Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood: The New Independent Cinema Revolution 9780815368601, 9781351254267

This is the first edited volume on new independent Indian cinema. It aims to be a comprehensive compendium of diverse th

692 149 4MB

English Pages [305] Year 2018

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood: The New Independent Cinema Revolution
 9780815368601, 9781351254267

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Title
Copyright
Contents
List of Figures
Acknowledgements
Foreword
Introduction: New Independent Indian Cinema: Disciplinary Evolution and Cinematic Revolution
1 Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan: The Politics and Legacies of the New Wave Movement in Contemporary Indian Cinema
2 From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema: The Story of NFDC and Film Bazaar
3 Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider Inside the National and International Legal Framework
4 Queer Radiance: Margarita with a Straw, Disability and Vision
5 Indie Crowdfunded Narratives of Commercial Surrogacy, or the Contested Bodies of Neoliberalism: Onir’s ‘I Am Afia’ and Arpita Kumar’s Sita
6 Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages: A Case Study in Diasporic Cocreation
7 Documentary as Witness; Documentary as Counter-Narrative: The Cinema of Sanjay Kak
8 Divercity: Independent Documentary as an Alternative Narrative of the City
9 Zanjeer to Pink: The Trajectory of Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young/Old Man Persona From Mainstream to Indie Cinema
10 Rapping in Double Time: Gandu’s Subversive Time of Liberation
11 Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity: Quizzing Marathi Cinema
12 Untold Stories, Representations and Contestations: Masaan (Crematorium) and Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love)
13 Haobam Paban Kumar and the Cinemas of North East India
14 The Subaltern Screams: Migrant Workers and the Police Station as Spatio-Carceral State of Exception in the Tamil Film Visaranai
Contributors
Index

Citation preview

Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood

This is the first edited volume on new independent Indian cinema. It aims to be a comprehensive compendium of diverse theoretical, philosophical, epistemological and practice-based perspectives, featuring contributions from multidisciplinary scholars and practitioners across the world. This edited collection features analyses of cutting-edge new independent films and is conceived to serve as a beacon to guide future explorations into the burgeoning field of new Indian Cinema studies. Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram is Lecturer in World Cinema at Queen Mary, University of London, and author of India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid (Routledge, 2016). Ashvin was on the advisory panel for BFI India on Film—part of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. He is Programming Adviser and Associate Director of the UK Asian Film Festival—London (UKAFF), former Creative Director and founder of the Edinburgh Asian Film Festival (EAFF) and a BBC Academy Expert Voice in Cultural Studies and Visual Arts. Apart from several publications, including the co-edited anthology South Asian Diasporic Cinema and Theatre: Re-visiting Screen and Stage in the New Millennium (Rawat Publications, 2017), Ashvin has delivered an array of international presentations and lectures. These include keynote speeches at the Cinema For All (British Federation of Film Societies) Community Cinema Conference 2017 and the Annual Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial Lecture 2015 in London. Ashvin directed the documentary film Movies, Memories, Magic (2018) charting the London-based South Asian diaspora’s memories of cinema.

About the American Film Institute

The American Film Institute (AFI) is America’s promise to preserve the history of the motion picture, to honor the artists and their work and to educate the next generation of storytellers. AFI provides leadership in film, television and digital media and is dedicated to initiatives that engage the past, the present and the future of the motion picture arts. The AFI Film Readers Series is one of the many ways AFI supports the art of the moving image as part of our national activities. AFI preserves the legacy of America’s film heritage through the AFI Archive, comprised of rare footage from across the history of the moving image, and the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, an authoritative record of American films from 1893 to the present. Both resources are available to the public via AFI’s website. AFI honors moving image artists and their work through a variety of annual programs and special events, including the AFI Life Achievement Award, AFI Awards and AFI’s 100 Years . . . 100 Movies television specials. The AFI Life Achievement Award has remained the highest honor for a career in film since its inception in 1973; AFI Awards, the Institute’s almanac for the 21st century, honors the most outstanding motion pictures and television programs of the year; and AFI’s 100 Years . . . 100 Movies television events and movie reference lists have introduced and reintroduced classic American movies to millions of film lovers. And as the largest nonprofit exhibitor in the United States, AFI offers film enthusiasts a variety of events throughout the year, including AFI Fest, the longest running international film festival in Los Angeles; and AFI Docs, a 5-day international documentary film festival that takes place at landmark venues in Washington, DC and the world-class AFI Silver Theatre, the independent film hub of the metropolitan region. The AFI Silver Theatre also offers year-round programming in the Washington, DC metro area. AFI educates the next generation of storytellers at its world-renowned AFI Conservatory—named the #1 film school in the world by The Hollywood Reporter—offering a two-year Master of Fine Arts degree in six filmmaking disciplines: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design and Screenwriting.

Step into the spotlight and join other movie and television enthusiasts across the nation in supporting the American Film Institute’s mission to preserve, to honor and to educate by becoming a member of AFI today at AFI.com.

Robert S. Birchard Editor, AFI Catalog of Feature Films Color and the Moving Image Simon Brown, Sarah Street, and Liz Watkins Ecocinema Theory and Practice Stephen Rust, Salma Monani, and Sean Cubitt Media Authorship Cynthia Chris and David A. Gerstner Pervasive Animation Suzanne Buchan The Biopic in Contemporary Film Culture Tom Brown and Belén Vidal Cognitive Media Theory Ted Nannicelli and Paul Taberham Hollywood Puzzle Films Warren Buckland Endangering Science Fiction Film Sean Redmond and Leon Marvell New Silent Cinema Paul Flaig and Katherine Groo Teaching Transnational Cinema Katarzyna Marciniak and Bruce Bennett Fantasy/Animation Edited by Christopher Holliday and Alexander Sergeant Rediscovering U.S. Newsfilm Mark Garrett Cooper, Sara Beth Levavy, Ross Melnick, and Mark Williams For a full list of titles in this series, please visit www.routledge.com

Indian Cinema Beyond Bollywood The New Independent Cinema Revolution Edited by Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram

First published 2018 by Routledge 52 Vanderbilt Avenue, New York, NY 10017 and by Routledge 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4RN Routledge is an imprint of the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business © 2019 Taylor & Francis The right of Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram to be identified as the author of the editorial material, and of the authors for their individual chapters, has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reprinted or reproduced or utilised in any form or by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers. Trademark notice: Product or corporate names may be trademarks or registered trademarks, and are used only for identification and explanation without intent to infringe. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data A catalog record for this book has been requested ISBN: 978-0-8153-6860-1 (hbk) ISBN: 978-1-351-25426-7 (ebk) Typeset in Sabon by Apex CoVantage, LLC

Contents

List of Figures Acknowledgements Foreword

ix x xi

ROSIE THOMAS



Introduction: New Independent Indian Cinema: Disciplinary Evolution and Cinematic Revolution



ASHVIN IMMANUEL DEVASUNDARAM

 1 Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan: The Politics and Legacies of the New Wave Movement in Contemporary Indian Cinema

1

11

ANUJA JAIN

  2 From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema: The Story of NFDC and Film Bazaar

25

SUDHA TIWARI

  3 Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider Inside the National and International Legal Framework

46

PRETI TANEJA

  4 Queer Radiance: Margarita with a Straw, Disability and Vision

66

AMY VILLAREJO

  5 Indie Crowdfunded Narratives of Commercial Surrogacy, or the Contested Bodies of Neoliberalism: Onir’s ‘I Am Afia’ and Arpita Kumar’s Sita78 ANA CRISTINA MENDES

viii Contents   6 Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages: A Case Study in Diasporic Cocreation

100

MONIA ACCIARI

  7 Documentary as Witness; Documentary as Counter-Narrative: The Cinema of Sanjay Kak

117

APARNA SHARMA

  8 Divercity: Independent Documentary as an Alternative Narrative of the City

138

FAIZ ULLAH, ANJALI MONTEIRO AND K.P. JAYASANKAR

 9 Zanjeer to Pink: The Trajectory of Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young/Old Man Persona From Mainstream to Indie Cinema

161

SWARNAVEL ESWARAN

10 Rapping in Double Time: Gandu’s Subversive Time of Liberation

183

ASHVIN IMMANUEL DEVASUNDARAM

11 Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity: Quizzing Marathi Cinema

215

AARTI WANI

12 Untold Stories, Representations and Contestations: Masaan (Crematorium) and Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love)228 SANGEETA DATTA

13 Haobam Paban Kumar and the Cinemas of North East India

245

MEENAKSHI SHEDDE

14 The Subaltern Screams: Migrant Workers and the Police Station as Spatio-Carceral State of Exception in the Tamil Film Visaranai257 ASHVIN IMMANUEL DEVASUNDARAM

Contributors Index

281 286

Figures

1.1 Father walking to join the village council. 11 1.2 Time stands still, experience of duration. 12 1.3 Medium wide-angle framing of Dayalo wandering in the night. 16 1.4 Possible meeting of two protagonists, Dayalo and Melu. 17 3.1 Haider uses his noose as a microphone. 51 5.1 In the opening scene of Onir’s “I Am Afia”, the protagonist is seen nervously waiting for her sperm donor at a fertility clinic in Kolkata. 80 5.2 Afia decides to have a child as a single mother and she is met by surprise and incomprehension on the part of her friend Megha. 85 5.3 Sita occupies the frame in the opening scene of Arpita Kumar’s short film. 88 5.4 Threatened and insulted by Sandeep, a distressed Sita utters, ‘Surrogacy is no crime’. 89 6.1 Leela (Aahana Kumra), being forced into an arranged marriage, plots to elope with her lover to Delhi. 110 6.2 One of the protagonists, Usha (Ratna Pathak), rejuvenates her image and meets her young dream lover at a fair. 111 9.1 Angry young man Vijay in Deewar.162 9.2 Angry old man Sehgal in Pink.163 10.1 The vox populi. 185 10.2 Scrolling subtitles. 205 10.3 Gandu’s and Ricksha’s POV. 207 10.4 View of Q filming. 208 10.5 Second camera revealed. 208 10.6 Mise-en-abyme diptych. 209 10.7 Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, Prado Museum. 210 14.1 Instruments of torture in the police station space. 262 14.2 Vishweshwar Rao flogs Christ-like martyr, Pandi. 274

Acknowledgements

Thanks to all the volume’s contributors for being part of this exciting scholarly journey. I am grateful to Routledge’s Felisa Salvago-Keyes for her support, patience and assistance, and to Christina Kowalski for all her help along the way. Thanks to my mother, Hilda Devasundaram, who is a leading light for every path I undertake, and my father, Alex Devasundaram— the memory of his unflinching grassroots social work will always be an inspiration. To my siblings and families across transcontinental terrain— Bina, Avinash, Renji, Nithya, Ria, Shreya, Leah and Yohan. I am grateful to Rosie Thomas for providing the foreword to this edited collection. Most of all, my better half, John Field—thank you for all the love, forbearance, support and encouragement—this one’s dedicated to you.

Foreword

In summer 2011, the India Media Centre at the University of Westminster, in association with the London Indian Film Festival, organised a conference titled ‘What’s New? The Changing Face of Indian Cinema’. Its key question was, are we moving into a ‘post-Bollywood’ era? It was evident that important changes were underway within the firmament of Indian cinema. As we observed at the time, In recent years a growing number of popular (and not so popular) films made for commercial release have been challenging the conventions of the mainstream multi-genre, song and dance extravaganzas. These films are being made—both within and outside the prevailing studio system—in Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and elsewhere. From Dev D to Just Another Love Story, Udaan or Peepli Live, cinematic language is being explored, songs are disappearing or being used in different ways, and strong alternative storylines are presenting a new face of modern Indian society. These films’ hybrid sensibilities are increasingly appealing to the global aspirations of India’s urban “multiplex” generation. It was an exciting moment: we invited Anurag Kashyap and Rituparno Ghosh, amongst other filmmakers, to discuss these changes with us, as well as senior Indian cinema academics, including Shohini Ghosh, Lalitha Gopalan and Rachel Dwyer. But crucially, amongst the early career scholars presenting panel papers were Ashvin Devasundaram, the editor of the current volume, and four of the authors whose chapters comprise this book. Now, seven years on, it is clear that a major transformation of Indian cinema has taken place and that Ashvin, foreseeing this clearly, has positioned himself at the forefront of academic debate around these changes. His monograph India’s New Independent Cinema; Rise of the Hybrid smartly set the agenda for the new field. It argued for the new Indies as a ‘glocal hybrid form’ that emerged from under the shadow of mainstream Bollywood, from a middle ground between India’s globalising present and traditional past. In following this up swiftly with the current edited collection,

xii Foreword Ashvin has now assembled a range of interesting voices that, in dialogue with his monograph—and with each other, begin to flesh this moment out. Things have all happened very quickly. Looking back to 2011, it is fascinating to note that, at that time, we were still hedging our bets. Our conference concept note read: What are these films and why are they emerging now? Are they simply the latest in a long line of such moments in Indian cinema—from the first song-less Hindi film in 1937, to the Bengali arthouse movements of the 1950s and 1960s or the so-called parallel and middle cinemas of the 1970s and 1980s, and much besides? What lessons can this history teach us? What, if anything, do these films mean for the future of Indian cinema? Indeed, at that point in time, it still seemed possible that mainstream Bollywood, which Ashvin has memorably characterised as a ‘meta-hegemonic force’, might smother these green shoots of rebellion and revert to business as usual, as had happened again and again over the decades. Bombay’s first song-less film, J.B.H. Wadia’s Naujawan, sank without trace; the films of Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak, despite their international reputations, were scarcely known within India, apart from in Bengal; and the ‘new wave’ or ‘parallel’ cinemas of the 1970s and 1980s were ruthlessly squeezed out of most distribution and exhibition circuits, while parallel cinema stars such as Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil were borrowed by the likes of Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai for their glamorous masala multi-starrers. But this time around, it has indeed been different. There has been a paradigm shift; Indian cinema has changed irrevocably. The arrival of a stream of genuinely diverse independent films and a new production and exhibition infrastructure has shifted the goalposts, while the possibility of a new and invigorated Bollywood is emerging as the other side of this coin. Ashvin’s 2016 monograph began to outline the reasons for these changes. The current book extends the analysis, drawing on the insights of scholars from across a range of disciplinary backgrounds, who bring new perspectives to the table, from LGBTQ and disability studies to human rights. None of the films discussed here was made before 2011. And many of the questions that we were raising in 2011 are at last beginning to be addressed in this volume. It is a rich contribution to a burgeoning field. What is the future for academic study of this phenomenon? Indian film studies has grown exponentially over the last decade or so and it is true that much—but not all—of this has focused on the mainstream Hindi cinema. To some extent, this is a question of timing; many scholars saw it as too risky to start studying a phenomenon that was changing under their feet— although Ashvin has demonstrated that this was a risk worth taking. Moreover, given how comparatively recent the sub-discipline of Indian cinema

