Syllabus - Johns Hopkins University - Spring 1996
Cinema and Culture in India
Chandak Sengoopta

Note: This course was taught in the Spring of 1996.

The Johns Hopkins University
Film and Media Studies Program
Spring 1996

360.314 CINEMA AND CULTURE IN INDIA

Lecture M 10-10:50 Krieger 308
Screening M 3-6 Gilman 110
Repeat Screening T 7-10 PM Gilman 110


This course aims to introduce the varied products of the world's largest film industry to students with no specialized knowledge of the subject. In the first part of the course, we shall survey the linguistic and cultural diversity of India, examining how different genres of Indian film reflect, distort, or utilize this diversity, and contrast them with Western films on India, the perspectives and presuppositions of which are often very different.

The second part of the course will retrace many of these themes in greater depth by analyzing the work of Satyajit Ray (1921-1992), the Indian film-maker Western critics are most familiar with. We shall show how the content, style, and objectives of Ray's films were shaped by his intellectual and cultural contexts. Ignoring these local contexts, Western as well as Indian critics have often portrayed Ray simply as a "universal humanist" or "transnational auteur". We shall establish that the universality of Ray's work is dialectically related with its unrelenting particularism, and cannot be isolated from it.

There will be one lecture-and-discussion every week, and one film, which will be screened twice.

Requirements: Attendance at lectures and screenings is mandatory. 50% of the final grade will be based on class participation, and 25% each on two 10-page papers.
While there is no required textbook for the course, the following book is recommended as background reading: Erik Barnouw and S. Krishnaswamy, Indian Film, 2nd edn (1980).

I. The Diversity of Indian Films

Week I
January 29. The Many Indias: Nation, Cultures, and Tensions
Reading: Selection from Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives, ed. Francis Robinson (1989), pp. 363-75; 400-405; 483-89.
January 29 & 30. In the Name of God, dir. Anand Patwardhan.

Week II
February 5. Entertaining the Nation: The "Commercial" Film
Reading: Rosie Thomas, "Indian Cinema: Pleasures and Popularity", Screen, 26 no. 3/4 (1985): 116-31.
Recommended: Farrukh Dhondy, "Keeping Faith: Indian Film and Its World", Daedalus, 114 no. 4 (Fall 1985): 125-40.
February 5 & 6. Mere Jeevan Sathi, dir. Ravee Nagaich.

Week III
February 12. The Realistic Impulse
Reading: Mira Reym Binford, "India's Two Cinemas", in John D. H. Downing (ed.), Film and Politics in the Third World.
February 12 & 13. Distant Thunder, dir. Satyajit Ray

Week IV
February 20. Salaam Bombay, dir. Mira Nair.
Reading: Bert Cardullo, "Salaam Bombay", Hudson Review, 42 (1989): 290-95.

Week V
February 26. Entertainment and Social Criticism: Transmutations of the "Commercial" Film
Reading: Leela Rao, "Women in Indian Films: A Paradigm of Continuity and Change", Media, Culture, and Society, 11 (1989): 443-58.
February 26 & 27. Spices, dir. Ketan Mehta.

Week VI
March 4. India in Western Cinema: Recollections of Imperialism
Reading: Arthur Lindley, "Raj as Romance/Raj as Parody: Lean's and Forster's Passage to India", Literature/Film Quarterly, 20, no. 1 (1992): 61-66.
March 4 & 5. A Passage to India, dir. David Lean.

Week VII
March 11. The Quest for East-West Synthesis
Reading: Robert E. Long, The Films of Merchant Ivory, pp. 12-18; 46-52.
March 11 & 12. Shakespearewallah, dir. James Ivory.

Week VIII
Spring Vacation: No Class

Week IX Paper I due March 25
March 25. Neo-colonialism and the Impossibility of Synthesis
Readings: "How Not to Make a Film in India: Oh, Calcutta!", The Economist, 318 (23 March 1991): 97-98.
Firdaus Kanga, "Circle of Misfortune", Times Literary Supplement, no. 4672 (16 October 1992): 19.
March 25 & 26. The City of Joy, dir. Roland Joffe.

II. Satyajit Ray: Between Bengal and the World

Week X
April 1. The Little Road to the Big World: The Career of Satyajit Ray
Readings: Les Stone, "Ray, Satyajit", Contemporary Authors, 114 (1985): 378-82.
Satyajit Ray, "A Long Time on the Little Road", in Ray, Our Films, Their Films.
April 1 & 2. Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road, 1955), dir. Satyajit Ray.

Week XI
April 8. The Bengali Contexts of Universal Humanism
Reading: Satyajit Ray, "My Life, My Work", 5 parts, The Telegraph (Calcutta), 27 September- 1 October 1982.
April 8 & 9. Aparajito (The Unvanquished, 1956), dir. Satyajit Ray.

Week XII
April 15. The Dialectic of Tradition and Modernity
Reading: Marie Seton, Portrait of a Director: Satyajit Ray, pp. 150-60.
April 15 & 16. Devi (The Goddess, 1960), dir. Satyajit Ray.

Week XIII
April 22. City, Self, and Revolution: Individual Autonomy in an Age of Mass Politics
Reading: Andrew Robinson, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye, pp. 200-214.
April 22 & 23. Pratidwandi (The Adversary, 1971), dir. Satyajit Ray.

Week XIV
April 29. Humanism and Nationalism in Conflict
Reading: Arundhati Banerjee, "The Indian Woman's Dilemma: A Study of Formations in Gender Construct through Mediations of Western Culture in Tagore's Ghare Baire and Ray's Film Version", in Nitaya Masavisut (ed.), Gender and Culture in Literature and Film, East and West.
April 29 & 30. Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World, 1984), dir. Satyajit Ray.

Week XV Paper II due May 6
May 6. Responses to Ray, East and West
Reading: Satyajit Ray, "Under Western Eyes", Sight and Sound, 51, no. 4 (Autumn 1982): 268-74.
Recommended: Chandak Sengoopta, "Satyajit Ray: The Plight of the Third-World Artist", American Scholar, 62 (1993): 247-54.
No screening.

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Information as of November 1997-
Chandak Sengoopta
Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine
183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE, U.K.
Tel: +44 (0)171 611 7232 Fax: +44 (0)171 611 8562
E-mail: c.sengoopta@wellcome.ac.uk
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