Note: This course was taught in the Spring of 1996.
The Johns Hopkins University
Film and Media Studies Program
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
February 20. Salaam Bombay, dir. Mira Nair.
Reading: Bert Cardullo, "Salaam Bombay", Hudson Review, 42 (1989): 290-95.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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