Foreword  xiii studies is, there is much catching-up to be done: compared with studies of other world cinemas, India, the largest film industry in the world, has been notoriously understudied and much material languishes in archives—formal and informal—awaiting rescue before it is lost forever. Besides, this emphasis on Hindi cinema is itself fairly recent. When I first arrived in Bombay in 1980, the situation was reversed: neither film industry-wallahs nor academics could understand why I would want to look at the much-derided popular Hindi cinema, about which there had been effectively no academic research. The art cinema, by contrast, was a reputable focus and boasted a small but impressive literature. A field takes time to grow and the current volume will inevitably set the agenda for more research and writing on India’s new independent cinema that can complement, broaden and challenge ongoing scholarship in this area as a whole. Finally, in the current social and political climate within India, where alternative narratives of all kinds—whether provocative fiction or bold documentary—are being smothered, it is vital that we have a strong and vigilant discipline that can ensure that films that overtly question these developments are properly documented. Already, one of the authors within this book, drawing on interviews with key protagonists, argues that Haider (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2014) could no longer be made and released in today’s India. This is an alarming and critical insight. We live in precarious times and the current book marks a milestone in a rapidly evolving social context that has serious implications for all. This collection is thus both extremely welcome and also very timely and urgent: it will undoubtedly make a significant contribution not only to film studies but also to the processes of documenting and challenging the contours of our present reality. Rosie Thomas University of Westminster

Introduction New Independent Indian Cinema: Disciplinary Evolution and Cinematic Revolution Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram The rise of new independent Indian cinema is a widely acknowledged yet unfathomably understudied phenomenon. To redress this anomalous knowledge gap, my monograph, India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid (2016a), as the first academic analysis on the topic, was designed to serve as a bellwether for future research in this area. Since the title’s publication, the domain of Indian Indie filmmaking has witnessed a continual and sustained period of expansion and intensifying discursive entanglements with political, religious, social and cultural structures in India. The Indies are a heterogeneous film form that have emerged as a distinctive and cohesive cohort, especially since 2010. As a hybrid and farraginous amalgamation of the Cinemas of India—Indian Parallel arthouse cinema of the 1970s and ‘80s, contemporary global cinemas, regional vernacular films and even elements of Bollywood, the new Indies ‘reflect multifarious dimensions’ of ‘multi-layered modern Indian society’ (Devasundaram, 2016a: 2). In terms of thematic content, the distinguishing factor is ‘the new Indies narrate micro-narratives—the minority and alternative stories of nation excluded from Bollywood film representations’ (ibid.). The contention that the Indies should be perceived as a bona fide film space distinct from mainstream Bollywood has been exonerated by the prodigious abundance of Indie films that are now a normalised feature of India’s annual cinematic output. Indeed, it seems axiomatic to acknowledge that the Indies have orchestrated a revolutionary transformation of the Bollywood-dominated Indian cinema topography. Expanding on the monograph’s foundational precedent, this edited volume paints a broader picture and creates a much-needed multilogue around the new Indian Indies. It aims to act as a comprehensive transdisciplinary compendium of diverse theoretical, philosophical, epistemological and practice-based perspectives on the new Indies, featuring contributions from a spectrum of scholars across the world. The volume’s panoptic credo resonates with the thesis that the Indies are glocal—global in aesthetic and local in content. This curated collection of essays aims to build cross-cultural, transdisciplinary and transdiscursive conversations that focus fully on the new Indian Indies as an independent field of film study worthy of dedicated

2  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram analysis. In this regard, the volume aims to draw independent Indian cinema out of Bollywood’s towering shadow in the shape of the industry’s metahegemony (Devasundaram, 2016a), engaging simultaneously with the historical and contemporary socio-political and cultural contexts of the Indies’ emergence. The volume’s overarching theme states that the new Indies are breaching the Bollywood bastion, and are revolutionising contemporary Indian cinema by providing a more nuanced, multifaceted, self-appraising and alternative insight into India. In addition to pathbreaking essays on Indie production, exhibition, distribution and representation (particularly Indie portrayals of LGBTQ and caste issues, disability and female surrogacy), the volume provides a valuable insight into independent Indian documentary filmmaking, a much neglected but vital component of the alternative Indian filmmaking domain. We all inhabit a rather precarious and splintered global landscape where the violent thrust towards monocultural, logocentric, ethnocentric and absolutist ideologies of nationalism can be conflated with the ascendant wave of insular nativist and populist politics in the US, Hungary, Austria and Italy. India is immersed in its own theocratic brand of this nationalist upsurge, which is liberally infused not only with majoritarian religious chauvinism but matched with violent vigilantism against minorities under the guardianship of incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). We have witnessed since 2014, the ostensibly ineluctable ascendency of the BJP’s saffron wave spearheaded by the twinning of the isolationist metaphysical ideology of Hindutva (Hindu-ness) and the equally ephemeral desire for an inviolate Hindu Rashtra (Hindu nation). This expropriation and perversion of the actual ethos of Hinduism, which is by default syncretic, tolerant and embracing of multiplicity and difference rather than sameness, embodies a clear and present danger to the enduring polytheistic, multi-ethnic fabric—the much vaunted but increasingly imperilled ‘unity in diversity’ of the nation. At a time when India is staring down the crossroads of its ontological raison d’etre as a secular democratic nation, the role of cinema as a mirror for self-evaluation and as a barometer of socio-political vicissitudes has never seemed so important. This is precisely where the Indies’ provision of a cinematic space to articulate alternative, secondary and tertiary narratives that challenge the status quo and ruling power becomes paramount. With the curtailment of free speech and expression, magnified levels of moral policing and continued state oversight of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)—commonly called the censor board, filmmakers can use independent cinema to combat the combined repressive forces of sociocultural orthodoxy and politico-religious dogmatism. In significant measure, the Indies function as interpretative interlocutors to represent India’s suspension between religious tradition and neoliberal modernisation. This volume demonstrates that the Indies are positioned at a

Introduction  3 crucial vantage point of being able to narrate alternative stories and engage explicitly in political discourse. By this property, they are unlike mainstream Bollywood—the state’s plenipotentiary of cultural soft power (Devasundaram, 2016b) that endorses the ruling order and status quo and validates the majority narrative of the nation. The Indies have been subsumed under the appellation—‘new wave of Indian Indies’ (Verma, 2011), yet, the Indies are comprised of polymorphous, heterogeneous and individual strands that converge in their unique ability to present parallax or unconventional perspectives of modern India—a non-Bollywood’s-eye view. In this regard the volume’s individual chapters focus on specific Indies and their particular themes and discourses, showcasing how the diversity of these films coalesces under the canopy of their critical, diverging and non-mainstream content. Another significant aim of the volume is to represent the diverse geopolitical and geographical spread of the new Indies. Departing from the arguably tendentious Hindi cinema paradigm of scholarly literature on Indian cinema, the volume accords due attention to the Marathi, Tamil, Bengali and Manipuri independent film spaces. These regional-language Indie films from across the nation, are important parts of the Indian Indie New Wave, providing a powerful alternative voice to the Mumbai-centric and Hindidominated Bollywood space. The volume also engages with the multiple and heterodox logistical and structural mechanisms through which Indies are funded, exhibited and distributed. The role of the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), film festivals and crowdfunding are examined in specific detail, demonstrating and emphasising the Indies’ distinction from Bollywood’s monolithic mainstream model of production and distribution. The anthology is committed to underscoring the Indies as a bastion for strong female roles both behind and in front of the camera. Several Indies could be classified with confidence as ‘F-Rated’ (female rated)—a moniker traceable to Bath Film Festival Director Holly Tarquini’s coinage for films featuring a female director, scriptwriter and actors (F Rated, 2018). This undergirding of female perspectives is affirmed by the fact that 11 of the volume’s 14 chapter contributions, not to mention the foreword, are scripted by eminent female scholars, filmmakers and film critics. The volume is dedicated to delivering as cutting-edge and up-to-date an analysis as possible. Therefore, it includes several films released after 2013, such as Margarita with a Straw, Haider, Sairat, Masaan, Visaranai and a plethora of others. Importantly, the volume presents an insight into the Indies’ hybridity in terms of their selective absorption of Bollywood stars to propel their unconventional narrative themes. A chapter on Amitabh Bachchan’s ‘angry old man’ role in Pink (2016) reinforces the volume’s thesis that the new Indies are a distinct rising force that has had a significant knock-on effect on the Bollywood industry. As a constantly evolving formative process the new wave of Indies necessitates continual and rigorous scholarly evaluation, research and investigation. The unjustifiably sidelined sphere of documentary cinema in India

4  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram constitutes a special focus in this volume. Indian documentary filmmaking could be framed as distinctive and autonomous, but also an integral part of the Indie space (Devasundaram, 2016a). In this regard, a brace of chapters is integrated into the narrative of this collection. This practical component harmonises with the theoretical and textual analysis elements of the volume. The chapter contributions on documentary cinema draw from the authors’ activism-oriented, film practice-based research and public engagement. This ‘Indie fiction film meets Indie documentary’ approach facilitates a holistic and dynamic ensemble, demonstrating the Indies’ own confluences and detours in their multi-faceted individual approaches to breaching the Bollywood bastion. The aforementioned hybrid configurations and heterodox modes of filmmaking are vital ingredients in rendering the Indies a new and distinct voice that is revolutionising Indian cinema, and gaining global attention. Evidence of the new Indies’ elevation to global visibility is manifested in their augmented presence at international film festivals and a growing interest in accessing these alternative films at the grassroots level in the western world. For instance, Cinema For All (British Federation of Film Societies) commissioned a new independent Indian cinema guide for their website (Devasundaram, 2018), and are assiduous in their drive to broaden and optimise their online repository to include Indian Indie films, rendering them accessible to film societies and community clubs in cities as well as remote rural regions of the UK. This has stimulated vigorous interest in programming bespoke film seasons devoted to Indian Indie films. On a pedagogical level, the first university module in the UK, devoted to the streamlined study of contemporary independent Indian cinema was introduced into the film studies curriculum at Queen Mary, University of London in 2017–18. Following the presentation of salient points pertaining to this edited volume, it is now appropriate to segue into specific elucidation of how the anthology’s individual chapters are sutured together to create a multilogue around the multiple thematic strands described thus far.

Volume Overview Anuja Jain’s chapter provides a cogent entry point to the anthology, diving into the ethereal diegetic world of Gurvinder Singh’s seminal Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse, 2011). Jain reveals how the earlier avant-garde new wave Parallel cinema movement of the 1970s punctuated by an array of filmmaking luminaries serves as the building block for the new independent films since 2010. In this context, Jain positions Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan as Singh’s filmic paean to his mentor and Parallel cinema titan, the late Mani Kaul, who was also the film’s creative producer. The chapter discloses micro-level stories of marginalised rural inhabitants in a remote Punjab village, which hyperlinks to broader discourses of poverty, feudalism and rapid industrialisation. These topical themes also present a

Introduction  5 compelling case for framing earlier social realist Parallel cinema as the progenitor of the current crop of new Indies. Picking up the thread from the previous chapter, Sudha Tiwari shines a light on the pre-eminent role played by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) during the heydays of Parallel and middle cinema in the 1970s and the 1980s, assessing the impact on the new Indian Indies in contemporary times. Tiwari traces the trajectory of the organisation from its provenance as the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) to its current avatar as the NFDC, focusing on specific endeavours to reinvigorate the largely attenuated role of this state-run initiative which was conceived to support independent and non-mainstream cinema. The chapter provides insights into some of these mechanisms and avenues, such as the Film Bazaar Co-Production Market, established to launch and promote independent films in national and international circuits of distribution. The following chapter on Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider (2014), an incendiary indigenised adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, deploys the perspective of national and international legal frameworks pertaining to human rights that are routinely shot down and disregarded by the Indian state, especially in regions of conflict and disputation. Through the lens of Haider, Taneja tackles the thorny and perennially contentious theme of the Indian army’s state-sanctioned presence, excesses and atrocities in the trouble-torn valley of Kashmir. Her interrogation of the stylised and Parliament-ratified Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which tacitly grants Indian soldiers carte blanche to capture or kill ordinary Kashmiri civilians, is particularly relevant to this anthology, as this idiosyncratic and dubious legal statute is broached in other chapters. Continuing the theme of new Indian Indie cinema breaching borders and breaking barriers, Amy Villarejo appraises Shonali Bose’s Margarita with a Straw (2014) to examine the twin discourses of LGBTQ identity and what it means to be a physically challenged woman in modern India. Villarejo traces the local and global ethos of this discursive intertwining through the lived experience of the film’s protagonist, who is involved in a lesbian relationship and has cerebral palsy. This confluence of themes, rarely discussed with candour in India, resonates with the volume’s central credo of the Indies fomenting a cinematic transformation through the telling of taboo stories. Ana Cristina Mendes contributes the subsequent segment, which concatenates the increasingly popular alternative production and distribution strategies of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing with the topical and exigent theme of commercial surrogacy in India. The chapter assesses this compelling juxtaposition of pragmatic Indie proliferation portals and socially relevant themes through textual analyses of crowdfunded and crowdsourced films—Onir’s portmanteau piece, I Am (2010) and Arpita Kumar’s short film, Sita (2013). Mendes harnesses the two films to argue that surrogacy in India remains a largely unregulated reproductive commercial enterprise.

