The forking paths of Indian cinema

Revisiting Hindi films through their regional networks

Authored by: Madhuja Mukherjee

The Routledge Companion to World Cinema

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138918801
eBook ISBN: 9781315688251
Adobe ISBN:


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This essay sets out to remap Hindi popular cinema by locating its regional trajectories and questions conventional accounts of Indian cinema that present a narrative of a fixed and definitive Hindi language cinema produced in Bombay. Indian films of the 1920s employed inter-titles in a variety of languages (English, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali), as is evident not only from surviving films but also from the Indian Cinematograph Committee Report (ICCR 1927–1928), and were produced and circulated across multiple locations throughout India (on the ICCR see Jaikumar 2003). Furthermore, studies of film studios have demonstrated that the production of Hindi-language cinema was not, in fact, limited to Bombay, but rather that in the 1920s and 1930s studios were set up in disparate places such as Calcutta (in Bengal) and Pune (in Maharashtra) (see Bhaumik 2001; Mukherjee 2008). Consequently, the meteoric growth of Bombay-based Hindi melodramas in the 1950s, followed by the emergence of the blockbuster model that relied on famed stars such as Amitabh Bachchan, formulaic narratives and generic hybridity in the 1970s and the transnational success of Bollywood in the 1990s, can be explained through reference to a complex web of industrial conditions and historical evolutions (on Bachchan see Prasad 1998, and on Bollywood see Rajadhyaksha 2002). By addressing crucial debates and studies on Indian cinema and focusing in particular on the complicated regional production and circulation of Hindi cinema, this chapter argues for an alternative, and more geographically complex, historiography of Indian cinema.

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