Indian cinema beginning to tackle colonial themes

Ancient history is out; independence period is in

Photos above and on BrandeisNOW front from the film "The Legend of Bhagat Singh," which will be discussed at this year's Soli Sorabjee Lecture

In a major shift in Indian film and society, Indian filmmakers are starting to tackle the colonial and Independence periods directly. This trend will be the focus of the upcoming Soli Sorabjee Lecture in South Asian Studies, Thursday, Oct 28.

Professor Corey Creekmur, head of Film Studies at the University of Iowa, an expert in international popular cinema, will give a talk entitled “Experiments with Truth: Confronting Colonial History in Popular Indian Cinema.”

Creekmur notes that many earlier films were devoted to recreating much older historical periods, especially the reigns of the great Mughal emperors. More recent films have explored the late colonial period just before and after Independence and the Partition of the subcontinent. The recent treatment of key figures such as M. K. Gandhi, or the Independence movement "martyr" Bhagat Singh, among others, offers examples of a distinctive engagement with history through the formal and narrative conventions of popular Hindi cinema. These "experiments with truth" – to quote Gandhi -- raise significant questions about the relationships between popular culture, national history, and collective memory in contemporary India.

Professor Creekmur's teaching and research focus on international popular cinema, especially American and South Asian; cross-cultural film genres; the interactions between film and other media such as music; as well as discourses of race, gender and sexuality.  He has published articles on the multiple film adaptations of Devdas, music in Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa, and many other topics.

The event is free and open to the public and wine and refreshments will be served at a reception preceding the event at 4:30 p.m. in the atrium of the new Mandel Center for the Humanities. The lecture itself will take place at 5:15 p.m. in lecture hall G03 in the Mandel Center.

The event, organized by Faculty Director Ulka Anjaria who is an assistant professor in the English department, is co-sponsored by South Asian Studies, the Mandel Center for the Humanities and the Brandeis-India Initiative. Students from Brandeis courses “Bollywood: Popular Film, Genre, and Society” and “Introduction to International and Global Studies” will be in attendance.

Established last year, the new Soli Sorabjee Lectures have explored India’s past and present  -- often through an artistic lens. Harvard’s Sugata Bose used poetry and painting to analyze the country’s “colorful cosmopolitanism.” Paromita Vohra screened her critically-acclaimed documentary films, works that cast a critical but playful gaze on contemporary Indian society. Prof. Creekmur’s work dovetails with the goal of providing artistic and cultural analysis.

The Soli Sorabjee Lecture Series was named after the Honorable Soli Sorabjee, former attorney general of India and a friend of Brandeis University. The Series looks to bring speakers to campus who will engage our community in themes of "justice" -- broadly defined to include the interrogation of human rights, historical narratives, literary and political representations, gender and social justice, citizenship and democracy, and cross-border connections between the nations of South Asia.

The series aims to expose students at Brandeis, and the public at large, to the scholarship being conducted in the multidisciplinary fields of South Asian Studies, both in the United States and in South Asia itself, as well as to the vast range of South Asian intellectual and artistic traditions. Part of the Brandeis-India Initiative, the series was inaugurated in Fall 2009 with the generous support of the Mody and Sorabjee families.

In April 2010, Mr. Sorabjee made a special visit to Brandeis to help inaugurate the series. He delivered a talk, “Rule of Law: A Moral Imperative for South Asia and the World” to a crowded audience at Rapaporte Treasure Hall. The Brandeis-India Initiative has sponsored several series lectures.

Categories: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, International Affairs

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