6  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram The tenebrous conjoining of surrogacy with global corporate practices of medical tourism exposes the dark underbelly of the notion of the glocal. Whilst crowd-collaborations are an ascendant alternative to often prohibitive, exclusive and Bollywood-dominated mainstream fountainheads of funding, Monia Acciari’s chapter emphasises the importance of the international film festival circuit as a lifeline for new Indian Indies such as Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) to proliferate globally and obtain the oxygen of exhibition, particularly in a milieu where censorship regimes can be draconian and repressive. Acciari draws on her personal experience of curating, co-creating and working with UK-based film festivals catering to South Asian audiences, bringing Indian Indies to a specific diaspora and wider intercultural viewership. Commensurate with the volume’s commitment to acknowledging the independent ethos of the Indian documentary film sector, the next two chapters engage in analyses of non-fiction film practice. In her chapter, Aparna Sharma perceives the architecture of documentaries not only as a form of autonomous film creation but as a mode of independent thinking. This cognitive agency that delineates and distinguishes the documentary sector within independent Indian cinema is largely animated by activist involvement and personal entwinement in the political and social themes espoused by documentarians in the diegetic frames they create. So, whilst fiction feature Indie filmmakers present trenchant, incisive and interrogative representations of discourses in the lived sphere from a distance, their factual film counterparts are more often than not physically and psychologically entangled in the midst of the subject matter they are filming. Aparna Sharma’s chapter analysis includes her enlightening interview with pathbreaking documentarian, Sanjay Kak—whose heterodox approach to left of field political themes and issues is testament to the specificities, nuances and polyvocality of the independent documentary film constellation in India. The conversation also speaks to Sharma’s thesis on modes of documentary-making acting as a motor for cognitive change—an independent thought process. The notion of multiple voices is reflected in the triune authorship of the next chapter by Faiz Ullah, Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar. Their long-standing grassroots pedagogical and activist work via the documentary medium in Mumbai frames the architecture of this chapter. The persuasive proposition raised in this study relates to independent documentary filmmaking serving as an alternative archive of the city, thereby challenging the accepted ‘reality’ of the city as scripted by a monadic authorised grand narrative. The contributors elucidate their local-level initiatives and outreach activities engaging students in co-creative factual filmmaking and the authors’ harnessing of digital spaces via a DiverCity Web Archive, ultimately providing a conduit for voices from below. Overall, the abovementioned two chapters present important insights into the influence of established documentary stalwarts such as Anand

Introduction  7 Patwardhan, Sanjay Kak and Surabhi Sharma in the rapidly developing matrix of multimodal and polyform documentary filmmaking strategies in the digital age. In particular, the two chapters’ location and definition of the documentary domain within the Indian Indie space is woven seamlessly into the thematic tapestry of this compendium. The increasingly irrepressible, assertive and naturalised presence of Indies alongside Bollywood in the circuits of Indian cinema is reflected by the keen interest of mainstream megastars to gain some of the gravitas associated with appearing or being associated with a topical or socially relevant independent film. Swarnavel Eswaran’s chapter charts the trajectory of one of the iconic figureheads of mainstream Indian cinema—Amitabh Bachchan, from his emblematic angry young man persona crystallised in Zanjeer (1973) to his more sagacious, yet passionately idealistic, angry old man in independent film, Pink (2016). Transgressive and subversive film texts have punctuated the timeline of the new Indian Indies. The enfant terrible of Indian Indie cinema, Q’s Gandu (2010) remains a rupturing punctum in the studium (Barthes, 1988)—if one could analogise the new wave of Indies to a photographic snapshot in the diachronic historiography of new independent Indian cinema. My analysis of Gandu (which appeared previously in my monograph) is reprised in this volume to demonstrate how this seminal Indie from 2010 still remains a bellwether in its irreverent explication of an absent indigenous subversive counterculture. The film’s postmodern musical imagination of an iconoclastic young rapper—Gandu, trapped in a teenage wasteland that is archetypally Indian, addresses the larger schism between tradition and modernity. The chapter also unveils how the film’s explicit nudity, profanity and unbridled articulations of sexuality remain controversial themes susceptible to censorship. The above theme of a younger generation often alienated from the hermetic confines of conservative traditions and values segues into the next chapter on Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (Wild, 2016) which takes on the topic of young star-crossed lovers dislocated by caste divisions, and like Gandu, marginalised from the mainstream. Marathi cinema continues to constitute a fecund powerhouse of the independent film sector, and Aarti Wani’s chapter is an apt counterpoint to the previous chapter by analysing portrayals of transgressive femininity in Sairat, simultaneously assessing the film’s hybrid amalgamation of Bollywood codes and visceral Indie content. Sangeeta Datta transfers the theme of forbidden young love across caste, class and social divides towards the northeastern region, with a double reading of the multi-strand mosaic film Masaan (Crematorium, 2015) set in Varanasi and Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love, 2014) with its narrative located in Kolkata in West Bengal. Describing the formal, stylistic and thematic qualities and sensibilities of the two films, Datta indicates the ascendency of independent Indian filmmaking and its broadening reception in general, gesturing to the particularly prolific and prominent Indie output in 2017, in particular.

8  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram The thrust towards the eastern zone of independent filmmaking, from Varanasi to Kolkata ventures further afield to the less traversed and largely overlooked but burgeoning non-commercial cinema production encompassing the northeastern ‘Seven Sister States’ region. Meenakshi Shedde adopts the canonical work of pathbreaking Manipuri documentary director Haobam Paban Kumar, focusing on his debut feature, Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, 2016) as the fulcrum to investigate the tempestuous political milieu in which independent filmmakers from Manipur, Assam and other northeastern states make films, whilst surmounting a plethora of mitigating factors. Shedde provides region-specific context to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) mentioned earlier. She draws on Kumar’s factual film AFSPA, 1958 (2006) to describe the Indian armed forces apparatus’s seizure of civil liberties in Manipur, mirroring Preti Taneja’s interrogation of AFSPA in Kashmir. My chapter brings the volume to its conclusion, reaffirming the credo that Indies can exhume ghosts of forgotten and precluded stories. In the chapter, I call for the broadening of Giorgio Agamben’s influential but largely AmeroEurocentric philosophical paradigm of a state of exception. I advance this argument through a discursive reading of Vetrimaaran’s visceral Tamil film Visaranai (2015) portraying the wrongful arrest and custodial torture of a group of ‘lower caste’ Dalit Tamil migrant workers in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state. I position the police station as a spatio-carceral state of exception, highlighting the specific Indian context of caste-discrimination by signposting how social and carceral spaces can be mobilised spontaneously by the police, politicians and privileged citizens to persecute ‘lower caste’ subalterns and minorities. Overall, this finale to the volume reiterates how interrogative Indies can create captious cinematic discourses that indict the state and ruling superstructures in discriminatory social practices and human rights violations that can otherwise go unchecked. This volume’s decoupage of scholarly perspectives reflects the common motif of the Indies’ heterogeneity—revealing a palimpsest of discursive layers, and thereby destabilising and dismantling Bollywood’s monadic mode of thinking. In addition, the fact that the Indies have thrust a mirror in front of hegemonic Bollywood, interpellating the mainstream leviathan and causing the industry to introspect, reappraise and reorient its stereotypical mode, grammar and idiom of cinematic expression, is case in point. For example, films such as Padman (2018) positioning Bollywood star Akshay Kumar as an altruistic social campaigner for quintessentially female issues such as the struggle to pluralise access to sanitary pads is a telling departure from previous norms. Bollywood’s unprecedented embracing of this alternative subject matter testifies to a growing cognisance of social themes and issues that seems paradoxical to Bollywood’s hitherto ‘turn a blind eye’ policy to issues of subaltern oppression, economic disparity and social injustice. These inchoate manifestations of newfound social concern are particularly conspicuous because Bollywood has previously privileged its larger commercial interests of upholding neoliberal capitalism and

Introduction  9 aspirational middle-class values, positing affluence as the apotheosis of the nouveau riche cosmopolitan Indian bourgeoisie. It is worth mentioning the small-budget independent film Phullu (2017), which preceded Padman in its representation of a male crusader campaigning for women’s basic right to access sanitary pads. Another low-budget Indie film I-Pad directed by Amit Rai, with an almost identical theme to Padman received a warm reception at film festivals in 2015, but was shunned by corporate production houses on the basis that its content was too experimental and risky (Kumar, 2017). Another key example of Bollywood casting a hopeful eye towards the Indies for guidance and inspiration is Veere di Wedding (2018) which has been analogised to Sex and the City, but is closer to Alankrita Shrivastava’s controversial Indie, Lipstick Under My Burkha (2015). Both films share the strategy of portraying four women shackled to situations of patriarchy and objectification. The controversy inflamed by a sequence in Veere di Wedding, featuring a female character deploying a vibrator to derive selfgratification is almost a mimesis of censorship authorities inveighing against a similar sequence in Lipstick Under My Burkha—a film initially denied a certificate of release for being ‘too lady-oriented’ in the words of erstwhile CBFC chairman Pahlaj Nihalani. Instances of hybridisation between Bollywood and the independent space as exemplified in the two above scenarios, stand poised to complicate and problematise even further the easy categorisation or binarisation of Indian cinema. In the sense of Indies leading the way with formal, stylistic and thematic experimentation, the multiple evaluations, analyses and case studies in this volume bolster the thesis that the Indies are the future torchbearers of Indian cinema. Ultimately, this edited volume aims to present a timely, topical and dynamic intervention into an established Bollywood-centric field of study. If India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid acted as a starting point in addressing a conspicuous knowledge gap, this edited volume aims to foray even further, forging new thematic ground, broadening, diversifying, updating and appraising critically the themes raised as well as not covered in the monograph. This anthology of multiple scholarly voices therefore endeavours collectively to serve as a beacon to guide expansive future explorations by emerging and established researchers and scholars, as well as usher film aficionados into the widening field of new independent Indian cinema studies.

References Barthes, R. (1988). Camera Lucida. New York: The Noonday Press. Devasundaram, A. (2016a). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Devasundaram, A. (2016b). ‘Bollywood’s Soft Power: Branding the Nation, Sustaining a Meta-Hegemony’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 14(1): 51–70.

10  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Devasundaram, A. (2018). New Indian Cinema Guide—Cinema for All. Cinema for All. Available at: https://cinemaforall.org.uk/advice/new-resources-2018/newindian-cinema-guide/ [Accessed 11 June 2018]. F Rated. (2018). Home—F Rated. Available at: http://f-rated.org/ [Accessed 11 June 2018]. Kumar, A. (2017). ‘Padman and “I-Pad”: Arunachalam Muruganantham’s Success Story Spurs Many Cinematic Tales’, The Hindu. Available at: www.thehindu. com/entertainment/movies/man-versus-market/article18954904.ece [Accessed 11 June 2018]. Verma, R. (2011). ‘Beyond Bollywood: Indian Cinema’s New Cutting Edge’, The Guardian. Available at: www.theguardian.com/film/2011/jun/23/india-indepen dent-cinema [Accessed 11 June 2018].

1  Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan The Politics and Legacies of the New Wave Movement in Contemporary Indian Cinema Anuja Jain It is a foggy, winter morning. A man wakes up to the call of alms for the blind horses in a village, and asks for a cup of tea. His wife implores the daughter to get up and make the tea. She does, lighting the earthen stove in the outer courtyard, waking up her brother and sending him out with the goats while the water comes to a boil. The father sits sipping tea when a neighbour passing by, calls out for him to join the village council to demand justice for the demolition of a house on the outskirts of the village. A few shots later, against a haunting soundtrack, we see the camera slowly tracking through a fog-covered lane with the father eventually entering the frame (see Figure 1.1). Another neighbour passing by taps him on the shoulder and implores him to walk faster. He comes to an abrupt halt. The camera continues to track forward rendering him out of focus, and cuts 180° to a direct frontal shot. As the camera re-orients on him, he still doesn’t move, and the camera swiftly switches to a flattened telephoto lens with him in an extreme close up. The camera begins pulling back, continuing its onwards tracking,

Figure 1.1  Father walking to join the village council.

12  Anuja Jain rendering the image estranged, oneiric. The man continues to stand still, experiencing time as it too stands still (see Figure 1.2). Doing so, the film foregrounds the juxtaposing experiences of duration, time and attention as it experiments with encounters between objects, materials, tonalities and temporalities. This opening sequence is the prologue to Gurvinder Singh’s debut film Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan/Alms for a Blind Horse (Henceforth, AGDD). Made in 2011, the film is based on a novel of the same name by Jnanpith award winning Punjabi writer Gurdial Singh. Shot in just 45 days in a village near Bhatinda, Punjab, and funded by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC), the film became the first Punjabi language film to premiere and compete at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and went on to win critical acclaim both nationally and internationally. It won awards for the best director, cinematography, and best feature film in the Punjabi language at the 59th National Awards in addition to special mention at the Venice and Abu Dhabi film festivals among others. An NFDC production, the title at the beginning of the film reads: For Mani, in Remembrance. Mani Kaul, one of the key figures of the New Wave cinema in the 1970s, was significantly the creative producer of the film. In July 2011, he passed away after a long battle with cancer.1 In its form and narrative, AGDD is a tribute to Kaul who was Singh’s long-standing mentor, and vividly evokes Kaul’s landmark first film Uski Roti/A Day’s Bread (1970). Based on a short story by Indian novelist and playwright Mohan Rakesh (1925–1972), narrated in third person point of view, Uski Roti describes a day in the life of Balo, a housewife who lives in a village in Punjab and waits at a bus stop for her husband to collect his meal, his daily bread. Sparse in its narrative and dialogues, as Uski Roti dramatises Balo’s

Figure 1.2  Time stands still, experience of duration.

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  13 interiority that Rakesh’s modernist story attempted in literary form, the film is indicative of Kaul’s larger preoccupation with exploring temporality and space, both inner and outer, to playing with the cinematic image and form to convey a deep stillness of being (Bhaskar, 2013: 22). Distinct in its use of stillness of camera and scenes, shot stunningly by cinematographer K.K. Mahajan who went on to work with a lot of other New Wave filmmakers, the film is marked by a strong predominance of close-ups, long silent sequences and measured, slow motion gestures which create an extremely slow rhythm. Saturated with almost chromatic images, and a powerfully evocative play of silence and sound, reminiscent of Uski Roti, AGDD too narrates a day in the lives of a family in a village in Punjab. It is a haunting portrayal of their existence as they battle poverty, feudalism and industrial development. The film tells the story of a Dalit household with an elderly father, mother, two brothers and a sister. It begins with the demolition of a house by the local landlords who have sold the land for setting up a factory. Gradually we learn that the mother works on the farm of a landlord, and Melu, the elder son, is a cycle rickshaw driver in the city. He participates in a strike, and gets injured. He tries to spend the night at a friend’s house, but is denied room. Fatigued, he returns to the village just when his father has left for the city to meet him. Melu runs into his sister, Dayalo who has been wandering, restlessly through the village. And the film ends with both of them walking home in silence. In an interview, talking about the film, director Gurvinder Singh says: At the surface, Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan speaks about the margins where the socially repressed and exploited have been conveniently cast away. It’s about a day in the lives of a family who are witnesses to the play of power equation unfolding around them. It’s about silent witnesses devoid of power to change or influence the course of destiny. It’s about invisible violence and desires, simmering discontent and angst that is reflected on people’s faces. (Dutta, 2011) As the film portrays the listlessness, the sheer helplessness of Dalit life both in rural and urban contexts, and meticulously charts the miniscule shifts of emotion in human behaviour, the film is as much invested in exploring the way cinema can affect us and sensitise us to the precarious human condition as it is oriented towards an experimentation with cinematic modalities for exploring new relations between meaning and form. Filmed in 35 mm, and shot on location with a cast of non-professional actors, the film is informed by a slow, careful formalism. When the film won the national award, the press release read: For its haunting portrayal of the lives of people in a village as they battle with the reality of large scale industrial development. Gurvinder Singh

