another interesting contention of Sudipta Kaviraj's, at the time, that it is not the Indian people who receive independence in 1947, it is that the Indian state receives independence in 1947, and the Indian state now performs its role as though it is the bourgeois ______? citizen. So, just as the individuals receive their rights, the Indian state receives its rights. And the Indian state having received these rights will over time - certainly not on the 15th of August, '47 - but will over time, and differentially make these rights available to its citizens in one form or the other. So the idea of the negotiated reading competence as a negotiated citizenship competence has that kind of legacy to it. And as Kaviraj shows how extraordinary capacity of the Indian elite at the time to speak the language of the European nationality, in a manner of speaking; was what made it so difficult for Europe or Britain to deny India independence in that context. You could actually say, "We need." It's in the principles of European enlightenment that India receives independence, in that sense. But it's India, not the Indian people who receive independence. And therefore, you know, this idea about people who will seize the right of the state to describe them and describe it; you know, the idea of the seizure of realism so that you will - appropriate realism, as a mode of description, was something that happened within Bombay. (The Clip cuts)
AR: One sort of concept which I think I'm trying to get at, where you know, you had to describe; you had to appropriate first the right to describe, to live at all. It's again a very curious (phenomenon). Dhasal becomes, and many other people at the time, become quite important, and by trial, obsolete; Patwardhan. So, I mean, when you want to look at a film like 'Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro
' for example, or if you want to look at a subsequent history when that realism via Nana Patekar, who is the most significant example of it, becomes a national mainstream, and eventually why a film like 'Satya
' for example, happens at all. You know, you have a peculiar form of very Bombay realism being reproduced in a national context. I mean, actually having an audience considerably wider than that sort of realist cinema at the time.
There are many other references that I have to this. The one important one is the legal point of the Olga Tellis Supreme Court case, where the the right to shelter was equated with the right to life. Now, it is possible, I think, to make an argument around the right to shelter as the right to life, but I would want to make an argument - it's a very profoundly Bombay argument, you know, to with the slums in the city, to do with the fact that contrary to most other cities, the slums are a constituent presence in Bombay. And in this case, not even slums, but it's more like pavement dwellers. There's this whole quotation from Justice Chandrachud; he says, "There is no doubt that the petitioners are using pavements and other public properties for an
unauthorised purpose. But, their intention or object in doing so is not to commit an offence which is the gist of the offence of 'Criminal trespass.' They manage to find a habitat in places which are mostly filthy or marshy, out of sheer helplessness. It is not as if they have a free choice to exercise as to whether to commit an encroachment and if so, where. The encroachments committed by these persons are involuntary acts in the sense that those acts are compelled by inevitable circumstances and are not guided by choice."
AR: Dhasal's own work reproduces a number of other writers at the time - Francis Newton Souza for example, in his early painting in Bombay, for example, would talk about nirvana
of a maggot, think about what the city came (to), and what red light districts in the city were like and so on and so forth. I'll just end with this small quotation here. Dhasal's use of what I want to call now 'territorial realism', i.e. territorially bound realism, survival through description, is by no means unique, and indeed access to Bombay, access in Bombay to such insider realism becomes increasingly available to the artist, or to the film-maker. So, for example why Nana Patekar, I'm thinking of Vinod Chopra's 'Parinda
', for example, as an important film in that position. Also an entire 1990's generation of Bombay realism, such as ______? finally, and Ramgopal Varma's 'Satya
.' Access however, to such realism continues to remain a tricky business, not least because of its entry into politically unstable areas, including, importantly of course, is the compromises with the zones occupied by Bal Thackeray-type phenomena, but also for other, more complex reasons. In a context critical for comprehending Thackeray's intrusions into spectatorship, many of Indian, Bombay's realist practitioners would vociferously assert that in contrast to the nationalist era of that author, Shyam Benegal or V. Shantaram, for example, the state cannot be viewed as a benevolent 'authenticator' of symbolic productions, but that it can and does retaliate, and can retaliate viciously with these very instruments of realism. I mean, sometimes the kind of destabilising realism or a disenfranchising realism that happens.
AR: I had one quotation but I can't seem to find it which is my last point which I wanted to make. This is actually Namdeo Dhasal's first book of poetry; it's called 'Golpitha.' Now Golpitha is a particular district, a red light district in Bombay. And what happens is that Dhasal now comes to Vijay Tendulkar and asks Vijay Tendulkar to write the preface to 'Golpitha.' Tendulkar has confusion (is confused) because Tendulkar first of all has never read such Marathi in his life, and Tendulkar actually, very interestingly, is asking him questions of a realist kind , almost an echo-graphic realist kind. He says "what does this word mean?", "what does that word mean?" You know, "what happens when this happens?", "what happens when you go there?" and so on and so forth. Finally, Tendulkar says, "look, I can't. I don't understand this poetry any more. Can you show me?" So Dhasal actually takes Tendulkar late one night into this district. And Tendulkar, of course, notices the kind of change that takes place; you know, in his house, Dhasal is very much the younger writer talking to this major figure, but in his own space, he's much more swaggering. He's entering his domain, as it were; and he shows him, you know, syphilis for example; you know, all the kinds of diseases and so on that pulls from the city. And Tendulkar can only find a peculiar form of anthropological realism to accommodate this kind of phenomenon in his own work. Whereas Dhasal on the other hand is attempting, of course, a quite new sort of realism, which I think - and I will end here - which I think actually draws attention to the politics of realism as a form of spectatorial participation, if you like, in it. So, what I wanted to do in this quick, if you like, panoramic sort of move of the film theory of the time, was to draw attention to a form of spectatorship which constitutes a form of social action in a sense, the capacity of a film narrative to accommodate and to deal with such structures; the relationship between a spectator-narrative mechanism on the one hand, and the crisis of a post-colonial state whose own narrative structures apparently do not easily accommodate such phenomena. And finally, the sort of productions, to use a very cinematic term, I mean - the film productions - the sort of productions that are, as it were, not captured within the articulate economics of the box office, but which are cultural productions which circulate socially, and which have become in some ways the survival mechanisms of the film industry to exist as well, which I think now are being taken more seriously as economic phenomena, I mean, in certain ways.
AR: And I wanted to just draw attention to the manner in which the widespread, both, use of such phenomena, and the widespread fascination that artists, poets, and of course, film-makers have had exploring the properties of such phenomena; the evidence that they throw in terms of how the Indian cinema existed. And more than that, how, in a sense it enters domains of what we'd otherwise call governance, which the Indian state has not easily been able to enter. Not for nothing then is the statement by Chidananda Das Gupta, one of the founding figures of cinematic realism, that cinema performs a role which is almost a role that fills in for the lack of the political elite. So that it actually performs the role in national integration and so on and so forth which the state itself cannot do. Now I don't think he's right in saying that, but I do think that the kind of capacity of cinema to enter the kind of interstices of social functioning may require us to accommodate this form of narrative. Anyway, thanks.
