Soli Sorabjee Lectures in South Asian Studies
Rule of Law: A Moral Imperative for South Asia and the World
The third Soli Sorabjee Lecture to be delivered by the Honorable Soli Sorabjee.
An evening with Indian filmmaker/writer Paromita Vohra
The second lecture in this series was was delivered by acclaimed Mumbai-based filmmaker Paromita Vohra, following the screening of two of her recent documentaries. The audience at the Shapiro Campus Center theater was treated to a viewing of Cosmopolis: A Tale of Two Cities, followed by Morality TV and Loving Jehad: A Thrilling Tale. The two short films explored several issues in contemporary Indian society, including gender, public “immorality”, ethnic chauvinism and cosmopolitanism.
Paromita’s unique filmmaking style, infused with humor, was reflected in the filmmaker herself, in the dynamic question and answer session following the screening. During this session, Vohra enthusiastically answered questions from the audience and expanded upon her filmic techniques, as well as her goals for representing people honestly in film and the significant role of documentary narrative in contemporary Indian culture.
Vohra is a documentary filmmaker, screenwriter and teacher based in Mumbai, India. She is the director of over half a dozen documentaries interrogating the social, political and cultural meanings of the contemporary urban Indian landscape. These include issues of ethnic chauvinism, women’s access to public space, state crackdowns on public ‘immorality’, globalization, cosmopolitanism, diversity and social justice. She is particularly recognized for her innovative filmmaking techniques, including blending fiction and documentary. Her films have been screened at film festivals around the world, and her fictional and non-fictional writings have been published widely.
Her work as a writer includes the feature films Khamosh Pani (Silent Waters), about a woman whose life is transformed by growing fundamentalism in a Pakistani village (dir: Sabiha Sumar), for which she won the Best Screenplay award at the Kara Film Festival, 2003 and Khamoshi: The Musical (Additional Scriptwriting) (dir: Sanjay Leela Bhansali); the documentaries Skin Deep, A Few Things I Know About Her and If You Pause: In a Museum of Craft as well as a series of short fiction films on communal conflict for the People’s Decade of Human Rights Education (PDHRE).
For more information on Ms. Vohra, please visit her website.
The co-sponsors for this event included the Department of English, the South Asian Studies Program, the Program in Women's and Gender Studies and the Program in Cultural Production.
Dr. Sugata Bose
Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs at Harvard University
"Different Universalisms, Colorful Cosmopolitanisms: The Global Imagination of the Colonized"
Bose's field of specialization is modern South Asian and Indian Ocean history. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. His most recent book is A Hundred Horizons: the Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (2006). In it Bose crosses area studies and disciplinary frontiers and bridges the domains of political economy and culture. He was a recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1997.
Using the Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore and other intellectuals as guides, Prof. Bose tackled the complex issue of "universalism" at the turn of the 20th century, showing how ideas about universalism were conceived outside of the Western mind. Bose suggests that these Indian artists had a different conception of a universal humanity — both reacting to and drawing upon Western thought — that allowed for empathy and nuance while maintaining local and cultural allegiances.
Summary of the evening's events
The inaugural Soli Sorabjee Lecture was delivered by Professor Sugata Bose at Brandeis University on Monday, November 16th, 2009. Professor Bose is the Gardiner Professor of Oceanic History and Affairs and the Director of the South Asia Initiative at Harvard University. His talk was titled "Different Universalisms, Colorful Cosmopolitanisms: The Global Imagination of the Colonized." He is the author of several books on the economic, social and political history of modern South Asia.
The event began with a brief reception with food and drink for those interested in South Asian Studies. Daniel Terris, Vice President for Global Affairs, opened the program with an introduction of the Brandeis-India Initiative, a new university-effort to engage with the sub-continent.
Aarti Mody '10 (right), a Brandeis undergraduate and the grand-daughter of Soli Sorabjee, gave an eloquent and moving introduction of her grand father and his work on the protection of human rights and justice in India and his contributions in the arena of freedom of speech and expression.
Prof. Bose was then introduced by Prof. Govind Sreenivasan , who is an associate professor of History at Brandeis University. A reception followed the lecture, and several faculty and graduate students took Prof. Bose out to dinner for further discussion of his lecture and the work of Mr. Sorabjee.