14  Anuja Jain deploys an inventive storytelling form where sound, space and body operate distinctly to frame the experience of a fragile existence. Each face portrayed in the film carries the signs of persistent trauma. This is an aesthetic tour de force that confidently and successfully reinvents the contours of Indian experimental cinema. (Cited in Bhaskar, 2013: 31) This citation not only underlines the aesthetic concerns and innovative form of the film, but also invokes the significance of the experimental traditions within the Indian New Wave movement, pointing to an inheritance to be cherished and celebrated. Launched in the early 1970s by the state funding made available through the setting up of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC), a cluster of low-budget, non- commercial, non-studio produced films succeeded in creating a niche for themselves.2 The diverse and uneven range of cinematic forms and practices that this state-funded experiment made viable has variably been termed as ‘New cinema’, ‘Art cinema’ or ‘Parallel cinema’. The term ‘New Wave’ remains contested, and in this essay, I use the term as it captures effectively the surge of cinematic innovation and experimentation in the 1970s and 80s, denoting a marked shift in the production, aesthetics and concerns of cinema. Marked by unconventional themes and styles, a resolute rejection of values and mode of mainstream commercial cinema, ranging from auteurist experimentation to cinematic realism, the films generated a kind of seriousness and enthusiasm which Indian cinema had never before received. In her writing on the New Wave, Bhaskar aptly notes, despite the tremendous diversity in political ideologies and aesthetic choices, the “new Indian cinema” that these films inaugurated was connected to a shared concern with aesthetics, to a seriousness of intent, and to a representation of social issues with a drive towards an understanding of reality in all its complexities, contradictions and ambiguities. (2013: 19) While the lack of distribution and exhibition, inability to reach its audiences, and a consequent financial non-viability, led to the demise of the movement by the mid-1990s, it has nonetheless left an important legacy of cinematic innovation that can be seen influencing the contemporary forms of Indian cinema today. Since the mid-2000s, in conjunction with the shift from a Nehruvian developmentalist paradigm to a neoliberal context, the Bombay film industry has witnessed a dramatic corporatisation and regulation of production and finance practices. The re-organisation of industrial practices has dramatically altered modes of movie distribution and exhibition. It has engendered structural transformations of the film industry from a highly unregulated, unorganised sector located within the domain of India’s

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  15 informal economy to its refashioning as a global entertainment industry. It has also made viable experimentation and new transformations in film form and style. However, within the emergence of these new formations and practices, initiated by the changes in the industry and impact of global cinema on contemporary filmmakers, I would argue that the impulses and the influence of the New Wave moment have also persisted. From Nishant Kamat’s Marathi language film, Dombivali Fast (2005) and Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan (2015) that focus on the representation of social reality to cinematic experimentation with the ever-changing form of realism in Amit Dutta’s Nainsukh (2010) and Ashim Ahluwalia’s Events in a Cloud Chamber (2016) the legacy of the New Wave movement and its variety of concerns are discernible. In Ankhon Dekhi (2013), as actor-director Rajat Kapoor undertakes the philosophical exploration of life, and notions of seeing and believing, he echoes Gurvinder Singh in dedicating the film ‘to his idols and teachers, filmmakers Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani’. Doing so, he too explicitly foregrounds the influence of the New Wave moment. Though the context and form of many of these current films, often referred to as the new ‘indies’ in journalistic and industrial frames of reference is different from that of the New Wave films, I would argue that it is very much informed by the legacy of a short-lived but powerful cinematic moment of innovation and experimentation. Drawing on Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan, my essay will analyse the form and style of the film to trace and interrogate this legacy and its politics in contemporary South Asian cinema. Focusing specifically on Kaul’s influence on Singh, the essay will focus on the ways in which the formal experimentation and idealistic affinities of Kaul, especially those in Uski Roti have come to influence Singh’s own cinematic language as he seeks to lend visibility to the invisible violence and desires, simmering discontent and interior consciousness of the suffering villagers. In an interview talking about his long-standing association with Kaul, and Kaul’s influence on his directorial debut, Singh reminiscences that Kaul could only see the first seven minutes of the opening sequence of the film which he edited at Kaul’s house. He was waiting for Singh to come and show him the full edit when he suddenly passed away. His last email to Singh read: In the realm of employing time as a cinematographic tool, the space must freely become what it will. Time is not enslaved by spatial conventions of creating physical significances. Space is devoted to cause a­ nd effect paradigm, time is free of it because it is carried by no (cause­and effect) agency. One reason why we continue to hopelessly imagine that cause­and­effect will save us. The truth is that quite unexpectedly time takes or does not take its toll. It saves when things point to an end, it destroys when things appear imperishable. MK (Dutta, 2011)

16  Anuja Jain A similar space-time axis also comes to influence AGDD. Rather than organising space, the film places itself in juxtaposing temporalities, into a certain quality of attention and let the space be. For example, in the closing sequence of the film, Dayalo, the youngest daughter of the household, restless, steps out in the middle of the night to the edge of the village when her older brother, Melu, who is a cycle rickshaw driver in the city, returns to the village and runs into her. He takes her back with him, and the meeting of the two protagonists possibly takes place (see Figure 1.4). I say ‘possibly’ because as the film draws to a close, we witness how Singh, sharing Kaul’s commitment to Bressonian principles of fragmentation and combination, creates a cinematic form that embodies the experience of the crisis of human subjectivity. In this sequence as through the film, he alternates between the use of two lenses—28 mm and 135 mm and attributes thematic characteristics to them that generate opposing visual effects. The first lens, a medium wide-angle with its total focusing confers a hyper realistic quality to the images, as we see Dayalo walking through the sombre, mist- shrouded frames dominated by the constricting physical contours of the space within which the lives of the villagers is set (see Figure 1.3). Whereas, the second, a narrow telephoto lens with its selective and critical focusing lends a dream quality to images as we see at various points in the sequence—Dayalo in extreme close up or when the camera pauses on the wide-angle composition of the villager chiding the man asking for alms for the blind horses and shifts to a tightly closed in telephoto shot, isolating the men from their surroundings as it does with the shot of Melu towards the end where following the lenses twodimensional effect, the image loses its space-time coordinates and instead becomes a mental image.

Figure 1.3  Medium wide-angle framing of Dayalo wandering in the night.

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  17

Figure 1.4  Possible meeting of two protagonists, Dayalo and Melu.

In playing with the lenses and shifting camera distances, Singh follows Kaul’s experimentation of using this technique in Uski Roti. As Kaul explains, he confines the film to two lenses, and makes them represent the actual and mental life of the waiting wife. . . . I mean, the wide angle provided the universal focus and the extra actuality of the cinematographic image, and the long [focal length] a critical range of sharpness or a certain dream quality. (1974: 5). As in Uski Roti, where mid film onwards, the line between Balo’s inner and outer reality grows thinner and dimmer, and according to Kaul, the lenses were freed of their strict representation so that it is the ‘real’ world which appears almost as hallucination while hallucination takes on the shape of reality, in this sequence also we witness a similar blurring of the distinction between Dayalo’s outer and inner reality. However, while this dream-reality paradigm is symptomatic of Dayalo’s mentalscape, as it conveys the emptiness of her life, her loneliness and larger sense of isolation and alienation of the people in the village, given Singh’s stated experiment with cinematic space, it is difficult to ascribe any immediate and simple symbolism to the experience of the shot as it unfolds. I would argue that rather than strictly indicating Dayalo’s fusion of dream and reality, instead, free of diegetic compulsions it is also part of film’s overall experimentation with the encounter between the object and the viewer across cinematic space.

18  Anuja Jain At a Robert J. Flaherty seminar, in response to a question about the process of composing the images in Uski Roti, Kaul (1998) pointed out that it doesn’t interest him to compose his shots, or frame them in anyway. Even when he is editing, his shots have a mobility—when a shot travels through the reels and finds a place, he knows that it has a quality of holding the spectator—‘the position is its meaning’ (1998: 172). Singh is very much influenced by this aesthetic practice of Kaul which we witness in Uski Roti where Kaul ‘does not intend to create a reality by treating a “fragment” in relation with another “fragment” and yet another “fragment” ’ (Cossio, 2003: 127). In AGDD too we similarly witness that each shot does not propose a referential and semantic relation with the consequent shot in terms of establishing or completing a meaning. Without a clear beginning, middle and an end, shots and sequences appear autonomous, independent from one another, with progress relying on juxtaposition rather than a cause-effect relation. Reflecting upon his cinematic technique Kaul noted: for me it is not just a question of finding technical means, but of discovering such a technical arrangement as would sustain itself . . . technique is not subservient to the meaning, nor is it independent of it. It is neither the cause of meaning nor its effect. So that the moment itself is its own meaning. (Kaul, 1974: 5) Influenced by Kaul’s cinematic vision, Singh too problematises the conventional meanings and references as he experiments with the relationship between the meaning and form in AGDD. Liberating the shot from its allegiance to continuities imposed by plot, theme, characterisation, unified space and time, the film is informed by long silent sequences, absence of temporal chronology or chronological narrative blocks, measured slow motion gestures that create an extremely slow rhythm. Scanty dialogues devoid of any dramatic convention and reduced largely to a monotonic resonance, a plot that defies any causative concatenation of events or a semantic unity and instead is composed of autonomous events—a villager’s house is destroyed by a rich landlord; striking rickshaw drivers hold a rally; a field worker complains about how her employers treat her; a man with a head wound tries to find some repose; gunshots are heard in the night. All these elements make the film what review after review noted: a cinematic text fragmented, rarefied and difficult to read. The cinematography of the film with naturalised everyday images of dilapidated houses, dingy roadside eateries and street scenes in the city, stoic villagers, disenchanted, isolated downtrodden people on the margins and narrow lanes shrouded perpetually in the cold fog is very evocative of photographer Robert Frank’s iconic and influential The Americans, a collection of photographs that Frank took as he travelled across the United States for two years in 1955–56. Much like Frank who desired to see around and

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  19 through the rhetoric of the American dream, beyond the sentimentality, idealism and gentility prevalent in the photography of the postwar era, Singh’s cinematography also constructs an India, filtered out of the gloss and rhetoric of ‘India shining’.3 Frank’s stylistic influence of photographs that are often under-lit and underexposed, vague and ill-defined, many a times with no central subject, of people with their backs to the camera or their faces turned, partially obscured, with expressions unclear is very much evident in AGDD’s cinematography. In its focus on liberating photography from its photojournalistic function of being a document, Frank avoids the use of detailed captions for the photographs, demanding that they should speak for themselves without narrative or explanation. His photographs are marked by a loose structural coherence, what Sontag refers to as his ‘deliberately random’ approach that imbues them with a spontaneity while he is ‘waiting for the moment of revealing disequilibrium, to catch reality off-guard, in what he calls the “inbetween moments” ’ (2001: 48, 94). Through the film, we witness a similar tightly orchestrated sequence of compositions that subvert a temporal or linear logic, and instead present multiple and layered meanings that elicit often conflicting emotional responses. For instance, in the opening sequence, as the father stands still and the camera slowly pulls back, the shot abruptly cuts to a medium close up and we see him standing on the side of the road, watching the horse driven carts pass him and slowly disappearing into the enveloping fog. While on the one hand, as the opening sequence elicits a sense of sympathy with the alienation, emptiness, and hopelessness that the villagers experience, the disorientation and temporal uncertainty induced by the idiosyncratic choreography creates a simultaneous distance between the spectator and the characters. It is no co-incidence that the static, almost monotone frames of the film, are also notable for their influence of abstract expressionism on Singh. Robert Frank too had befriended many abstract expressionist painters of his time. The compositions, in their framing and use of colour through the film are very much evocative of the colour field painting characteristic for single compositions with large areas of colour intended to produce a contemplative or meditational response in the viewer. As colour field paintings were characterised by artists using large areas of more or less a single flat colour, Singh’s frames also embody the austere and evocative quality of colour field painters. The use of a saturated monotone palate creates the sense of uniformity of colour and an accompanying sense of flat consistency while at the same time lending it an ephemeral, sublime quality. I would argue that the static spaces and still images created by the fixed position of the camera—the mist-shrouded, narrow lanes of the village that repeat with a haunted grimness, father watching the arrest of his friend, despondent Melu by the train tracks, closing shots of restless Dayalo as she wanders through the village on the night of the lunar eclipse—create the experience of duration, of time but one that rather than being completely

20  Anuja Jain abstracted from its space-time coordinates, and acquiring an absolute dimension, is tangible and lived. For instance, in the scene when the mother is scolding the younger brother while Dayalo is looking out of the window at the village boys cheering the horses galloping past, hearing her mother’s litany she turns to chide her knowing that her brother is already hurt. With her voice straining to a pitch that is unnatural to her, and despite walking off screen just as the camera moves behind her during the tender exchange between her and her brother as she inquiries about his injuries, Singh creates a poignant, evocative moment. The sound design in the film further plays a key role in containing and delineating the space-time axis as the film seeks to lend representation to the listlessness, the sheer helplessness, of Dalit life, both in rural and urban contexts. For instance, the film opens with the sounds and images of the demolition of a house accompanied by the offscreen aggravated barking of the village dogs to then fade out to the silence of the night and the static mist-shrouded, narrow lanes of the village. This juxtaposition between the movement of the bulldozer and the stillness of the night, the violent disruptive sounds and silence of the village delineates and sets up right at the beginning the uneven relationship between the Dalit life, the precarious human condition and processes of modernity. This juxtaposition is often repeated through the film. In another sequence, soon after the village wakes up to discover the demolition of one of the community members—Dharma’s house in the middle of the night, they commune at his house to express solidarity and discuss how to protest. A despondent Dharma, expressing this to be the fate of lower class villagers walks off the screen. The still images of the villagers and his family mulling over their predicament over the low-pitched diegetic sounds of the wood burning from the cooking stove are abruptly cut by the amplified, off screen sounds of a tractor. Similarly, in a long sequence towards the end of the film, Melu, injured in the cycle rickshaw strike and trying to escape his wife’s wrath for stealing money that she had been saving when she was away, tries to spend the night in a friend’s house. But he is denied room. So, after eating at a local roadside joint, he parks his rickshaw in his home and walks on the rail tracks. Soon, the gradually amplifying sound of the approaching train is juxtaposed with the still, contemplative composition of Melu, on the tracks, in a close-up looking at the fast approaching train. At this moment, the screen turns dark and as we speculate about the encounter between the two, we see Melu on the side of the track. His face visible in the light from the passing train for the first time reflects the deep angst, with the sound of the train both accentuating it as well as being symbolic of the plight and harsh difficulties of life for the poor working class in the urban context. The film constantly invites us to engage with it on its own terms without looking for semantic and referential meanings for an enriching experience emotionally, aesthetically and conceptually. The background score and the