SV: Questions? Haan
AR:The funny thing is that when footage rolls and there is no wastage of footage, so ask the questions if you want to. Otherwise you'll ask me some other time.
AD: I want to ask questions because I'm still grappling with the span of it really. But I'm only trying to understand. It may be not coming from a full study or full theory. I'm trying to understand these two moves; on one hand this rather ubiquitous relation with the image that we set up, a certain imaginary relation, if I may put it that way and you will get it, which is in essence idealist, as if; and this political symbolic that you raise, which is in some sense realist, although the distinction between the realist and the idealist would be difficult to (pinpoint), although you use realism when you shift to the symbolic and you use the imaginary when you are describing this relation between the spectator and the image over there. Can you just explain a little more on this?
AR: Communological divisions, I'm led to believe, I personally do not have enough patience with the imaginary component, my personal issues. I realise that they go hand in hand in some ways. But I think the imaginary has this problem that tends to move towards identitarian structures, whereas I actually have nothing to do with those; those don't play a role as far as I can tell at least in my work. I see realism as important then to the symbolic, and in that context that early political theory, democracy theory sort of essence, political culture kind of coming together, and seeing symbolic and the realist is actually as also related to each other; either of them as John Hughes or his defined entities, but really as a topos for negotiation, a site where you negotiate. So realism is not a given, so x is not realist and y is not realism, realism is always present as a location for the battle, if you like, to take place. It an integrative structure in the way that I really understand it. So I get very interested, for example, in the way that the Bombay example is important because I think that the capacity to seize the realism, to seize the capacity for realism as equated with the right to describe, as I'm calling it. And as a right, I mean, socially as a fully formed right in the legal sense of the term of citizenship. I see that as actually the real issue. So I wasn't completely clear as to... I mean, like the latter part of the question I could understand, because yes, there is a sort of realism attributed to the political gesture. But why would I attribute realism to... What?
AD: The imaginary, if you can go there.
AR: I'm not sure how I do that; you'll have to tell me.
AD: I was thinking that your suggestion, i.e. the ubiquitousness of the image in a way sets up a mirror image with the spectator where the spectator sees a fantasy somewhat reflected.
AR: Yes. But again I'm not sure if the...
AD: No, it won't go the identitarian way.
AR: NO, no, that's imaginary.
AR: You know, from the idea of the Panopticon, you know, this whole thing about the fact that the apparatus is an egotistical self-production - that's not a new concept. But, to that extent, the entire sort of grandeur of the cinematic apparatus, you know, rigged a screen, camera, all that stuff at the service of the specatatorial ego, in a sense; that's a well known structure. But I'm very interested in the way that such a structure becomes ubiquitous, you know, in a sense. So that I actually might have dissociate... In fact there's one section here where I quote Dilip Chitre, a very famous Marathi poet as referring to, as he referred to Namdeo Dhasal as walking virgin-like through Bombay's inferno. You know, that particular form of the egotistical subject walking through the city. And this business about the trans-cinema; you know, the ubiquitousness of the moving image. There's a set of connections that I'm trying to make but I don't know, maybe I should think this through. But I would tend on the whole without easily having evidence for it, to resist the idea of this as an imaginary constuct. Maybe... maybe...
AR: Yeah, say.
RP: There are some very interesting propositions that can seem to make that in your presentation seem linked and co-linked together, and I'm not sure I get them all linked at least. They are related but to your mind there is no contradiction as such, and I just wanted to clarify these. Some part is about - you seem to suggest that this whole thing about cinema effect has a certain... I mean, the examples you gave or whatever you read, for instance, M. F. Hussain's paintings or other examples you given, the including of the Pakistani thing; it lends itself more to that political gesture which is in a sense given rights, or it is a representation of an articulation by the spectator of a certain kind of demand, or moves more in the democratic direction. But earlier you also suggest, and you come back to later in your presentation, where you talk of administrative acculturation and the narrator of the film, suggesting that there's a certain governance present which is... So it seems to me that it's working on certain levels which are not necessarily going together - that's what you are explicating, right? Without...
AR: No, I didn't expect it. For me, what's interesting is that, I mean... It's a very commonplace statement that India has no film policy. You know, now what happens is when you say what is Indian's recent state's film policy; it's a very curious problem, you know. Back in the 1940s, as David ______ for example shows, the Indian state as against the Karnataka state, if you say, or the Maharashtra state, you know, which are also sort of in the process of formation at the time; the Indian state, besides to use radio as its official voice - you know, the voice of the state comes from All India Radio at the time. And this whole thing about Hindi, you know, as the state wants it to be spoken, beamed on All India Radio and so on. And the Hindi public sphere, as Francesco Orsini will talk about it, doesn't include the cinema. On the other hand, what is very curious in my understanding is then that there is a kind of role that their cinema is supposed to be playing in the state's understanding, the union state's understanding of it. And that role is a realist role; I mean, it's a particular form of symbolic realism, most directly exemplified by someone like Mehboob Khan back in the 1950s. And I think more so by someone like Shyam Benegal; Shyam Benegal is a state artist in a sense in India, in a sense he is a profoundly state-ist person, in a sense. And I think that particular realism is a state realism and I would I say that that kind of realism is what I would call administrative acculturation. You know? And that kind of realism, which is also state-ist realism also then defines what a Saeed Mirza, or a Sudhir Patwardhan is trying in contrast to that realism. So if you see realism as a sort of a topos for these sorts of battles to be fought, I think a different question arises around this. And if you're making as I'm saying, and again you'll ask me this really radical part of it, because saying as the Bombay artists of the time are saying, that this is a survival issue, you know? I mean, it's actually a matter of livelihood, as all that has been suggested to you, that the right to describe equates with the right to life, like the right to shelter equates with the right to life. Then I think you're also upping the ante of what constitutes the site of that battle. Of course, as you've suggested, I have a covert agenda here as well because I come from that history; I mean, for me to try and talk about some of the somewhat arcane debates around realism, like in the 1970s, the mid 70's - emergency. Emergency has happened, people have been jailed, you know, and all these radical film-makers, all of them opposed to the emergency happily making films supported by the state and talking about bloody realism, you know. I mean, why does realism become such an issue is not a question that can be easily answered, but I think that the city of Bombay draws attention to that phenomenon in a certain way. I mean, Calcutta too does in other ways, that's in some of these Calcutta '71 films and that's also, I want to talk about it. But I'm saying that my effort to try and bring the new cinema to bear upon cinema's questions, the larger questions, would require me to partly take that route for some rather personal efforts. But that's a second of it.
