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Aural films Oral Cultures

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Aural films Oral Cultures
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Item Code: NAG213
Author: Madhuja mukherjee
Publisher: Jadavpur University
Language: English
Edition: 2012
ISBN: 9788186954812
Pages: 216
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9 inch X 5.5 inch
weight of the book: 402 gms

About the book


This anthology brings together debates on Indian films from the early sound era. It situates the significant yet somewhat unknown arguments on Indian cinema within the framework of political history. Aural Films, Oral Cultures Translates and collates rare essays, particularly in Bengali, for a wider readership. A large number of the articles were published from Kolkata, in both English and Bengali, and cover a range of issues including problems of cinema as are, the technology of cinema, the new technology of sound, problems of language, as well as the interrelations of cinema and literature, cinema and theatre, cinema and music, the economics of the film industry; and questions of realism and reform. Some of the essays anthologized here contain fascinating descriptions of the period of the so-called 'talkies' and are invaluable documents from the early sound era. The conceptual complexities of these essays and the wealth of historical evidences force us to reconsider established histories and approaches to film historiography.


About the Author


Madhuja Mukherjee teaches in the Department of Films studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her publications include New Theatres Ltd. The Emblem of Art, The picture of Success (Pune: National Film Archive of India, 2009). Her forthcoming anthology voices and verses of the Talking Stars (part of the 'Women Writing Gender' series of the School of women's Studies, Jadavpur University) will be by street, Kolkata.


Mukherjee also works as an independent filmmaker. Her first feature film Carnival (no Dialogue, with English Inter-titles, 2011) had its 'World Premiere' at the 41st

International Film Festival Rotterdam. Her solo media-installation 'Crumbled papers, Fragments of cinema' was hosted by the International Film Festival Rotterdam, during January-February, 2012.




The time span of this project involve Mahatma Gandhi's Non-cooperation Movement, followed by Civil Disobedience Movements and the discrete moments of the Quit India Movement, that entirely transformed the structure of Indian political history. Briefly, during the 1920s to 1940s, opposing tendencies, including extremist movements along with communist ideologies, became acceptable in Bengal. In the larger context, the post 'Wall Street' (crashed) economy, the severe after-effects of the First World War, the rise of fascism in Germany and Italy and the reorganization of socialist regime in Soviet Russia had their respective impacts. Moreover, the emergence of the workers' movements and youth organizations, and the recognition of both Jawaharlal Nehru as well as Subhash Chandra Bose as national leaders, became the key points of national politics.


In connection to Bengal politics of the period, Sumit Sarkar observed multiple 'trends' since the extremists (particularly during 1928-34), the revivalists (The Hindu Mahasabha group and others), along with the Communists, produced their own interventionist strategies vis-a-vis the larger political situation. However, emergent labour and peasant activisms (in Bengal, Bihar and the United Provinces), and the communal conflicts (along with the Muslim League meet in 1924 and the Hindu MahaSabha gatherings around 1922-3) permitted the communists to become decisive figures in Bengal. Radical thinkers like M.n. Roy, Abani Mukherjee, Nalini Gupta, Muzaffar Ahmed, and others worked in disagreement with the Congress (particularly, until its somewhat leftwards turn later in the decade ) and produced a Leftist ideology, especially within certain sections of Bengal. In short, the moment may be defined as history's 'magic hour', since diverse and conflicting tendencies converged to produce an environment that had multiple and sometimes contradictory possibilities. One of the primary concerns of this project is to examine the conflicting political conditions through the film discourses of the period, to understand first, the significance of cinema within the larger historical projects and second, to re-read the history of the times through oral cultures pertaining to cinema. In this context, the question of 'sound' technology becomes crucial.


The First World War and the years after the war had caused unprecedented injuries to human and material assets; moreover, during this time the taxes for trade and industry were raised. Nevertheless, while the war signified suffering for most, it also contributed to extraordinary profits for businesspersons who dealt with the disparate and unprecedented wartime demands. Indeed, there was a forceful post-war growth between 1919 and 1922 amongst the Indian capitalists. Bipan Chandra in his discussion on 'Colonialism and Modernization' has argued that "colonial Indian economy was as much a part of world capitalism which needs to be viewed as a single worldwide system of which colonial economies were an integral part.” Clearly, it is crucial to recognize the fact that, through a series of violent encounters (in a colonial condition), the country was placed within the labyrinth of world capitalism and war. Thus, it would be a "historical fallacy to assume that India under the British rule…remained basically traditional”.