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  21 song in the end credits especially play a key role in foregrounding Singh’s vision of the cinematic discipline. Singh uses the background score to not only strike the appropriate emotional note as we witness the struggles and despair of the people on the margins, but rather than merely communicating or narratively depicting the precarious human condition, to visually and aurally sensitise us to the condition of those on the margins. Doing so, it creates space for a more philosophical reflection on the significance of our own being in the world. In the closing sequence of the film, restlessly wandering around the village, Dayalo meets her brother Melu, and they walk together home. The static composition of two of them slowly disappearing into the mist-shrouded lanes of the village fades out to the darkened screen and we hear a nondiegetic song that continues over the end credits. Titled ‘Sammi’, the song sung by Delhi-based painter Sidharth speaks of the angst and pain of losing a loved one, complaining of the indifference of the ‘stern one’, and separation from the loved one in a cruel and untimely manner. Creating a layered narrative that metaphysically reflects upon the human emotions and predicament, it evokes the memories and experiences of being. What is further significant about this song is that Singh had never planned to use any song in the end credits. The artist had sung it to him once in his studio, and thereafter Singh made him record it for the ‘textural quality of the song and its cry like quality which offered a release to the pent-up emotions in the film’ (Singh, email correspondence, 2018). This use of music in the film speaks to Singh’s commitment to eliciting the spectator’s visual and emotional attention, and his vision of cinema as an aesthetic experience that can ‘enable one to plumb the depths of the inner being’ (Bhaskar, 2013: 23) and move us to reflect upon our own relationship with the world.4 Reflecting on the background score by Catherine Lamb, Singh further reminiscences that Lamb was a music student of Mani Kaul, having studied under him at the California Institute of Arts. When he was editing the film, Kaul, who was bedridden with cancer, saw the first seven minutes of the edit. He could never see the rest. He played the music for Singh after seeing the opening sequences. And though Singh had no plans to use any music he did so since the ‘music and the opening shots were conveying the same feeling for him, purely at the level of feelings, not worrying about meanings and consequences’ (Singh, Email Correspondence, 2018). The piece that Kaul played for Singh was titled ‘Field for Agnes’, and was a tribute by Lamb to the American abstract painter Agnes Martin. Significantly, Martin’s work is also ‘all about emotion’, and she explores its evocation through the use of colour (Eiseman, 2015). Martin’s work is contained within careful, measured lines while at the same time ‘using unusually soft, diaphanous, and ethereal shades that seemed to float’ creating a dichotomous experience of expansiveness while contained within a rigid grip (ibid). The opening sequence of AGDD, and the accompanying background score evoke a similar emotional response. The slow tempo,

22  Anuja Jain measured gestures and static compositions shot frontally by a camera that seems to be located at a fixed position, fixed at a particular distance, creates a sense of distance for the viewer from where we see the harsh, daily living conditions and an uncertain future. Simultaneously, the background score that follows the camera movements over the grey sky also invokes an experience of an infinite sublime. Much like Martin who challenges the notion of figurative art as representative of life, and abstract art as a strictly twodimensional exercise, Singh too explores the possibility of cinema, free from the norms of a melodramatic-realist mode, to elicit an emotional response. It is very much part of his cinematic vision where for him cinema needs to move beyond the cycle of cause and effect, conflict and resolution to be a temporal form that allows the evocation and experience of emotion. Singh tellingly notes, ‘So, in some strange manner, Agnes Martin, Gurdial Singh, Mani Kaul, Catherine Lamb and Gurvinder Singh come together! I’m sure there is some affinity in the personalities, concerns and nature’ (Email Correspondence, 2018). In conclusion, I would say that AGDD is an example of ‘austere cinema that is reflective even as it is visually beautiful’ (Bhaskar, 2013: 23). It is exemplary of the cinematic vision and legacy of experimentation that contemporary independent South Asian cinema inherits from the earlier New Wave movement. While the film saw limited theatrical distribution by PVR in its Director’s Rare category, and was on screen for six days, nonetheless it marks an important moment within the post 1990s liberalisation landscape that has been marked by the emergence of a burgeoning, new cinematic order. The new filmic form, ascendant from around 2010, variably designated as ‘multiplex cinema’, ‘new Bollywood’, ‘Hatke cinema’ or the ‘Indies’ is informed by inventive storytelling conventions, aesthetic forms and departures from dominant dramaturgical modes. Within this landscape, AGDD, marked by a different cinematic practice and context of production and distribution than that of the previous ‘new cinema’ adds to the exciting array of films and fluid formations that go beyond the established lexical registers. In its poetics and politics, it constitutes a potent moment in contemporary South Asian cinema. It is significant to note that Singh consciously chose to make the film in the Punjabi language. After graduating from Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), he received two grants from the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) to document the folk ballads of Punjab. Between 2002 and 2005, he travelled extensively through East Punjab, and had an opportunity to understand its cultural and social dimensions. This was a formative influence on him as a filmmaker. As he notes in an interview, he lived with folk singers, mostly the so called low caste, and travelled with them to fairs and religious places that opened up new ideas of syncretism for him, listening to folk ballads like Sassi Punnu, Mirza Sahiban and Puran Bhagat narrated all through the night (Dutta, 2011). From a sense of curiosity to bewilderment to a complete sense of ease, he could relate to the emotional

Anhey Ghorhey Da Daan  23 resonance of these performers’ lives and the social milieu within which they operated. His response to the language and its expressions, subsequently evolved into making a feature film in Punjabi. He notes, ‘Even today I remain more like an engaged outsider to Punjab. But as of now I can’t imagine making a film in another language’ (ibid). Historically, regional cinema has been a category whose primary function has been to distinguish between largely Hindi language Bombay cinema and other cinemas of India. However, region in regional cinema has undergone a drastic revision and as indicated by AGDD, it is no longer a synonym merely for the linguistic state. Instead, it alludes to what SV Srinivas points out— ‘market, territory, and conceptual category that enables and sets limits for production as well as consumption of informational and cultural commodities such as films’ (2015: vii).

Notes 1. When Mani Kaul died in 2011, there were moving obituaries from fellow filmmakers, students, artists, writers and film critics, attesting ironically to the wide influence he has had on Indian visual culture and arts, while most of his work has had very limited circulation and much like the larger ‘New Wave’ cinema of the 1970s and 1980s remains difficult to access despite digital revolution. 2. Other central and state government programmes were also extremely important in catalysing the development of this new cinema. Support of film societies, sponsorship of film festivals, state and national awards, professional film training further encouraged an alternative film culture and a literal and symbolic investment in cinematic possibilities. For a detailed discussion of the emergence, diversity of forms, political and aesthetic ideologies that informed this movement See Bhaskar 2013, Binford 1987 and Krishen 1991. 3. For a detailed discussion of the significance and influence of Robert Frank’s The Americans See, Robert Frank: Moving Out (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC, 1994). 4. Among various influences on Singh, his use of music is also informed by American composer and music theorist John Cage. As indicated in the email correspondence (February 2018), Cage’s writings have been formative on Singh’s cinematic vision, especially his use of silence in the film.

References Bhaskar, Ira. (2013). ‘The Indian New Wave’, in Gokulsing, Moti K. and Dissanayake, Wimal (eds.), A Handbook of Indian Cinemas. Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge. Binford, Mira Reym. (1987). ‘Two Cinemas of India’, in Downing, John (ed.), Film and Politics in Third World Cinema. New York: Praeger. Cossio, Cecilia. (2003). ‘Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti: Giving Silence a Voice’, in Dalmia, Vasudha and Damstegt, Theo (eds.). Narrative Strategies: Essays on South Asian Literature and Film. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Dutta, Nandita. (2011). ‘Can’t Imagine Making a Film in any other Language than Punjabi: Gurvinder Singh, Director Anhey Ghorey Da Daan’, Dear Cinema, 8 August. Available at: http:// http://apnaorg.com/articles/gurvinder-interview/ [Accessed 20 August 2015].

24  Anuja Jain Eiseman, Leatrice. (2015). ‘Agnes Martin’s Palette’, Tate: Blogs and Channels, 24 August. Available at: http:// www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/agnesmartins-palette-by-leatrice-eiseman/ [Accessed 28 February 2018]. Kaul, Mani. (1974). ‘Explorations in Film Techniques’, Indian Film Culture: Journal of the Federation of Film Societies of India, 8(Autumn). ———. (1998). ‘At the Flaherty’, in Macdonald, Scott (ed.), A Critical Cinema 3: Interviews with Independent Filmmakers. Berkeley: University of California Press. Krishen, Pradeep. (1991). ‘Knocking at the Doors of Public Culture: India’s parallel Cinema’, Public Culture, 4(1). Singh, G. (2018). Interviewed by Anuja Jain [email correspondence], February 2018. Sontag, Susan. (2001, c1977). On Photography. New York: Picador and Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Srinivas, S. V. (2015). ‘Editorial: Region in Focus’, Bioscope, 6(2).

2 From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema The Story of NFDC and Film Bazaar Sudha Tiwari Overview This chapter1 understands the New Indian Indie cinema as an evolution from the New Indian Cinema of the 1960s-70s, and a sign of post-globalisation cultural development. It introduces the idea of New Cinema by discussing three key documents which shaped the movement. The chapter then assesses the role of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC)/National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in financing and facilitating both the cinematic events. The shifts in the government’s cultural policies having direct impact on the FFC/NFDC and the New/Indie Cinema is highlighted. The economic reforms of 1991 posed a major existential crisis for the NFDC and New Cinema. NFDC revived itself as a facilitator in 2007 by launching the Film Bazaar project. The Bazaar has since become the go-to place for the new breed of Indian Indie filmmakers. Using information from various FFC/ NFDC Annual Reports, government reports, Bazaar’s official website, and news articles, I locate how the New/Indie Cinema’s story has come full circle, from Mani Kaul’s Uski Roti (1970) to Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (2013), where the former hardly got any theatrical release, and the latter was a boxoffice hit. This cinematic shift can simultaneously be used as an index to map the journey of a nation-state from being a developmental state, to a neoliberal facilitator state.

Introduction Satyajit Ray, as early as 1948, registered his complaint about Indian films in a seminal article (2014: 118). He argued that the Indian filmmakers’ obsession with melodrama put an end to any further experimentation with the most important function of cinema, i.e. movement. He demanded imagination, more integrity, a uniquely Indian iconography of cinema, and a drastic simplification of style and content (ibid.:119). For Ray, the hope for the Indian film industry lay in more adequately planned production, with shooting scripts, and more disciplined filmmaking.

26  Sudha Tiwari The second important critical text, the Report of the Film Enquiry Committee (1951), suggested means to develop the film industry as ‘an effective instrument for the promotion of national culture, education and healthy entertainment’ (1951: 1). It blamed the government for ignoring its ‘nationbuilding role’ and allowing to fall into the hands of ‘unqualified, ill-equipped individuals’, an industry which actually required ‘skilful and trained direction men with vision and ideas’ (ibid.:172). The Committee recommended financing the film industry through a film finance corporation-like body. Such an agency would discourage individual financiers, producers, distributors and money-lenders from investing in the film industry, whose only intention was quick and substantial profits, compromising on the content of the film. It also proposed a Production Code Administration where scripts would be scrutinised and assisted by a Reference Bureau, with a view to exclude objectionable material and improve the quality of films (ibid.:102). Cinema was ‘a great nation building enterprise’ (ibid.:201), which needed a statutory centralised body ‘to superintend and regulate the film industry, to act as its guide, friend and philosopher’ (ibid.:187). According to Lewis and Miller, cultural policies become ‘a site for the production of cultural [& cultured] citizens, with the cultural industries providing not only a ream of representations about oneself and others, but a series of rationales for particular types of conduct’ (2003: 1). The Committee were not only trying to define an ideal cinema, but also referring indirectly to the existence of an ideal society, and how cinema can be used to achieve that idealness. The newly independent Indian State wanted to exploit the pedagogical function of cinema, perhaps with a view to strengthen political structures and democratically transform society. It isn’t a co-incidence that most of Raj Kapoor’s films in the 1950s depict Nehruvian socialism and idealism, and were highly popular among the masses. Indian cinema was to script a postcolonial national narrative. The third text that oriented the New Cinema movement was the ‘Manifesto’ written by filmmakers Arun Kaul and Mrinal Sen. This ‘Manifesto of the New Cinema Movement’ was first published in Close Up (India) in July 1968. For Kaul and Sen, the Indian cinema, especially Hindi film, was ‘at its lowest ebb’ (2014: 165). High costs of production, excessive rates of interest charged by financiers, entry of black money in all sectors of the film industry, along with the lack of ideas and creative imagination, had ‘reduced the film industry to a sorry mess’. They blamed the ‘established film industry’, for ‘conditioning the tastes of the majority of film goers’ by ‘dishing out crudest vehicles of their notions of mass entertainment’ (ibid.:166). The vision of a New Cinema, from the beginning, was antithetical to the established film industry, i.e. the Bombay commercial film industry. Kaul and Sen defined New Cinema as, New Cinema . . . involves methods and conditions of film-making, the relationship between the creative artist and his audience, awareness of

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  27 the changing grammar, expanding powers and soaring ambitions of the film medium. New Cinema offers the film-maker . . . the indispensable freedom to realise his vision, untrammelled by all considerations except creative and aesthetic . . . New Cinema believes in looking fresh at everything including old values and in probing deeper everything, including the mind and the conditions of man. (ibid.) The Manifesto provided some guidelines to make such films keeping in mind the minority audience this form of cinema would have. These guidelines later became the hallmark of New Cinema: low-budget, shooting on actual locations, a continuous schedule of shooting and a moderate film duration of less than two hours. The New Cinema ‘was to become an established viable alternative to the cinema of spectacle’ (Vasudev, 1986: 34–35). Appraising the points raised thus far, through these three aforementioned foundational texts—Ray’s article (1948), the Report of the Film Enquiry Committee (1951), and the Manifesto (1968)—we can find that the story of New Cinema2 of the 1960s-70s, and Indie Cinema3 since 2010 in India has been the story of a constant dialogue between aesthetics and government policies. This chapter discusses some of those interactions primarily focusing on the role of the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) and the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) in the New and Indie Cinema movements in India (1960s to the present). Many film scholars agree on the thread of continuity between the two distinct cinematic moments. According to Bhaskar, the FFC/NFDC films certainly became a point of reference for the alternative cinema practices and ‘there is a genealogy here for the new, edgy experimental cinema of today’ (2013: 32). Devasundaram situates the new Indian Indies as the ‘hybrid “mutant” synthesis of their cinematic “parents”, Bollywood and Parallel arthouse cinema’ (2016: 6) along with several other cinematic influences. However, the role of the NFDC in facilitating the new Indian Indies often gets marginalised in research works. Devasundaram apportions some attention to the role of NFDC and the Bazaar in his appraisal of avenues of Indie funding, distribution and exhibition (ibid.:96–98). This chapter will expand, develop, and provide nuance to his mention of NFDC’s role in specific relation to promoting new Indian Indie cinema by discussing its Film Bazaar initiative.