RP: No, I'll say if... We don't get the technical question of how realism is being used differently, and if realism is the site for contestation, then how would you answer this in terms of politics? What is the state's realism? How is that different from when realism is used as a political gesture? This is the spectatorial position coming in more strongly. No, can you explain at a more basic level? Even if you have to revisit the realism question, I'm interested in it.
AR: Curiously, I think that the answer will come when you don't look at works which are not within the literary genre of anything, if you like. It's when you actually look at say, a mainstream popular film, take Rajnikant, you know, or take something like that, and you see how such a film - exactly in that, what you'd refer to as the multi-layered structures - invents a certain register of realism which requires the film to so ostensibly, so to say, be perceived in a certain way. And actually perceived in a certain other way, you know. It's then that you realise what that form of spectatorial realism, if you like, the spectatorial battle over the topos of realism can mean.
AR: Now, what happens is that when bringing that problem back into what Saeed Mirza is hard, because then you want to really go into, you know, other details such as what was his political position at the time, and the kind of issues that take place. I mean, I would, for example, locate that particular form of profoundly metropolitan Bombay, even Central Bombay realism if you like, you know Dadar realism or something like that, as almost a sort of a cultural underside, a cultural groundswell of a certain very local kind. So, for example, if you say a dance form or rap is invented between 114 and 116 streets in Harlem or something, you know? You actually have an almost like what I'm calling territorial realism, almost geographically bound incredibly specific realism. Like say Falkland road realism, in that particular sense of the term, which then will require you to - that's insider knowledge of a certain other kind which we can do in other areas; Tendulkar will be a very interesting person in that aspect. But at this point of time, I would say that the mainstream commercial film which will actually look at... I mean, one of the things I am talking about is that realism is a theory without, the practice. A lot of these so called realist films function as though they were realist films, you know, simulate a condition of realism for a certain purpose, in fact, doing work that is quite different from it. I mean, it's interesting when you go back and look at say, something like 'Mother India' being the Indian status definitely; by no means would any definition of realism in the sense in which we understand, in the literary practice at least, accommodate 'Mother India' as a realist film. Something like that. I mean, I don't know. Best I could do at the time.
Ap: That sounds very complex, because you know when you were saying about the 1980s. As she said, I could see that there are different layers of realism. And in the 1980s I remember there were tourist, touring talkies and they were travelling all about, all throughout India. At that moment, I could see that for Bombay people it was Amitabh Bachchan who was working at that time, he was a figure at that time, in the 70s and 80s. But we used to watch Prabhat films and also Sant Nyareshwar films and also simultaneously, at the same time, V. Shantaram, this type of film, though they were so in the sense, mainstream. And therefore I got the feeling that mainstream cinema has always... different cinema in the sense - Mumbai, and other parts, non-Mumbai, non ___ areas. And that's why non-urban areas are totally different in cinemas as well. Sometimes I think that Namdeo Dhasal breaks those boundaries, of urban and non-urban realism, say for example Golpita and so on. But Saeed Mirza, I wonder if he does that because Saeed Mirza is typically urban cinema, which is, for me at least, but Namdeo Dhasal is not. So Vijay Tendulkar is you know, kind of typical urban, and sometimes with the language of non-urban realistic, it's same. But I think this is a very different kind of thing you must be realising - how do you understand Saeed Mirza, and you know, Namdeo Dhasal. Though Saeed Mirza points out this Bombay realism, but I'm sure this is different from what Namdeo Dhasal wrote.
AR: No, there is a sort of similarity. And of course, one is a Marathi Dalit poet and the other is a Muslim from Do Taki, or something that says that, or Sewri or something like that. I mean, you know, it's actually when you go back and start looking at the kind of, the complicated structures that they're working with; you know, I mean, why this may go and not that, why this chawl
and not that. I mean, Mohan Joshi Haazir ho, why don't you locate it in... This is very embarrassing, I've forgotten where they located it. But I remember they located it for certain reasons in that particular neighbourhood. Doesn't matter. That's to be argued.
SV: I want to go back to the question of the ubiquitousness of the working - what do you call it? - the cinema effect, or if you say the leakage of cinema into other spaces and how it's influenced by this, ah, other art forms as one issue. The question then occurs is in what cinema is trying to say about democracy, historically speaking. it's not... I mean, the two quite obviously are connected, but it's not clear how. The argument on democracy to my mind, I think, is far more clear. And also clear is the relationship between the narrative structuring of popular cinema in different parts of India; definitely Bombay, definitely Madras. I don't know every much about Calcutta and further cinema but these three major invested as centres, I think, film invested centres. These certainly put together a narrative form which was, as it were, could respond to the whistles and the cat calls of the spectator. (It) Means you can almost explain decade by decade as to how that, you know, progressed historically. But why, how do we account to the ubiquitousness of cinema, or of things cinematic? That, I'm not sure that I'm getting that. Or I'm not sure if you've actually...
AR: No, yeah. Simple enough actually, in a sense. I mean, even from the earliest days of cinema - I'm thinking about the India Cinematograph Polity Report of 1928-29, when the whole process of the social regulation of the movie theatre was put in place. There was this assumption that - what can you call it? - what I'm calling unhealthy textuality; the fact that reading a film wrong was bad for your health. And basically the health and safety people, you know basically, the whole thing was sexually explicit activity inside the movie theatre, unsafe sexual practices, things of that sort, which actually very often went alongside the capacity to read a film right. So, for example, one very simple thing which is commonly said, "watching Hollywood cinema teaches you how to commit crime." That you actually... It's like Hollywood cinema is a how-to process, you know, how to rob a bank, or how to kidnap somebody, and so on and so forth. Actually, if you don't know that this is fiction, you could learn wrong things and you could go out into society and practice them. That's one.
The related thing is that the process of textual regulation, being a form of social regulation, would of course be located inside the movie theatre but would not be in any way restricted to the movie theatre, right? Now, if you're now starting looking at a kind of larger social set of practices which martial relations is supposed to encompass, then you are also looking at the reverse of it which is the taking out of the cinema experience outside of the film. You know? What happens when you do determine... You know, I've been very interested, for example, you mentioned Amitabh Bachchan. Well, I remember one... It was a very revelatory moment. I was sitting in - sorry, about the Bombay reference - in the 82 ltd bus, on the first floor. And for something like thirsty minutes, one guy was telling the another guy the story of 'Deewarein'. And I was taken aback, he said, you know, isne ye bola, usne woh bola, usne ye kiya, usne woh kiya
(He said this, he said that, he did this, he did that); I was very interested in the way by which you recapitulate that, appropriate it and make something else of it. Right?
