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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

An Intelligent Critic's Guide to Indian Cinema- Ashish Nandy

the following write up on An Intelligent Critic's Guide to Indian Cinema is by Abhay Shetty


1. The Cultural Matrix of the popular film.

The writer Ashish Nandy makes a clear distinction on how the cultural capital of Indian is much influenced by the middle class of the urban India be it cinema, cricket or anyother forms of entertainment, Nandy goes on explaining that the urban middle class politics which is only a part compared to the rest of the Indian rural population has a mojor influences in giving momentum to these areas of entertainment. " Urban India also would continue to provide a critical mass sustaining a level of intellectual activity and creative initiative difficult or impossible to achieve in smaller Third World societies ". Claiming that these urban middle class are the intellectual powers which sustain and encourage creative initiations which is assumed to be impossible by the third world countries. Thanks to its political presence compared to the other third world countries which have in compare provided to its westernized bourgeoisie." These classes have often provided the baseline for a critique of modernity as well as of traditions". Thinker and social reformers of Ninteenth and twetieth century of India have all provided for such a intellectual growth to the middle class in India irrespective of the social background of these reformers like Rabindranath Tagore , Bankmchandra Chattopadhyay, Gandhi and Bhimrao Ambedkar. " They Shared an Idiom and culture", and this is because they shared the cultural intellectual together irrespective of their social backdrop. Intellectuals or creative individuals from cinema , art and literature are forming a definite culture that mediates between the classical and the non-classical or folk, and between West and East. Nandy terms another set of the divients of the culture as Low-brow middle class for they 'vulgate' the new concepts of ethics and conciousness into the masses. Stating them to be 'underground' which has taken a legitamate popular form, threatening the high culture of the middle class.

The need for this new self assertion of the low -brow is because " The accelerating process of social change in India uprooted increasing number of people from their folk traditions".For the middle class it was their relatibility to the sanskrit tradition and for the upper class it was westernized concepts so the low-brow needed a self assertion of their culture to mingle in this melting pot of the urban. And this clash of the middle class and the low brow was in a sense resolved with the with a new fromation of expression " a middle -brow medium of self expression to serve as a new urban folk expression and a popular form of classicism". Thus a new mass culture formed. The new culture thus formed has certain traits of its own. The first one being including the elemants of the low-brow dominant and laying of the western high cultuer which was once prominant in the Indian Middle class culture. But the new mass culture doesnt reject the classical culture but inly undeplays it .Secondly there is a sense of prdictability and readability in the then popular culture of the urban middle class. Where as the urban mass culture now is purely on the creativity of the producer that cares to stimulate the sensibility of the masses. The third is that popular culture plays a mediatory rle between the classical and the folk , modern and tradition which is fragmented geograohically .where as in mass culture it has a very pan india effect reaching out to people through out the nation. The fouth being that the mass culture is not being critical of the of the current political culture and political sterotypes.where as the popular middle class culture relies on concepts such as sanity, maturity and normality .

Thus leading us to the common features and differences between art films, middle-brow cinema and commercial cinema . "All three depend on middle class for legitamacy and critical acclaim" by stating so Nandy also give middle class a certain power fram or structure to value all the three bases of cinema. Firstly according to the writer the commercial films center around the value system of the society basing itself on subtle criticizm of society but yet ahdering to the larger social mores and values. Thus criticising the middle class values to too. Where as art cinema or high-brow cinema writer terms it give a ruthless criticism of the social potholes and and gives a deep analysis of cinema as such. Where as the middle bro cinema fails to have to arty face of the high brow cinema but constantly try to achieve the artiness among their cinema. Which carries on the tradition od "good popular cinema".The writer goes on making such distinctions from one genre of cinema to the other.

2. Beyond Oriental Despotism

Politics and femininity in Satyajit Ray

In this section the writer shows how in Satyajit Ray's movie Shatranj how the west and the east is percieved and the western notions of Masculinities are projected as against that of eastern notions of femininity.The femininity is only potrayed at the expense of masculinity.

3. Shyam Benegal and the case of missing Krsna

Nandy potrays how the Indian epics do not have Hero in sense of the greek myths. but also touches upon where the intellectuals felt a need for a Karna to be potrayed as a hero in the curret day scenario.

4. The Double in Commercial Films

The use of double role as an alter ego is being projected to that of an fight between the eastern and the western concepts of the double, in reference to main stream Indian cinema.

5. Cultural Spaces and Aesthetic Spaces

The art films and the main stream indian movies share different spaces and with respect to their spaces they function accordingly. Nandy also adds on that these spaces should not be interchanged because the masses do not recognise the the aesthetics spaces and only rely on the cultural spaces of the movies or cinema.

Bibilography :

1. Nandy, Ashis; 1995; Intelligent Film Critic’s Guide to Indian Cinema; The Savage Freud and Other Essays on Possible and Retrievable Selves; New Delhi; OUP; pp 196-236

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