The FFC and the First Phase of New Cinema The FFC was established by the Government of India in 1960. In its early years, the Corporation had provided finance to filmmakers like Bimal Roy, Chetan Anand, Satyajit Ray, and V. Shantaram. However, under B.K. Karanjia’s Chairmanship, the Corporation decided to support low-budget films, sponsoring talented and promising newcomers from the Film Institute (Pune) or outside and, filming the works of eminent writers in Hindi and the

28  Sudha Tiwari national languages. It is thus that 1969–70 saw the birth of the Indian New Cinema with the completion of Bhuvan Shome (1969, Mrinal Sen), Sara Akash (1969, Basu Chatterjee), Kanku (1969, Kantilal Rathod), and Uski Roti (1970, Mani Kaul).4 In the National Awards, FFC-financed films won seven Awards and two special commendations. Some of these awards were for Bhuvan Shome and Sara Akash. Bhuvan Shome was awarded the President’s Gold Medal and a cash prize to the producers as the best feature film produced in India during the year 1969. Utpal Dutt was given the Bharat Award for the best actor and Mrinal Sen won the best director award. For Sara Akash, K.K. Mahajan received the award for excellence in black and white cinematography. FFC’s early efforts were praised profusely. Gopal Datt declared, What Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak could achieve after great personal sacrifice is becoming easier to achieve with the new policies of the Film Finance Corporation. . . . All of these are bold departures in themes and presentation . . . they are bound to give our audiences the fresh fare they have been waiting for . . . Finishing a film in a tight schedule of a month or so . . . and within the prescribed small budget has been a thing unheard of in the Indian film industry. (Emphasis added) (1970: 5) In the 1972 National Film Awards, Kumar Shahani’s Maya Darpan (1972) won the award for best regional film. K.K. Majahan won the award for Excellence in colour photography for the same film. It also got a citation at the Locarno Film Festival. Kaul’s Uski Roti won a Silver Medal in the Fifth International Film Festival at Milan, Italy (Thirteenth Annual Report, 1973: 10). These national and international awards not only legitimised this cinema, but encouraged a forthcoming Parallel Cinema movement (early 1970s), independent of the FFC. The world also started taking Indian cinema more seriously. In 1973–74, the FFC entered into co-financing arrangements with Dena Bank, under which films were jointly financed by the Bank and the FFC. A number of other scheduled banks followed this example and independently entered the field of financing films. The annual reports stressed the FFC’s promotional role, and the organisation was also praised for achieving a considerable part of its social objectives of ‘producing highly praiseworthy high class products and promoting good class entrepreneurs’ (Thirteenth Annual Report, 1973: 7). For the government, the FFC was a ‘service rendering organization’, which must be given as much monetary grant, low interest rates, and tax exemption as possible. It was working ‘for the good of posterity and not for its own prosperity’ (Fourteenth Annual Report, 1974: 16). However, various other FFC annual reports started revealing financial losses, with the amount of defaulted loans nearly impossible to recover. It

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  29 was becoming difficult to answer critics about the ‘misuse of public money’ ‘for the whims of some cinematic-aesthetes’. Sehdev Kumar Gupta was harsh in his critique, ‘the film-makers in India must make films that are simple, not obscure, meaningful, not alienating, full of rage, not sighs. And not for some highbrow film critic in Cannes but for “unsophisticated” people at home’ (Gupta, 1974: 25). Such criticisms have certainly been hasty and largely baseless in judging the intentions of the New Cinema filmmakers. They neglected how Ray’s cinema had not only been acclaimed internationally but had earned immense popular recognition at home. These detractors largely overlooked the impact of lack of distribution and exhibition outlets on New Cinema. How could one realise the potential of such films if they were just not reaching wider audiences in the first place? In an interview given to Vinod Bhardwaj in 1982, Saeed Akhtar Mirza told him, ‘people who talk of taking care of the audiences, aren’t they actually taking care of their own interestsaudience can not react in only one way. The question is to experiment’ (Bhardwaj, 2006: 118). The idea was to release these films, provide the spectator the right to choose, and then make a judgement. Defending new filmmakers against charges that they were making films which were ‘personally interesting to the filmmaker, but of minimal concern to the filmgoer’, Mrinal Sen stated, ‘The Indian audience was once used to a certain kind of film, with songs, dances, and trite stories. Then Ray came along and proved that his kind of film could also be popular’ (Gupta et al., 1982: 20). When Shyam Benegal made Ankur (1974) with the help of Blaze Advertising, a private advertising agency, the impact of New Cinema and the FFC came to be acknowledged. It testified that private capital was ready to take the risk in funding a project which would have a limited audience. For Vasudev, films like Bhuvan Shome, Sara Akash, and Ankur ‘proved that audiences were prepared for films that demanded something more from them than the passive response expected by the consumerist cinema’ (1986: 42). According to Madhava Prasad, by producing Benegal’s first two films, Ankur and Nishant (1975), Blaze inaugurated ‘the commercial exploitation of the political dimension of the FFC’s aesthetic project’ (1998: 130). Later, popular actors like Shashi Kapoor led the way as both producer and actor to support similar projects. Kapoor teamed up with Shyam Benegal on Junoon (1979, about the Revolt of 1857), and Kalyug (1981, a modern cinematic adaptation of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata). The FFC was gradually succeeding in questioning the sovereignty of the popular cinema, without itself becoming commercial. Overall, the Corporation, in its first phase, had financed a spectrum of stellar films like Charulata (1964, Satyajit Ray), Nayak (1965, Satyajit Ray), Majhli Didi (1967, Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Anubhav (1968, Basu Bhattacharya), Bhuvan Shome, Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne (1968, Satyajit Ray), Dastak (1969, Rajinder Singh Bedi), Kanku, Sara Akash, Uski Roti, Swayamvaram (1970, Adoor Gopalakrishnan), Ashad Ka Ek Din (1970,

30  Sudha Tiwari Mani Kaul), Ek Adhuri Kahani (1970, Mrinal Sen), Shantata Court Chalu Ahe (1970, Satyadev Dubey), Maya Darpan, Padatik (1972, Mrinal Sen), Garm Hava (1972, MS Sathyu), 27 Down (1972, Awtar Krishna Kaul) and Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (1972, Ritwik Ghatak) Duvidha (1973, Mani Kaul), (Seventeenth Annual Report, 1977: Annexure III). Duvidha won the Bronze Hugo third prize at the 11th Chicago International Film Festival in 1975. It is noteworthy that the FFC financed not only Mani Kaul’s experimental cinema, but Satyajit Ray’s auteur, and Mrinal Sen’s socio-political feature films as well.

The First Crisis: Mid-1970s FFC came to a virtual halt in 1975–76, when Internal Emergency was imposed in India. It did not finance a single new feature film during this year (ibid.: 5). A wide-ranging reorganisation and restructuring of the organisation and activities of the FFC was suggested in April 1976. The monetary grant, which the government had started giving to the FFC since 1970 to offset the loss arising out of financing activity partially, was stopped altogether during 1976–77. The added responsibility of distribution and export had already led to an increasing marginalisation of its film financing responsibilities. The FFC’s independent cinema policy came under disdainful attack from various quarters. The Committee on Public Undertakings issued a Report in 1976 that ‘there is no inherent contradiction between artistic films of good standard and films successful at the box office’, and asked that the Corporation should satisfy itself in all possible ways that the ‘films have a reasonable prospect of being commercially successful’ (in Rajadhyaksha and Willemen, 1998: 162). It also set some stringent criteria for films and filmmakers in order for the FFC to grant loans. These included human interest in the story, ‘Indianness’ in theme and approach, characters with whom the audience can identify, dramatic content, and background and capability of the applicant. These conditions became the official cultural policy in the 7th Five-Year Plan, and had a decisive impact on shaping the FFC’s institutional priorities (ibid.: 166). One of the strategies adopted by the FFC to finance ‘good cinema’ was, what one may call, the Robin Hood approach—financing some films with wider audience appeal and that were commercially successful, thereby enabling the organisation to generate some surplus revenue. These surplus funds could then be utilised for financing experimental and serious films which may not recover their investments, but ‘help in widening the horizons of film-making’ (Seventeenth Annual Report, 1977: 5). Commercial success and surplus generation became the keywords in the government’s policy towards New Cinema and the FFC. FFC had to become a self-supporting organisation, rather than depend upon any external subsidies. Of the many activities that the FFC integrated in 1977 by way of reviving itself, one was to ‘help co-production ventures, facilitating the much-needed interaction

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  31 between Indian and foreign film-makers’ (emphasis added) (ibid.: 6). As the chapter will discuss in forthcoming sections, this policy change would be revived through the establishment of the Film Bazaar (since 2007) and its dealings with the new Indian Indies in terms of increasing international co-productions. As a result of the aforementioned policy changes, the FFC gave advance loans to the producers of Shatranj Ke Khilari (1977), to be directed by Satyajit Ray. Arvind Desai Ki Ajeeb Dastan (1978, Saeed Akhtar Mirza) and Gaman (1978, Muzaffar Ali) were also given their first financial disbursement. The financing was extended to all films which combined high aesthetic and technical standards with wider audience appeal. Govind Nihalani’s Aakrosh (1980), Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyo Aata Hai (1980), and Kumar Shahani’s Tarang (1984) all received financial support from the Corporation in 1979. One of the significant policy level decisions was proposing co-production ventures with national television channel Doordarshan. In order to encourage the availability of greater number of better scripts, the Corporation also instituted a Scripts Award Competition (Nineteenth Annual Report, 1979: 15). Production of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro (1983, Kundan Shah) and Massey Sahib (1987, Pradip Krishen) was a result of this competition. It was evident that the cause of New Cinema was far more dependent on the state than one could imagine.

The Merger with the NFDC NFDC was set up as a result of the realisation by the Government that the economic and artistic aspects of films were closely inter-related, and an enduring policy covering production, distribution and exhibition would help in the growth and development of the film industry as a whole. NFDC was established in May 1975, but it became active only from April 1980, after the Indian Motion Picture Export Corporation (IMPEC) and FFC merged with NFDC to ‘create a financially viable organisation’ (Report, 1980: 65). Before assessing the NFDC phase of the New Cinema, I would like to briefly discuss the Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy, released in May 1980. It upheld the significance of cinema as ‘an instrument for shaping the human mind and providing enlightenment’, and supported close ties between the government and the film industry for its all-round development (1980: iii), especially in the context of a developing society (ibid.:10). It was suggested that the availability of institutional finance can only ‘liberate the producer from the dominance of the financier, distributor and the exhibitor’. This is where the importance of the Corporation was placed. The Report recognised, ‘The FFC in its 20 years of existence has financed a total of 112 films. Even this restricted activity has helped in creating a good cinema movement in the country’ (ibid.: 19). It prescribed enlarging the availability of finance for such films, with low rates of interest on loans. It also sought relaxation in the condition of collateral security as

32  Sudha Tiwari the government had to accept a certain amount of risk (italics added) to promote a good cinema movement. The Report stated further, ‘The resources required by the NFDC to fulfil its charter will be considerable. It is, therefore, necessary that NFDC should be a financially viable organisation, but because of its developmental role, it should not aim at profit maximisation’ (ibid.:65). The Seventh Annual Report (1981–82) echoed a similar perspective by stating that cinema ‘can reconstruct a new Society’, and hence NFDC’s expenditure ‘on production of Good Cinema must be treated somewhat as investment for Research and Development Work’ (1982: 5). What I am trying to suggest here is that so far, in spite of an emphasis on financial viability, the overall attitude remained supportive of the cause of an alternative cinema and NFDC. As a result, the 1980s saw some of the most significant feature films to be produced by the NFDC. The Corporation finally started producing its own films by providing 100% financing, and supported many diverse projects and first-time filmmakers. Some of the most well-known feature films from this period include, Aakrosh, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, Party (1984, Govind Nihalani), Paar (1984, Goutam Ghose), Mirch Masala (1987, Ketan Mehta), Mahayatra (1987, Goutam Ghose), Trishagni (1988, Nabendu Ghosh), Om Dar Ba Dar (1988, Kamal Swaroop), Salaam Bombay (1988, Mira Nair), Kamala Ki Maut (1989, Basu Chatterjee), Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro (1989, Saeed Akhtar Mirza) and Ek Doctor Ki Maut (1990, Tapan Sinha).

The Second Crisis: Liberalisation and the 1990s By late 1980s, the NFDC-backed New Cinema started facing its second existential crisis, due to the television expansion and arrival of video cassettes. The crisis was aggravated in the early 1990s by liberal economic reforms leading to blind privatisation of all kinds of industries in India. Many New Cinema filmmakers had already turned to television to make popular serials for Doordarshan. Shyam Benegal directed Yatra (1986) and Bharat Ek Khoj (1988); Govind Nihalani made Tamas (1987); and Saeed Mirza, along with Sudhir Mishra and Kundan Shah, produced and directed Nukkad (1986), and Intezar (1988). Due to the economic reforms of 1991, and the central government’s enthusiasm to privatise every industry (Mohamed, 1992: 15) NFDC was in serious danger of either getting totally commercialised or closing down. Various NFDC employees were offered the voluntary retirement scheme (ibid.). The annual canalisation fee worth Rs. 1.5 Crores5 was taken away from the Corporation. Fresh sources of income were not provided. Ravi Gupta, the then Managing Director of the NFDC, was reported to have said that the organisation needed government support without which, ‘like the rest of the film industry, we would have to join the private sector’ (ibid.). By 1993, NFDC had started making song and dance shows like Dum Duma Dum Dum, Mirch Masala, and Superhit Muqabla for Doordarshan Metro

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  33 Channel (Mohamed, 1993:13). It was highly criticised for forgetting its mission of promoting good cinema and playing to the Doordarshan gallery (Times of India, 1993: 10). Many eminent filmmakers questioned, ‘If they want to dish out plain rubbish on Doordarshan, why can’t they close down NFDC and stop pretending that they are committed to the cause of better cinema?’ (ibid.). What Ravi Gupta said in defence is worth stating, ‘the perception of quality cinema is a subjective one. NFDC will have to play by the rules of the game’ (ibid.). From 1991 to 1996, NFDC produced 12 films in Hindi, of which only two were produced independently, eight were co-produced with Doordarshan, one with UNICEF and one with production houses from the US and France. NFDC co-produced Mani Kaul’s Nazar (1990), Benegal’s Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda (1992) and Mammo (1994), Kalpana Lajmi’s Rudaali (1993), and Saeed Akhtar Mirza’s Naseem (1995). An array of films from 1994— Woh Chokri (Subhankar Ghosh), Aranyak (Apurba Kishore Bir), Tarpan (K. Bikram Singh) and Triyacharitra (Basu Chatterjee), also, Sanshodhan (Govind Nihalani, 1996), and Char Adhyay (Kumar Shahani, 1997) are some of the other notable films from this period. These were the last batch of the most well-known feature films produced by the NFDC. Post-economic reforms, the state needed to create a different image of India, from a third world country to the ‘next generation economic superpower’. India aspired for more, or so it was portrayed by one of the advertisements in 1998 for popular global brand Pepsi with the tagline: Yeh Dil Maange More! (This Heart Desires More!). Cinema and mass media in general were no more pedagogical, rather it was a brand. In the 1960s till around the 1980s, it was the New Cinema filmmakers who represented India at the world stage. In the post-globalisation period, they had been replaced by the Bombay-based Hindi film industry labelled Bollywood, with wider recognition given to it by the Indian state. And this was the most important policy and attitudinal change that occurred, affecting the future of the New Cinema in India. Previously, New Cinema was chosen, nurtured and protected over commercial cinema because it was not ‘escapist’. However, since 1998, commercial filmmaking started to be perceived as a viable and legitimate economic activity to be recognised and accepted as a bona fide industry. Some of the Hindi feature films that the Corporation produced from 1998 to 2007 have been some of the most mediocre in its history, e.g. Dance of the Wind (1997, Rajan Khosa), Chalo America (1999, Piyush Jha), Dattak (2001, Gul Bahar Singh), Devi Ahilyabai (2002, Nachiket & Jayoo) and Kali Salwar (2002, Fareeda Mehta). None of them, except Kali Salwar, received any attention even in the art cinema circle. With industry status given to cinema in 1998,6 the corporate sector entered into film production, exploiting the Non-Resident Indian (NRI) audience and making extravagant feature films for their consumption. Film financing structures changed as the premier banks entered the field with rational rates of interest on loans. Since the 2000s, studios such as Viacom18 Motion

34  Sudha Tiwari Pictures, Eros International, Reliance Entertainment and UTV Motion Pictures have engaged in different aspects of filmmaking. Foreign production houses like Walt Disney, Sony and Fox Studios have entered the Indian film market. Entertainment tax structures have changed; with the ascendency of multiplexes the exhibition rules have been reconfigured, and revenuesharing is now skewed in favour of the producer.