AR: Broadly that's one aspect, therefore I think the social... (The clip cuts) Precisely either misses out on or fails to be captured by the regulatory mechanisms of textuality, which will say, you know, that you need a film, right. That's where also the whole thing about superficial realism, you know; a realist's set about version of realism. For me the whole thing is a starlet is asked whether she would have any circumstances whether she would expose herself, and she will say only if the script requires it - that form of realism, you know. That if the text sanctions it, as it were, certan things are possible. Now obviously everybody knows that sexual explicitness happens, it happens not because the text; I mean, the text has nothing to do with it, broadly speaking it is pornography theory; it completely takes the text away from those sorts of mechanisms. But I'm saying that the textual overspill, the capacity of textuality to work beyond the regulatory mechanisms seem to have a connection with this excess that goes beyond a movie theatre; that's one.
The other aspect is simply this - that I'm very interested in, and it's not just me who's interested but the Price Waterhouse Coopers, this famous 2006 condition when the Chambers of Commerce Industry, FIKI, that commission price water was Cooper's to do a kind of thing, what they call the EnM, the Entertainment Media sectors of the Indian economy, saying that such sectors - so whether it is cinema, or whether it is television, or the internet, or it's even event management and fashion, and so on, advertising - would be the new economic powerhouse of the Indian State, broadly speaking. And even that agency seems to have this confusion, saying that the world's largest film-making country has a box office return that's only 5 percent of what even a modest country would have. Now, if you have a situation where the box office economy is so limited, and there's no dearth of money going into the film production centre, if the film industry has consistently survived despite not having... It would clearly need an extra economic explanation, right? Now, I think the extra economic explanation has to be related to the way that the film industries of India have survived culturally outside the movie theatre through this ubiquitousness. I think this is a survival mechanism of the industry itself. And the main reason I say this is because today, with the Indian media sector, you're actually looking at what I was calling 'finding gold in narrative waste', the fact that these films were going on for too long, that they didn't know how to tell a story, and sort of producing all this excess which had apparently had no relationship to the 'get on with the wretched story' type argument; you know, if you have to wait an interval for the story to begin, then clearly the film has to be doing some work somewhere. And that form of narrative excess, if you like, you know, which I'm now, in certain cases I'm looking at rather mechanically with this ubiquitousness. But I think that the Kim Soyoung argument allows me to even do that more usefully, the trans-cinema sort of concept.
SV: Let me get back to you with a possible hypothesis, for which I actually have some evidence, but it's very historically specific and geographically limited - that the ubiquitousness came first and the challenge for anything resembling, or the sort of primitive film industry formed, the entity that was coming up, was precisely one of, you know, mining it. That what the government and the film production sectors and everyone else who was part of that, the production inflation especially, were confronted with from, you know, 1918, the Dow Reserve or even perhaps earlier, was precisely the fact that here was something that was something innately capable of leakage. And if you look at how rough and ready, or the sort of ad hoc manner in which star production took; I mean, the creation of stars in Telegu, for example. And I wouldn't think that it would be very much more different in the... In Hollywood, for example, the fact that the industry was confronted with the fact of audience recommendation, and said "now let's go create some stars," you know? It's really one in which... It's really a far larger phenomenon than, you know, the history of Indian cinema itself would seem to suggest. I actually agree with your (point), like about what the Indian cinema has to say about what is clearly a larger phenomenon. Therefore, you know , the Senegal manifestation of it, or in Japan, or Nigeria, or anywhere else it's happening. So I think this is something but I... Yeah, maybe it's not really your focus. Therefore, you know, you're not doing enough to, for some reason, resolve it once and for all. Because you're looking at culloid and all of that.
AR: What do you know?
AR: Yeah, yeah. No, I agree with that.
RP: Just out of curiosity, how would you respond to the first part of SV's statement that "of course cinema effect is democratic. There's no doubt about that"? And SV's... I think he starts with that. That's ground I want to understand.
AR: I think unfortunately, for fortunately perhaps, I don't know. That's the other thing, talk about cultural studies and its origins in India, certainly in CSCS, democracy has become a bit of a code word. You know, it's a very hard term. In fact, Partha Chatterjee uses the term democracy in a rather, in a form of language. There's a quotation from him. Haan
. "If we have to give," says Partha Chatterjee, ""if we have to give a name to the major form of mobilization by which political society," and he says, "parties, movements, non-party political formations tries to channelise and order popular demands on the developmental state, we should call it democracy." So I don't think that this is... This is not the American legacy of it. There's a curious sort of departure from that, I think.
AR: Now, what is I think very interesting is that - in fact, the major authority on the subject is speaking tomorrow morning in his PHD viva, Sujit - the business about what happens in a frame, what happens outside the frame, that the typical sort of actual physical frame is a rather larger category than the frame of attention which is a subset of it.
'An integral part of the 'Culture and Democracy', course is a guest lecture series by CSCS faculty and visiting scholars, in which they reflect on their own work.
In 2007, these lectures were opened to the public and documented on video.
AR: So you constantly have even in colonial photographs as he shows in his work, constantly having all sorts of activity in the margins which apparently is of no relevance; you know, servants. You know, a rich man is having himself photographed, a servant is standing in the corner.
AR: Now, you would think that if you wanted to photograph yourself properly as a rich man, you'd tell the servant to get the hell out of there or something. But no, servant is standing there. Now obviously, he is standing there because he's meant to, or we don't know what, but such categories of marginal data is proving to be historically incredibly significant, now.
AR: Now, the point is that if there is, in my view, a continuous instability and a continuous tension that is there every time a frame is set up, that what is in and what's not in, what's included and what should be excluded - using film's theoretical terminology, it's what is called a second look.
AR: So that you know, the frame. Now, you know, I mean he's looking at me so he's put his camera up. I don't know if he's been through, going through the same tension or not. But typically a film-maker will be thinking "what should I capture?" and so on. And then it is brought into narrative through the process of editing and all those sorts of things.
AR: Many of these things have to do with this, what we call the narrative flotsam, the narrative spill over, the excess of some kind; data that's there but has no particular use, it's simply there.