There was a milieu for internationalism and the nation arguably became the 'locus of production'. Additionally, in the 1920s, the nouveau ruche wanted to invest their fast-earned money into profitable ventures and cinema appeared to be one of those. Satish Despande has discussed uses pertaining to the political-economy and has suggested that, "the economy is an important perhaps even primary, source of raw material for the nationalist imagination in India”. In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Swadeshi Zeal encouraged the production of domestically produced merchandise, which demonstrated the economic independence of a colonized nation. To quote Kajri Jain, such "bazaar [art] can be seen as a realm of both subordinate and semi-autonomy vis-à-vis the colonial state." Within this framework of 'semi-autonomy' it is imperative to connect the concerns of the economy with the concerns of cinema, in order to examine the industrial nature of cinema. In effect, such comparisons throw light on the sporadic growth of small studios (particularly in and around the industrial cities like Mumbai and Kolkata) and investments of individual entrepreneurs especially during the 1920s.


The Wall Street Crash of 1929 brought about a sudden fall in the prices of agricultural products and created a disorder in the export-oriented colonial economy. By 1935-36, the British tried to improve the textile industry and non-traditional items like electrical goods, telecommunication as well as wireless apparatus and sugar machinery. In fact, the later items were almost equal in value to textile exports in British India. In 1936 the Journal of Motion Picture society of India claimed that cinema along with the other industries (like the printing press etc.). From the point of view of the Indian capitalists, the economic depression also meant the lessening of the formal control and opening up of new sectors; moreover, there was an apparent transfer of capital from land to industry. However, the discontents of the educated urban youth were growing at this time. Additionally, the industrial labourers along with the agricultural labourers revolted in disparate ways.


The mass participation in the symbolic act of salt Satyagraha during the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 was rooted in the hope of Purna Swaraj (that aimed at the indigenous control of the economy). In Bengal, the Left became powerful through trade union movements, Kisan Sabha and radical student activism. The instituting of AISF (All India Students Federation) and PWA (Progressive Writer's Association) in 1936 added a new meaning to the left political and cultural movement (as the eminent Urdu-Hindi writer Premchand took the leadership of the association). However, the Kolkata bhadralok mostly remained alienated from the rural masses, even when the peasants' movements (to their distress) often adopted violent forms. It was also a time for intense (and popular) terrorist movements and the deterioration of the Hindu-Muslim harmony. These contexts of conflicting political trends as well as the post-war situation, which produced diverse economic conditions, became significant for cinema since it allowed the businesspersons to garner exceptional profits. Moreover, since cinema was connected to issues of politics, economy, and culture in Bengal, it shaped a discursive field that propagated an idealized film form. This anthology concentrates on such electrifying debates on cinema and history (produced during this 'magic' hour), in its effort to understand the processes through cinema and eco-politics were linked, as well as the historical function of cinema.


The period between the two World Wars was especially decisive for cinema since the big studios came up in India, similar to the ways in which production systems in Hollywood attempted to institute a standardized style of storytelling. With the inception of sound, the Hollywood canon manufactured a particular kind of narrative form, culture, and sensibility, which was intricately associated with market, industry, as well as the world economy. In the twenties and thirties, the Fordist model of film production became a point of reference for several Indian filmmakers. The notion of a standardized or a 'classical' cinematic language and narrative strategies, approaches to business, notions of leisure, ideas of decorated theatres, styles of publicity and advertisement were mediated by Hollywood's reformulation of the cinematic institution. However, there were interesting variations, since the iconic European films of Eisenstein and Fritz Lang inspired many Indian directors as well.




Introducing the Framework of a Sound Discourse


Section I


Cinema as Technology


Idealized Film Aesthetics


The Art of Narration


Cinema vs. Literature


Cinema as History


Cinema as the project of Modernity


Section II


All Talking Films


Language and/of Cinema


Voice of Cinema


A Sound Industry


The Imagined Public


Essays from the early sound era: talking picture in India


A Letter Concerning the Moving Image




Screen play


About Films




Knowledge of Language and Cinema


Bengali Cinema Industry


Cinema in India


Bengali Film Calendar of 1930


 Bengal Productions of 1932


Bengali Film Art/ Industry


 Some Problems of Bengali Films


Anonymous Litreature of /and Films


 The Screen Language


 Silent Vs Sound Films


 Sound Films


Sound Cinema


Anonymous The Trouble with Talkie Films


 The Problem of Sound Film


The Effects of the Talkie Revolution


The Talkie Prospect in India


Recording Equipment and Theory


Recording Technique


Noiseless Recording


Double and Single System, Recording Methods


Hollywood Looks at India


Talking Pictures in India


Music in "Chandidas


What Does the Audience Want





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