The Emergence of New Indian Indie Films and NFDC’s Film Bazaar A new era was to start based on the public-private partnership between the mainstream film industry and a new batch of independent filmmakers, commensurate with the emergence of a distinct new wave of Indian Indie films in 2010 (Devasundaram, 2016: 16–28). This year proved to be a turning point for the independent Indian cinema. With the release of many off-beat and box-office hit films in 2010 like Udaan (Vikramaditya Motwane), Peepli Live (Anusha Rizvi & Mahmood Farooqui), Tere Bin Laden (Abhishek Sharma), Ishqiya (Abhishek Chaubey), Love Sex Aur Dhokha (Dibakar Banerjee), Phas Gaye Re Obama (Subhash Kapoor) and Dhobi Ghat (Kiran Rao), the Indian Indie announced its artistic and commercial presence. In the previous year, Anurag Kashyap, often cited as the ‘godfather’ of new Indian Indie cinema, had already heralded the arrival of this new form of alternative cinema, with the release of Dev D (2009) and Gulaal (2009). This cinema was similar yet distinct from the earlier Indian New and Parallel Cinema (see endnote 2 and 3). Unlike the New Cinema, the Indies have no reservations about seeking help from private production companies associated with Bollywood. The new Indie, like the earlier New Cinema, brought back the everyday stories of small-town India to the screen, narrated with tight scripts, and a rich ensemble of actors trained in method and theatrical acting as well as various unknown and non-professional actors. Scripted by a batch of young filmmakers, clued into how the market works, the new Indian Indies have not only succeeded in creating a niche multiplex-going audience attuned to this form of cinema, but have also benefitted from the general multiplex boom in urban India. Ranging from films that were self-funded or funded by private companies, to those still struggling to get a producer or a distributor, this emerging batch of Indies needed a platform which would not only see them through production, distribution and exhibition, but would also expose them to an international market. Filmmaking in India, especially Hindi cinema, is still dominated by the overpowering presence of Bollywood. This is where NFDC’s Film Bazaar7 (hereafter FB, or Bazaar) intervenes. In 2007, the Corporation decided to co-produce small budget, good quality commercially viable films with partners within India and abroad, on a public-private partnership basis, with a view to generating revenue (Emphasis added) (32nd Annual Report, 2007: 7). This policy shift was to guide the Film Bazaar, and help the NFDC gain

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  35 some profit without compromising on its objective of promoting the Cinemas of India (Ibid.). The Bazaar was the brain child of Nina Lath-Gupta, the then Managing Director of the NFDC. In an interview, Gupta provides an optimistic note to the late 1990s, which was largely a bad phase for the Corporation, but it nevertheless led and encouraged the private sector to support non-mainstream cinema. She states, ‘Our job is not to compete with the private sector, but to supplement the efforts of the private sector’ (Lath-Gupta, 2012). NFDC’s role is therefore important for people who want to tell a story, but cannot find funding in the private sector. In effect, as Lath-Gupta claims, NFDC creates a platform for promotion which cannot be created by the private sector.8 She clarifies that the Film Bazaar is not a director’s market; it is a coproduction and distribution platform, facilitating good cinema circulation in the country, and goes back to its development mandate (ibid.). The Bazaar is conducted annually for three days during the International Film Festival of India at Goa in November. The first Bazaar was held in 2007. Since then, the main activities held at the Bazaar have been: •

Co-Production Market to help Indian/South Asian filmmakers and producers find international co-production partners/financier, • Screenwriters’ Lab to help emerging scriptwriters polish their writing skills with help from international mentors/writers, • Work In Progress Lab to help filmmakers improve the edit of their films, • Viewing Room and Industry Screenings to showcase some of the recent films from across India to film festival programmers and international distributors, • The NFDC Knowledge Series where established filmmakers/producers/ distributors from across the world share their experiences and knowledge regarding the different facts of the international film business (38th Annual Report, 2013:19). As will be discussed in sections below, many of the Indian Indies since 2010 were developed through one or more of these Film Bazaar programmes. By 2011, the Bazaar had become a bona fide South Asian market. It saw the participation of more than 550 delegates from 37 countries, and also had several international partnerships from Germany, Netherlands, New York, Moscow, etc. (36th Annual Report, 2011:10). New independent film That Girl in Yellow Boots, co-produced with Anurag Kashyap Films Production and directed by Anurag Kashyap, was successfully completed and distributed in the commercial circuit. The film was released in the US and the UK, and was also showcased in the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice International Film Festival. By 2012, the Bazaar was instrumental in facilitating a large number of international co-productions and in procuring development funding, co-production funds, sales and festival selections in the international arena for the new independent Indies

36  Sudha Tiwari (37th Annual Report, 2012: 7). The Bazaar had its 11th edition at Goa (20–24 November 2017) and was attended by 217 international delegates, 98 Indian delegates and 36 countries. A total of 18 projects were selected to participate in the Co-Production Market (Film Bazaar India, 2017a). Over the course of five days, the Bazaar became the meeting point for discovering, supporting, and showcasing South Asian content and talent in filmmaking, production and distribution. Critically acclaimed and award-winning independent films such as Anhe Ghore Da Daan (2011, Gurvinder Singh), Ship of Theseus (2012, Anand Gandhi), Miss Lovely (2012, Ashim Ahluwalia), Qissa (2013, Anup Singh), The Lunchbox (2013, Ritesh Batra), Liar’s Dice (2013, Geetu Mohandas), Margarita With A Straw (2014, Shonali Bose and Nilesh Maniyar), Court (2014, Chaitanya Tamhane), Titli (2014, Kanu Behl), Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015, Sharat Katariya), Chauthi Koot (2015, Gurvinder Singh) and Thithi (2015, Raam Reddy) have been through one or more programmes at the Bazaar. The Bazaar’s Screenwriters’ Lab, a more corporatised version of the Script Bureau, offers screenwriters the opportunity to experiment with their screenplays under the mentorship of acclaimed international script and industry experts (Film Bazaar India, 2017b). Ritesh Batra, the director of The Lunchbox, was of the opinion that ‘both the Lab and Bazaar were amazing. Our project got into the Cinemart in Rotterdam, which would not have been possible without the development in the lab’ (ibid.). Kanu Behl of Titli had been seeking second opinion to bring out a new dimension to the film’s script which was already written and in his opinion, ‘the lab gave him the necessary distance and time to start seeing the script as a director than just as a co-writer’ (Joshi, 2016). Some of the notable Lab projects from the past include Gangoobai (2013, Priya Krishnaswamy), The Lunchbox, Chauranga (2014, Bikas Ranjan Mishra), Titli, Dum Laga Ke Haisha and Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016, Alankrita Shrivastava). The Co-Production Market is the second most important programme at the Bazaar, partially fulfilling the developmental project of the Corporation. It is a platform for curated projects with South Asian themes to find financial and artistic support. Filmmakers can access numerous avenues to connect with Indian and international producers, distributors, sales agents, and financiers active in the field of co-production. Projects included in the Market from previous years are Shor in the City (2010, Krishna D.K. and Raj Nidimoru), Love Sex Aur Dhokha, Miss Lovely, Shanghai (2012, Dibakar Banerjee), Qissa, Chauranga, Titli, Court, Chauthi Koot and Newton (2017, Amit Masurkar). Many of these films also found their producers and co-producers at the Bazaar. Qissa, Titli and Chauthi Koot have been the result of NFDC co-productions with foreign film houses. Two of the eligibility criteria to participate in the Market are projects must have both director and producer attached, and must have 25% of the finance in place. This constitutes the catch in the Market scheme. Fresh graduates from film

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  37 schools, and other young filmmakers may not have the facility to rope in a director and producer, alongside arranging part of the finance. The Bazaar’s Work-in-Progress (WIP) Lab has moulded films that have gone on to premiere at top international film festivals, and receive critical acclaim. The Lab gives selected filmmakers a chance to screen the rough cut of their film to an eminent panel of international advisors (Film Bazaar India, 2017c) and receive intense feedback. Some of the WIP Lab projects from the past include I Am Kalam (2010, Nila Madhab Panda) Ship of Theseus, Miss Lovely, B.A. Pass (2012, Ajay Bahl), Margarita with a Straw, Titli, Nil Battey Sannata (2015, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari) and Tu Hai Mera Sunday (2016, Milind Dhaimade). Several filmmaker’s testimonials verify the importance of the WIP Lab for directors in honing and developing their films. Kanu Bahl reveals that ‘Titli went through the Screenwriters’ Lab, the Co-Production Market and the WIP Lab. Each step added immeasurably to the film, giving me key insights and helping get closer to the final film. The Mentors at every Lab are collaborators for life’ (ibid.). Ashim Ahluwalia, director of Miss Lovely, shares a similar experience: ‘we found our sales agent Fortissimo Films at Film Bazaar, and that helped our World Sales when we were later accepted to the Cannes Film Festival’ (ibid.). In the midst of these commendations, another caveat involved in the functioning of the WIP Lab is that it is only open for fiction features and a maximum of five films can be selected in one year, which is very meagre, compared to the huge filmmaking market that India is. These rules also make short films (under 60 min.) ineligible for the Lab (Ibid.). Overall, the points raised so far in this section do not entail unequivocal or uncritical endorsement of the Bazaar. Rather, the intention is to underscore the importance of the Bazaar in helping lesser known Indie filmmakers breach the bastion of filmmaking in India, an industry largely hegemonised by Bollywood’s control over funding, distribution and exhibition. As yet another example, Bazaar’s Viewing Room has managed to help independent films get noticed by film programmers and distributors (Film Bazaar India, 2017d). The Room showcases films seeking finishing funds, world sales, distribution partners and film festivals. Some of the films included in it in 2016 were Newton, Rukh (2017, Atanu Mukherjee), Sexy Durga (2017, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan) and Sairat (2016, Nagraj Manjule). Manjule’s Marathi film Sairat went on to become a block-buster hit, not just in Maharashtra, but across diverse linguistic regions, for its sensitive and tragic portrayal of an inter-caste love and marriage. Newton, a black comedy on electoral democracy in India, has been well-received among the urban Indian audience, and was India’s official entry for the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category (2017). Films like Qissa, Ankhon Dekhi (2013, Rajat Kapoor), Fandry (2013, Nagraj Manjule), Island City (2015, Ruchika Oberoi) and Sairat were also first screened at the Bazaar’s Industry Screenings section. Derek Malcolm, film critic with The Guardian and a mentor at the film lab in 2011, argues that ‘the problem with the Indian industry is that it

38  Sudha Tiwari survives in a little world of its own, and particularly the independent sector has very little contact with the international world which might well be able to help them’ (Sharma, 2011). This is where the Bazaar intervenes, in favour of the Indies. When Asian arthouse specialists Fortissimo Films picked up worldwide rights outside South Asia for Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus, the deal displayed the Bazaar’s potential in introducing new Indian independent talent to a wider global market. Fortissimo was introduced to the project at 2010’s Bazaar, and agreed subsequently to produce it (Bhushan, 2011). Overall, Bazaar’s Viewing Room, WIP Labs, Co-Production Market and the Screenwriters Labs have succeeded in integrating content from all over India, and presenting it under one roof for the national and international festival programmers and sales agents. The Bazaar has had the potential to introduce new Indian independent talent to a wider market. It has largely been a win-win situation for the NFDC. While Film Bazaar revived the NFDC, the emerging independent filmmakers in India also gained a support system to reach the global film market. This also helped in an increased presence of Indian cinema in international festivals in recent years. Shyam Benegal, who worked with the NFDC on several projects, acknowledges the important work done by the Bazaar, NFDC’s job has always been that of a facilitator, to help in production, distribution, exhibition, also in terms of export of Indian films etc. So, if they have created kind of single room/window permission area, then there is nothing like it. . . . The Film Bazaar has been extremely useful and it is something that needs to be extended and deepened. (NFDC India, 2015, transcribed by the author) Govind Nihalani chuckled mockingly during a brief private conversation in New Delhi, about the existence of New Cinema today—‘Where is New Cinema? New Cinema has become like River Saraswati’9 (personal communication, India International Centre, 21 May 2015). I would argue to the contrary while citing a few examples that New Cinema is not dead by any means, but has been born in a new Indie avatar since the late 2000s. When Aamir Khan decided to produce and distribute films like Peepli Live and Dhobi Ghat, the impact of the NFDC’s efforts in assisting new approaches by filmmakers, and a revival of New Cinema became augmented in visibility. Similarly, Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl decided to establish Phantom Films in 2011 with a view to gaining the freedom to make ‘intelligent films’. Their inspiration was largely the long, hopeful history of the FFC/NFDC-supported New Cinema. Some of the notable Indie films that Phantom Films produced and distributed are Lootera (2013, Vikramaditya Motwane), Queen (2013, Vikas Bahl), Masaan (2015, Neeraj Ghaywan) and Trapped (2016, Vikramaditya Motwane). Also, established Bollywood figures such as Karan Johar