AR: I mean, again, film theory has constantly talked about it, you know. Alfred Hitchcock's famous gremlins, as he calls them. Some little thing that he presents very prominently in a narrative which has no use, you know it has absolutely got no purpose to be there, but it's suddenly very, very prominently drawn attention to, something like that.
AR: Now, I'm saying that once you have such structures, you're actually having a narrative spill over, narrative excess of a certain kind, which I think seems to now relate to the production of social excess in and around cinema. I'm thinking around, for example, your ubiquitous Amitabh Bachchan image in a haircutting salon.
AR: You know, the constant use of film-related material all the time - on the streets, on the walls, on the car, you know, pavements and that kind of thing. So I mean, yes, I'm making a bit of a jump here, but two things are... One is that there seems to be a democracy issue in that tension between what... You know it's like... Back in one big Hollywood statement used to be there. Back when McCarthyism happened and the anti-communist paranoia overtakes Hollywood cinema in the late 1940s. There's constantly the assumption that this film must be a communist film, that film must be a communist film. Any film that was hugely popular was immediately suspect, because it was assumed that it must carry some form of overt propaganda. So, there was this realist line that says that you cannot have Reds under Snow White's bed unless Walt Disney wants them there. You know? his communist cannot be under Snow White's (bed). And then there is some reason to have them, broadly speaking. I think that these reasonless structures, you know, or the structures that have the overspill, seem to have a democratic dimension to them; that's my only response to SV. But I say that the assumption that _______ there must be some element of democracy here would come from that structure. But I'm not completely sure this makes sense to everybody who's not into that particular... I mean, you might say more about it as we return back to those times, you know, that particular tradition of late 90s political theory in India. And particularly the politics in the state anthology that Partha and Rajeev Bhargava put together. And Kaviraj's own other book which I think he collaborated with Sunil Khilnani on, isn't it? Isn't there another anthology which Kaviraj has put together on politics?
RP: I'm not into these things.
AR: But Partha Chatterjee and Bhargava is the classic in that particular tradition. And they would use democracy in that way.
SV: I have another small point. Why is this... I think I had this argument with you before so I'm looking at it with recall, that why is it that you insist on a Bombay reading of realism? Why this deliberate sort of narrowing down of the focus to the city?
AR: No. It's not narrowing down, it's a... I mean, I'm sure there is Hyderabad realism or some other realism. I'm saying that realism does function like that, and this is one that I know well, to the extent that I was actually a part of it, you know. I mean, it's kind of bizarre because I remember for example. I mean, I did know much about __________ in those days, but the Dalit literature in the city was something, you know. I don't know, there was that community chawls in Bombay, and there was this particular police firing that took place. And I, you could actualyl go and stand there and say "this is where it happened," you know, in a sense. So when these poets and writers talk about sitting under the Dadar bridge at 3 in the morning, and you know, something. So, all I find... What I want to draw attention to primarily is that in the turbulent politics of the time, roughly as I'm saying, during the emergency and the years right after it, the... Okay, I mean, rather more particularly I would say starting from the railway strike of George Fernandes in '74, and going on to the textile strike, and then the 1992 events. The particular sort of profoundly located realism; it's just a very good example of that. It's by no means unique or anything. Of course, the fact is that because of Bombay, Hindi cinema is part of it, and because Salim-Javed is learning from it as much from it as anybody else, it becomes something else. So we're all familiar with Deewar, for example, and Deewar is another very, very Bombay movie, in that sense of the term. So that's all. I mean, beyond that it's not any more of an argument.
SV: The question of realism and what it is doing, of course, you look at it different in terms of what even films of that period are doing when they're not sort of city-centric or when they're not this geographically specific. This sort of realism nativity, this kind of thing, this is also - and quite clearly the issues are very similar, except your evidence will be very different and your examples are also assumed to be different.
Okay, any more questions? Comments?
AD: Actually, I'm trying to understand, what does this talk do to cultural studies?
AR: I think it's a lost moment. I think certainly, in my own work, the reason this whole Asian popular and this whole HIVOS consultation and the cultural industry is going to... I'm getting much, much more fascinated by that area. And clearly there will be something that you might call politics to the internet, let us say, because there'll be also... I mean, this whole business about social networking and all that stuff; clearly there are a set of whole new issues that are arising. And I have no doubt that CSCS, and cultural studies at CSCS at least have come to define it as change, based on this kind of new work and many other sorts of structures. I think that what's curious is - I mean, those few of you who are from the (discipline), I mean, Rekha's there, SV's here right now, others may remember Atish, from where it was back in the 1990s, which is when cultural studies comes into India - that what's curious is that the way that 'cultural studies' the term was used at the time was really not how people think about it when you go back to that time. For instance, there was a certain way - and I think we all would be very critical of it - cultural studies would be seen as a form of politically correct reading, textuality. So, you say, you know, is this particular image PC or not? I mean, there would be a particular sort of cultural studies to that. There would be another kind of cultural studies that would suggest that it can't be taught. It must exist only outside of... You know, CPhil, I think, the correct case in point. All the extracurricular work that was done was far more important than what happened in classrooms, and there would be a lot of that kind of work. There were all sorts of other things. For example, we all grew up with many of our teachers who were political activists for example, you all know, teachers who taught English who were in ML, let us say. It never occurred to them to bring that ML-hood into the classroom. And cultural studies would be that, for example; bringing political issues into the classroom, for instance. I'm not sure that any of those terms were in hindsight the really key issues, as I think about them. As I think about them, the really key issue at the time was this particular - and I think about in hindsight - radical structuring of the definition of the political. I mean, I think it was a brazen and extraordinary attempt by Partha Chatterjee and other people to pull that one off, to redefine the word 'political' to mean something else. If I look at state and the word democracy, and political society, to mean what they chose it to mean.
AR: I think in hindsight I'm particularly glad, and my present book is about that movement - to recapture how celluloid film, of all things, found itself as being at the vantage point, by no means uniquely, but certainly one of the key vantage points to assimilate this very quickly. I mean, it's always been one's eternal regret that Partha Chatterjee himself has never given film studies that definition, although he did speak speak about Herbert and whatever whatever. One second. Just a minute while I... off. Now I think that that is a period, and I think that it is very important to see celluloid film as a precursor for new digital technologies. But that the politics that celluloid films seem to incarnate as a spectatorial practice is very hard to continue with. I don't think that it's possible to keep that going. And therefore, what cultural studies will now come to mean I don't know. But I mean cultural studies to man what it came to mean in this brief decade also, which also coincided I think with the decade of - speaking for myself - the late Journal of Arts and Ideas and early CSCS, if you like. That's my autobiographical point of entry. And there will be all sorts of other institutions and so on related - Lakshmi is here, so you might want to... The future of cultural studies will be, people like her will have to tell what that means. I couldn't say. So this is very much a retrospective look, rather than a forward going.
AD: But you're marking a departure.
AR: I hope so.
AA: I often have this reaction when I listen to you. Partly because I think of your democratic attitude of 'let a 1000 flowers bloom, and that kind of thing. And so it'll sound like an old ideological kind of question, but I hope something else can be made of it. Which is like would you make a difference, for instance, between narrative waste and narrative excess? And in interpreting, in the relation to the political, that radical shift in talking of the political, if one may say so, would you - I mean, it's not a question directly to you, as such - but would one want to speak of that shift in the political, in say defining the political as a shift in interpreting excess or in describing narrative waste? And assuming that it will fall into a different, a redefining of the political. I don't know whether I'm making sense, but...
AR: It's probably too complicated a question for me to fully entertain right now. Can you just say it again, please? You're making a distinction between waste and excess.
AA: I don't know whether we should. It's the claim perhaps, whether it would be perhaps useful to... Because when one is talking of the symbolic, say for instance, and then there is excess which would seem like nonsense, in terms of the symbolic, in terms of the terms of the straight narrative and so on and so forth. But the task has, in terms of shifting, the task has often been to try reinterpret what that which has been called nonsense as excess, and then to make something of it. And that has contributed to a radical restructuring of the definition of the political also, right? After that, once we have kind of all agreed on that, on the need for that and to, you know, and to even take cognisance of the fact that that which has been described as nonsense can be redefined as excess, and that'll mean something, and so on and so forth. Maybe fracture the symbolic and so on and so forth. After that, is there something in contributing to this redefinition of the political, for instance, where defining everything that doesn't so called fit into the linear narrative, describing it, is that enough to contribute to a radical redefinition of the political or... I mean, I know it's something like...
AR: I don't know if I fully understand the question, but no, there would be all sorts of examples and there would be certain explicitly political examples of this. And I mean political in the narrowest possible way. The famous one is in Calcutta 71. Now it's a very interesting debate and I'll just tell you quickly what that debate was about. There was this huge fight that took place, as you might know, between Mrinal Sen and Satyajit Ray over this film 'Aakash Kusum', where he called it a crow film in The Original Statesman. Where he said basically it has what he calls, like a crow that he said which wore the plumage of a peacock and tried to pretend. So Mrinal Sen is telling a very straightforward story using these plumages, you know, this excess, if you like, of something, which Ray says has no role to play in his film. And he said it's a very straightforward story and why is he telling it in this kind of bizarrely complicated language which has no role for it. Now Culcutta 71 brought a politics to that question in a very bizarre way. What happened was that, as you know in the Naxalite movement from the late '60s, it was thousands, 4 to 6,000 youth were killed in Calcutta at that point of time. And Sen's Calcutta 71 was released in the Metro theatre in ______, and it became a location for ML youth to congregate. You know, it became a kind of social occasion for them to meet. And something very peculiar happening - Sen was starting the film this from the late '60s onwards, '69 onwards he decided he didn't know what sort of film he was going to make, he knew that Calcutta was going to go through crisis and he was with K. K. Mahajan simply shooting street scenes in Calcutta - processions, processions, processions, he'd keep filming them all the time. What happened as a result was something bizarre, that his footage started finding historical data all over the place. So one young man said to him, for example, "when did you film this?" And he said "'70, '71," and he said, "no, you are telling me a lie because I saw my friend there and he was killed in '69."
AR: you know? There's been a use of such cinema for other purposes. So now what you're looking at as narrative waste, which Ray would say has no place, turns out to have not only plenty of place, but is actually almost the issue, where you will now completely forget what the five stories were, and will skip to look at your friends in the margin of the frame, as it were. Now that's an explicitly political dimension of what you might describe as narrative waste. Sen himself had not particularly anticipated such a thing. He was simply shooting, he had no idea of scenes as a record of the time and so on. Other film-makers, and I've given evidence elsewhere, have tried to use this particular phenomenon of cinema, of that which is present but which has no narrative purpose in the ostensible sense of the term with a greater degree of consciousness. In Sen's case he just happened on it in some ways, and he will say like that also. But elsewhere there would be a certain explicit politics attributed to it. Now, so far so good. So far I think I'm on safe ground in trying to answer your question. It's when you start making further extrapolations and start looking at various other kinds of not necessarily political, a general purpose waste, you know, if you like, and so...
AA: If there's something, could we after this say that there's something called general purpose waste?
AR: I mean, I think that the periodicity of the definition of the term 'political', and the periodicity of the dominance of celluloid film, and the particular battle of the time over meaning production makes these issues political. I'd go this far. I think this problem is historicised and I think that there is a time beyond which this can't happen. So for example today, the use of in-text advertising, is an explicit use of yesterday's narrative waste. I mean, suddenly you're finding gold in it. Suddenly you're saying, "Wow, there's money to be earned from here." So sticking in a Pepsi or sticking in a _______________ for example is exactly narrative waste in which someone has found money, someone has found some money making capacity. SO this is not political in that sense of the term, but it's certainly a legacy of that I would say.
AA: This would be political, not in the narrow sense.
AR: Not in the narrow sense.
AA: I'm not talking about the narrow sense, I'm talking about the shift in the... the shifted radical, if you may say so, notion of the political. In that space, where we all presume we are, is there something? Anyway, I'm just...
(Voice): It's related to this point only.
RP: It's related in a different way but... I don't know if Ashish is tired.
AR: No, it's fine. I'm doing fine. I'll open this.
RP: It's related to the extent that it seems like it lost interest in this cinema effect in the present time because it's no longer political, and I was wanting to confirm, having confirmed this, because cinema effect itself seems to be huge. I mean, if the certain way in which film studies has brought it to the floor and explains it, but it's moved into eddied spaces and it's that much more visible. So you see that 'Chak De' effect type, TV uses it, right? It seems like it's moved into eddied spaces.; So is that the reasons why it's no longer political, no longer cultural studies, no longer as interesting?
AR: Maybe it is. mean, I don't know. I mean, obviously now it is being seen, obviously someone - you've got marketing brains behind 'Chak De', some real sense of what this is going to do. And until the other day it didn't have that sort of orchestrated quality to it. But I'm traditionally looking at the... Again, the point is not really unique by any means, but I'm only looking at cinema effect as a property of celluloid films, you know?
RP: But it is this also, right?
AR: It would be.
RP: In a much more magnified. It's not at all...
AR: it would be. Although this is the criticism that I have about SV, that he does not know the distinction between a film and a cricket match. It's all the same for him. But that could go on to... I don't know. Though these are obviously issues that go on to be pondered. I don't know if at the end of the day, when you try and periodise an argument which can actually speak about a certain definition, whether it continues to have relevance or not, I simply (cannot say).
SV: Saying more... Sorry Vishnu. But staying with the question of what you call narrative waste and whether it is political or not, my sort of pet observation would be that Bollywood, and the inability of other Indian film industries to Bollywoodise themselves, or some sort of blockage that's defined around that route. The 'Chak De' effect would be, or the in text advertising movement, that is some kind of trajectory which would seem like a logical way to go. When celluloid disperses into your MTV and ringtones and so on and so forth. This is precisely what you do with what you call cinema effect. But on the other hand, what you've always seemed to have had, whether it's your Amitabh photograph in the haircutting salon or the _______ Rajkumar kind of a scene, is the other spill over, which had some amount of - maybe Asha's point could be detoured to this point - where there was a sense of political mileage that was being drawn from it. So in that sense it was not called waste. Even now the intakes, the replacement, is not waste, that is the stuff from which the film exists. Indeed, that is where the money also exists, not so much in your box office but in this kind of stuff. So, would you want to think of another term for narrative waste? I mean, there's something that narrative waste is not capturing.
AR: I'm using it in quotes. Because I certainly don't see it as (waste); I mean, none of us would. I mean, it's also known as "What is Anil Kapoor doing in the film?" You know, all the fragment (?) people. Actually I didn't know. I remembered this particular film that... Subhash Ghai's film, Anil Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai?
AR: Taal is effectively telling all it's story and by the time you're getting to the interval, you're saying, "look, I think I know what this film is all about. But what is his role in it?" And he arrives just before interval. And from that point of view, the entire first half of the film is narrative waste. I mean, it has absolutely not... The film really begins after interval. You know, what Madhava Prasad would call fragment B.
SV: The story?
AR: That's right. But what I'm saying is that the...
AR: I mean, so none of us would first of all see. And secondly, the kind of excess that is routinely produced in a film. I don't know if any of us - I don't want to slander anymore - but if any of us has seen a shot of a film being taken in some detail of a celluloid film, of a celluloid fiction film, not a documentary. It's amazing the attention to detail! Even in the most modest... They'll say Take 1, Take 2, Take 3, Take 10. And I bet even the most veteran film watcher will not know what is the difference between Take 1 and Take 10. I mean, why Take 10 is better is not... I mean, it's hugely policed. So the waste is by no means waste, it's there because Walt Disney wants it there. You know? Which is what I think the really complex question of Indian cinema for example, arises from there. I mean, my own position again would be that the avant garde would be the one tradition of cinema, celluloid film would have a theory on it, what we're calling waste. I mean, why is waste produced? I mean, what is a certain sort of a... Again Hitchcock would be an example. What is the production of something which has got tremendous significance except that it's got no use? Because the plot is as it is; it's simply useless. Stephen Heath's essay on narrative space begins with that Hitchcock thing, that this particular - that this policemen juts walks down, and he had just caught this baddie. And he just walks down and suddenly turns around and there is a painting there. And he sort of (goes in for) a tight close-up of the painting, and he looks and it and then he comes away. And nothing... There is no reason. You Know? There's absolutely no reason for why that painting (is there)? It's not tied up later with anything at all, but it's hugely... you know. Things like that.
TV: ... you account for certain narrative excess, certain spectatorial excess, within the space, outside the space, whereas things. And you're kind of trying to map thing thing onto, you know, the political excess, or you know what. What, you're trying to map it onto what pasts otherwise say about democracy, or the way they define it as democracy. In the sense, the British film, or the film history or the film theory as it has talked about citizen, or the spectator, the spectator which has resulted in the citizen. You know, it is an apparatus or an institutional generated aspect. You know, the spectator is there who is always kind of - now, using Heath's argument - it's always you know, kind of - what is it? - some kind of closure of the spectator. He's always a construct of the text. He's always the construct of the institution of the cinema, or museum or something like that, right? Similarly, there is this constitution of the citizen, you know, the spectator which is there. Whereas, in the context of Indian cinema the way you show, or the way the film studies or the film theory understood this whole relationship of the text and the spectator there as posited, as sutured into this whole syndrome. Here is something, in the Indian context, or the Cuban context, or the wherever context that you're trying to talk about, is this text where the spectator doesn't take the same position as it has been talked about in the British film history or the Western film if I'm to broadly categorise, precisely because here the spectator, or the would be citizen, or the citizen who... or the specator who became a citizen, or grabbed the citizenship, or grabbed the cultural rights is having a certain kind of negotiation with the text, constantly redefining it, constantly proposing it, or telling it, or trying to shape it - that kind of negotiation, or that kind of complexed interplay that happens, is what can also be mapped onto, in a broad sense in a political process of say, grabbing rights or asking for personal rights. You know, in some sense. So I feel, by looking at this thing, what you're trying to suggest is an inversion in the process of the spectatorial, in the spectatorial process. Is what, you know, I feel you're trying to suggest, broadly putting it in a cultural context, understanding the spectator.
AR: What is? I don't know if I fully understood the question as I should have. What is interesting about these British screen theory people is that they assume that cinema is a fully democratic structure, you know, that... It's kind of bizarre. There was this whole _______argument that until 1961 you could walk in and walk out of a film any time you liked. I mean, you know, it was... I remember even older people telling me that they... you know, you, in a movie theatre, you bought a ticket and the ticket gave you a day long pass. So you could see the film four times if you wanted. And then when they had these multiplex structures, when they had 4 screens. So you could walk in and walk out of any of the 4 screens at any (time). That's what, it was like a fairground, you know? you could take a day pass, or a ticket was a day pass and you could see a film, you know, half and then second half and the first half and so on and so forth. And Hitchcock's - as Linda Williams shows in 'Learning to scream' - Hitchcock's 'Psycho' was the first film that actually trained audiences in how to buy tickets in advance, in coming in time, and actually shut doors. I mean, what is happening in _______ now. I mean,they actually shut the doors and do not let latecomers in. And so, you know, the training of spectators to be on time, to be quiet, to not have the cell phones, all this begins at a certain time in Hollywood cinema. Nevertheless, I'd say screen theory seems to assume the fully formed individual as a film goer is a fact, a given fact. And you're not supposed to speak to someone else, you're supposed to sit quietly, it's quite a funny experience seeing a foreign film... you know? You can easily give offence even if you cough and all.
AR: That, the key point that such condition of individuality is narratively produced is lost. It's a simple enough point but it's a point not made well enough. So the fact that you're producing an individuality through ongoing negotiations with the narrative, you know, is something that is not easily made. But it's assumed that the spectator... You see, if the spectator's fully in place, then the realist film is fully in place. Because the realist film produces this kind of repolarised(?) spectator, as it were. So all films are already then always already realism, so to say. Whereas the acquisition of realism by a film, the attainment of realist status by a film and so on and so forth. I mean, I'm sort of surprised at myself at having to make so basic a criticism of film theory. You know, it's surely more sophisticated than that, you must say, per se. But here I find it hard to make that, to get past that structure. I don't know if that answers anything but anyway it's something...
SV: Do the first year students have any questions or comments. This is your last chance to go on air because we will wind up fairly soon. Here, this is your class.
SS: I have a question. If you look at some of the curriculum - I don't know, I haven't read much - from what I have read here, there is a notion of the spectator, the rights being... For example, there are anxieties expressed about natives watching white women on screen, etc and such thing. And by the time to the Chunduru example, you have the presence of a subaltern course. There's already a shift that's happened. So rights gets constituted in a certain way here, which is very different from the earlier piece. And which, in some sense, when I read, we read that we're having a talk on the cinematic governance. I was really thinking about, in what sense do you mean, what are you talking about when you say cinematic governance. Is it the constitution of the public sphere? What? For example, obviously this wouldn't hold on the Habermasian theory of, you know, the first one or the second one for example. And then, again with the third moment let's say - the internet that you were talking about, youtube. How would spectator theory now, if you look at three movements across. In some sense I think there's something happening which needs a larger theorisation around spectator rights.
AR: Well, the thing is one is the colonial movement, one is the... The second one is the Chunduru movement, and the third is youtube.
SS: The Chunduru movement where the presence of the subaltern causes another kind of anxiety around the spectator. And then how does the notion of spectator right again gets... You know, we need to re-theorise it with, let's say this fragmentation, or transnationalisation, or public sphere.
AR: Yeah. I mean, I think the youtube brought it. I mean, it's clearly an area that if I can devote my attention to youtube as we all should be doing. And in fact, I was saying the department of film studies, this time when they had that conference, I was really asking them why don't they have a youtube studies sort of... I mean, something definitely needs to be thought through. But the first two clearly are connected in my head. The colonial structures really fascinate me because you actually have a situation where the capacity of the colonial state to continue to administer India, and not just India but Africa, is undermined by these countries' inability to understand these films. And to assume that the kinds of, you know, shenanigans of British comedies for example, is really how people are like in England, you know? And more than that, the inability to make a distinction between British and American films, given that Hollywood Has now started to show its global muscle, and England was trying to make a different argument entirely. And this from a country that is already by that point of time making far more films than England. You know? Telling its spectators that they didn't know how to watch films was a bit difficult, broadly speaking. but that particular argument has lasted ever since. And I think what's interesting about Chunduru is... See, Chunduru constitutes, in some ways, the revenge of the spectator. It's like the social existence of spectatorship broadly, you know, in some ways, in comprehending the entity is where the problem lies.
Now, it would be interesting to say quickly... You know what film it was when ______. I'm trying to figure out whether there was a particular sort of reason for why this chap acted in this way, I mean, he enabled that to happen or whatever.
AR: But yes, I mean, at least in my mind what I've been trying to do is to isolate or identify the problem as to do with celluloid film, and I've identified celluloid film as roughly a period to do with the modern state. If you look at, for example, the arrival of the modern global state as being the united States of America. 1898, the Spanish American war coinciding with Hollywood, and the demeaning of the modern state as being the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, which also is roughly when celluloid film comes to an end. So it's a certain sort of periodisation that I'm trying to do. So youtube is out of that periodisation, but the other two are within it at least.
AD: Ashish, can I bring back the narrative question once again? Would you then say if I'm getting it right? `Would you then say that burden(?) of cultural studies, if there is any such phase, marked by a politically correct, "politically correct" reading of text and textuality would have a space for narrative waste. Whereas at present it would be narrative possibility.
AR: It was. I mean, sorry for being slightly down on that politically correct cultural studies but it was actually functioning at the behest of realism in that sense. It would actually tell you how to read this film or painting correctly. I mean,very often it's very, very first order. It's just got that... I doubt if there was... Not to my knowledge. But again we're talking about... It's not like I've done any work on this. I mean, I don't have before me evidence of the kind of cultural studies I'm trying to denigrate here.
AD: Not denigrate. It's a move. An account of what was purportedly waste as a, if not excess, a possibility. Which is how I understood SV's work initially. That he has marked this departure within cultural studies. What was hitherto waste is not waste anymore.
RP: Speaking of waste and excess, can I ask a clarification? How central is narrative to film viewing in India? I mean, this is just my sense. It's not as central that you then say excess or waste. Because you're placing it at the centre, you say that it is excess. Whereas viewing might be dealing only with those aspects which you call narrative excess.
AR: No, but I have at least a very inclusive definition of narrative waste. I mean, it's much more plotted on; it's a whole social circumstance within which connective engagement of meaning production takes place, in a broad sense of the term.
SV: Also, if you had to be much more sort of minimalist and functionary, if you can have a notion of the narrative which can also include your song sequences and your comedy track, you can clearly have an different notion of the narrative from story. So, if you're referring to _____ point as a story, that's a different question. But if you assume that these song and the comedy track is excess...
RP: No, they may not have excess. Right? So, or it's waste. The entire thing is a narrative.
SV: No, you could... That's right. That's my thing, you know, about why call it waste. But I think there is no disagreement on that corner, that the waste is with reference with a much more narrow notion of what the narrative is.
RP: That's what I was seeking, that clarification, which boils down what do you think is narrative.
AR: You see, narrative and waste are then mutually contradicting each other. If it is there, it's narrative.
AD: With this robust reading of the narrative, then where is waste?
AR: I will just use it once. I was a flourish there.
RP: You said narrative excess which makes...
AR: No, I've actually once said discovering gold in narrative waste is what's happening happenign today with the cultural industries' thing.
AA: Excess would be a far more positive critique. Which is why I was asking the difference. The differentiation between waste and excess in that sense. Whether all kinds of waste can constitute excess, which will allow for an interpretation, which will allow for a more radical reading of the political. Sorry.
SV: Satish, you haven't said anything. Tomorrow. Thanks Ashish.