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  39 have presented The Lunchbox, Ajay Devgn produced Parched (2015, Leena Yadav), and Shahid Kapoor agreed to star in Haider (2014, Vishal Bhardwaj). These films have been well-received by the public, and have won several awards at the national and international level. The thematic markers of these films have largely been the same as that of New Cinema: representing the mundane and quotidian life of ordinary characters, contemporary social and political issues, with an emphasis on strong characterisation, story line, a compact script, etc. These filmmakers may not be the quintessential ‘intellectual’ filmmakers like Ray, Sen, Ghatak, Kaul, Shahani or Benegal, but they are conscientious filmmakers in a new globalising India, who take filmmaking seriously and are ready to experiment with film form, style and content. Importantly, they rebel against the formulaic film template. This is where the cohort of new Indie filmmakers are in unison with their predecessors and have kept the desire for New Cinema alive. In this regard, Film Bazaar and the NFDC continue to offer support for such filmmakers by functioning as facilitator and mediator. Perhaps Mirza was prefiguring the New Indie filmmakers, and simultaneously praising the work done by his colleagues, when he said, The artist’s work is not a convulsive burst but the bursts that occur after a great deal of the maturing process. His work reflects the growth. . . . In this lies the hope, when the artist creates a cinema that will be of value in shaping the cinema of today and provides a base for the cinema of the future. (1980: 125) It may seem that the Bazaar is a perfect platform for the Indies. It is not. There are several instances and recounted experiences of how it can be very selective, and a number of young filmmakers can be left out. The Bazaar has been described as ‘the cinematic equivalent of the Serengeti’10 (Harikrishnan, 2016). Not all the ideas that draw positive attention at the Bazaar are converted into films, and things depend a lot on one’s communication and networking abilities. The Bazaar has also been criticised for being dominated by a preference for films displaying the European realist tradition. The international producers largely do not want to invest in culturally specific or indigenous genres, such as the Indian comedy film. It is worth speculating whether today’s Film Bazaar would invest in a black comedy film like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro. The Bazaar has also faced allegations of being biased against films from South India (Ibid.). In the 2017 Co-Production Market, five of the 13 selected Indian projects, were in Hindi (Film Bazaar India, 2017a). The NFDC could certainly magnify its production output by expanding its budget. The Film Bazaar could also take steps to avoid the encroachment of mainstream filmmakers and producers in this space. Whilst mainstream stakeholders could potentially bring in capital investment, they concomitantly bring along their set of commercially governed

40  Sudha Tiwari film production practices, preferences and choices. Devasundaram has demonstrated in his monograph how the Indian Indies are still conditioned by the ‘meta-hegemony’ of Bollywood for finance, visibility and distribution (2016: 272). By having a bigger budget, a dedicated ‘Indie infrastructure’ (273) that is robust, representative across all regions of India, and egalitarian, the Film Bazaar can try to break that meta-hegemony. With regard to the NFDC’s role, Devasundaram comes to a conclusion that it must exceed the levels of its financial and logistical support for the earlier New Cinema movement (1970s), to keep up with the current rise in Indie films (2016: 274). Ultimately, the Bazaar must also become proactive towards devising mechanisms to diversify the tastes of Indian audiences for such films to be able to reach wider local markets and gain broader acceptance.

Conclusion The key point of reference for writing this chapter was, one, to test the hypothesis that the contemporary Indian Indie cinema is an evolution from the New Indian Cinema of the 1970s, and two, to evaluate the role played by the FFC/NFDC in both cinematic movements. The Indian cinema has been a Phalkean11 cinema, dominated by action, mythology, nationalistic sentiment, special effects and traditions etc. This was the foundational base the Indian film industry had acquired. A group of young filmmakers, trained in a cinematic sense of realism, saw in this tradition a point of crisis. They pondered on how they could create something new out of this existing base of a mythologised, melodramatic cinema without being ‘trapped into perpetuating the state or the status quo’12 (Mirza, 1980: 125). The Nehruvian welfare-oriented, developmental State, through the FFC, came to the rescue of these young, ambitious filmmakers assisting them to develop an alternative New Cinema movement. ‘Independence’ during this time meant independence from the market. But with liberal economic reforms introduced in 1991, and subsequently for cinema in India, the glory of acquiring industry status, and a larger state-level acceptance of the commercial film industry, the NFDC faced a major crisis, bringing it to the verge of closing down. With NFDC in trouble, the cause of earlier New Cinema was also in the doldrums. The economic reforms of 1991 converted the Nehruvian socialist state into a neoliberal state. With Film Bazaar, NFDC reformed itself as a facilitator—a mediator between the market and the film industry. To a significant extent, the Bazaar saved the NFDC, and assisted in the development of emerging new Indian Indie cinema, which continues the legacy of the New Cinema movement of the late 1960s and the 1970s, in a new avatar. The elementary definition of an Indie film gestures towards a low-budget film by small studios, made by filmmakers independent of commercial film establishments. This was the biggest point of difference in the two timelines of the New and Indie Cinema movements in India. The earlier New Cinema

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  41 was truly independent of the commercial film establishment, to the extent of posing a strong opposition to it. The Indie cinema of the 2000s may be independent of the state, but is totally at the behest of market forces. Most of these Indie films and filmmakers depend on national/international private and corporate bodies for production, distribution and exhibition. But this has not yet led to any significant compromise on the form and content of these Indie films. As Devasundaram points out, films like Haider, Court, Unfreedom (2014, Raj Amit Kumar), Aligarh (2015, Hansal Mehta) and Lipstick Under My Burkha help ‘to artistically infiltrate, reinterpret, distort and even sabotage the mythologised grand narrative of India as a majoritarian, mono-lingual, mono-religious and patriarchal nation’; their focus on the everyday ‘opens a window for these films to place India’s secular and democratic credentials in an interrogative spotlight’ (2017). In this regard, the new Indies share the cinematic agitation and anger against established structures and status quo exhibited by the films of the 1960s and ‘70s. These new developments in the independent sector imagine, aspire to, and anticipate the possibility of an independent cinema far removed from the archetype of ‘a murder, two fights and some cuss words’ (Nagraj Manjule, in Harikrishnan, 2016). The new Indies are not averse to taking funding and distribution assistance from corporate bodies or the government to make films that tell alternative stories it thinks must be told. These distinctions aside, it is fair to state that both film movements have been committed to representing democratic values, and a plurality of stories. The journey of New and Indie Cinema from Uski Roti (His Bread) to The Lunchbox has been the journey of a nation from being all-reliant on the state to moving out of that comfort zone and searching for options to be self-reliant, beyond the protection of the nation-state. In several Indian cinematic representations, the figure of the woman is largely read as a symbol of the nation. The traditional, obedient, loyal, silent, ever-waiting wife, Balo of Uski Roti has now transformed into the resilient self-determination of Ila of The Lunchbox. It is easy to spot curious similarities between the two films; however, it is the different climaxes in the two films that is indexical of the shifts the nation and its cinema has experienced. Uski Roti, financed by the Corporation and produced by Rochak Pandit, did change the way some Indian audiences looked at cinema. However, apart from the art circles and film festivals in India and abroad, Uski Roti could not get a theatrical release. The Lunchbox was a joint production by various studios from India (NFDC), Germany, France and the US. It was made with a budget of US $3.4 million, and went on to earn US $17.24 million, more than five times the investment. It was screened in an astonishing 70 nations worldwide—far beyond the traditional Bollywood diaspora territories (Shedde, 2017). Cinema, especially in post-independent India, has been an instrument of modernisation and development, used as a mediator between the people and the state. There will always be the need for and possibility of a type of

42  Sudha Tiwari cinema that doesn’t only sell dreams but also portrays some inconvenient truths, and asks few uncomfortable questions of the state and the society. It is not a mere coincidence that the NFDC has been around to first patronise, and then facilitate this type of cinema. New Cinema is here to stay, call it by whatever name.

Notes 1. I owe this chapter to Prerna Bhardwaj (King’s College, London), a close comrade, who first shared the Facebook post about the call for papers for this volume. The journey started from there. I am highly thankful to Ashvin Devasundaram, who agreed to accept my abstract at the very last moment. Ashvin, thank you for believing in the abstract, and for your immense patience with the editing and polishing of the chapter. 2. I borrow the expression “New Cinema” from Kaul and Sen’s “Manifesto” to denote a specific cinematic movement in India in the late 1960s, actively financed and produced by the then FFC, and later the NFDC in the 1980s through the 1990s. This movement promoted low-budget feature films, was oppositional to the values and codes of, what is popularly known as, Bollywood films, and had a dominant presence of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) trained artists. This expression does not include the Parallel/Middle Cinema of the 1970s (prominent filmmakers have been Shyam Benegal, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Chatterjee, etc.). Though the latter movements were certainly stimulated by the FFC-supported New Cinema movement. 3. Indie cinema mainly refers to an independent film that is produced and distributed outside the private studio system. The Indian Indie do get produced and circulated by the private and public, national and global, production houses. Unlike the New Cinema, the new Indian Indie is not totally dependent on a FFC/ NFDC like structure. However, as the paper argues, many of the new Indian Indies have passed through the NFDC, a public enterprise, at either the promotion, production or circulation level. 4. This chapter does not aim to textually analyse the feature films referred, unless necessary to make a point. See Rajadhyaksha and Willemen, 1998, for details on respective feature films mentioned. 5. One Crore Indian Rupees in international quotation is 10 million. 6. The state’s immediate reason for granting industry status was to rescue the Hindi film industry from the underworld, and discourage its dependence on black money. In 1997, a few high-profile murders of filmmakers, and arrest of Bharat Shah, a leading film financier and diamond merchant, in 2001, brought the connections between organised crime and the Bombay film industry into the national and international media spotlight (Raval and Chopra, 2001). 7. Bazaar is a Persian word that means market. 8. Today, there is certainly a group of private online platforms like Drishyam, Saregama and Netflix, which are fulfilling similar promotional roles and have been a major factor in popularising the new Indian Indies. 9 Saraswati is one of the three important sacred rivers, along with Ganga and Yamuna. Though it has a reference in Vedic literature, archaeologists have not yet found any trace of this river in the subcontinent. 10. Serengeti is a zone that privileges the ‘survival of the fittest’. 11. Dadasaheb Phalke (1870–1944) is known as the Father of Indian cinema. His films have been inspired by the Indian legend stories, and Hindu mythologies. Employment of trick photography and presentation of Hindu gods made his

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  43 films popular among audience. Also see, Devasundaram, 2016: 3, to know how some contemporary scholars have invested Bollywood with a ‘divine’ authority. 12. One tends to forget a basic rule that a certain kind of cinema exists because a certain kind of state exists. If one wants to change the nature of the state, one needs to change the nature of the cinema. But, rather than creating out of a vacuum, the new forms need to be based on what exists, either in the cinema or other art forms. And this is the crisis. How does one create and not be trapped into the vortex the all-encompassing embrace of the commercial film?—Saeed Mirza, 1980: 125.

References 32nd Annual Report 2006–07. (2007). Mumbai: National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Limited. 36th Annual Report 2010–11. (2011). Mumbai: National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Limited. 37th Annual Report 2011–12. (2012). Mumbai: National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Limited. 38th Annual Report 2012–13. (2013). Mumbai: National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) Limited. Bhardwaj, Vinod. (2006). Cinema: Kal, Aaj, Kal. New Delhi: Vani Prakashan. Bhaskar, Ira. (2013). ‘The Indian New Wave’, in Gokulsing, K. Moti and Wimal Dissanayake (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Indian Cinemas. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 19–33. Available at: www.routledgehandbooks.com/ doi/10.4324/9780203556054.ch3 [Accessed 16 October 2017]. Bhushan, Nyay. (2011). ‘India’s Indie Scene Gets Boost from NFDC Film Bazaar’, The Hollywood Reporter, 30 November. Available at: www.hollywoodreporter. com/news/indias-indie-scene-gets-boost-267408 [Accessed 02 November 2017]. Datt, Gopal. (ed.) (1970). ‘Close-Up’, Special Number: The Indian Film Scene, 3(5–6). Devasundaram, Ashvin Immanuel. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York and London: Routledge. Devasundaram, Ashvin Immanuel. (2017). ‘Alternative Narratives from New Indian Indie Cinema’, IAPS Dialogue: The Online Magazine of the Institute of Asia & Pacific Studies, 22 July. Available at: https://iapsdialogue.org/2017/07/25/alterna tive-narratives-from-new-indian-indie-cinema/ [Accessed 29 August 2017]. Film Bazaar India. (2017a). ‘Co-Production Market, Selected Projects’, Available at: https://filmbazaarindia.com/pdf/2017/cpm/CPM_SelectedProjects_2017.pdf [Accessed 15 November 2017]. Film Bazaar India. (2017b). ‘Screenwriters’ Lab’, Available at: https://filmbazaarindia.com/filmbazaar-screenwriters-labs/ [Accessed 15 November 2017]. Film Bazaar India. (2017c). ‘Work in Progress Labs’, Available at: https://filmbazaarindia.com/work-in-progress-labs/ [Accessed 15 November 2017]. Film Bazaar India. (2017d). ‘Viewing Rooms’, Available at: https://filmbazaarindia. com/viewing-rooms/ [Accessed 15 November 2017]. Fourteenth Annual Report and Accounts 1973–74. (1974). Mumbai: Film Finance Corporation Limited. Gupta, Sehdev Kumar. (1974). ‘ “New Wave” Cinema in India’, Cinéaste, 6(3): 23–25. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/42683413 [Accessed 08 April 2015].

44  Sudha Tiwari Gupta, Udayan, et al. (1982). ‘New Visions in Indian Cinema: Interviews with Mrinal Sen, Girish Karnad, and Ketan Mehta’, Cinéaste, 11(4): 18–24. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/41686086 [Accessed 05 October 2014]. Harikrishnan, Charmy. (2016). ‘NFDC’s Film Bazaar Becomes Indie Cinema’s Go-To Place for Funds’, Economic Times, 27 November. Available at: https:// economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/entertainment/nfdcs-filmbazaar-becomes-indie-cinemas-go-to-place-for-funds/articleshow/55641481.cms [Accessed 02 November 2017]. Joshi, Namrata. (2016). ‘From the Lab to the World Stage’, The Hindu, 21 February. Available at: www.thehindu.com/entertainment/from-the-lab-to-the-world-stage/ article8264657.ece [Accessed 03 November 2017]. Kaul, Arun, and Mrinal, Sen. (2014). ‘Manifesto of the New Cinema Movement’, in MacKenzie, Scott (ed.), Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology, Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 165–168. Lath-Gupta, Nina. (2012). Interviewed by Pawanpreet Kaur, International Film Festival of India, Goa, 25 November. Lewis, Justin, and Toby, Miller. (2003). ‘Introduction’, in Lewis, Justin and Toby, Miller (ed.), Critical Cultural Policies: A Reader. Malden, UK: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 1–9. Mirza, Saeed Akhtar. (1980). ‘Outlook for the Cinema’, Social Scientist, 8(5/6): 121– 125, December 1979–January 1980. Available at: www.jstor.org/stable/3520281 [Accessed 17 November 2017]. Mohamed, Khalid. (1992). ‘NFDC Doesn’t Live here any more [sic] . . . almost’, The Times of India, 12 April. Mohamed, Khalid. (1993). ‘Now showing on Metro’, The Times of India, 22 August. NFDC India. (2015). ‘Shyam Benegal’, Available at: www.youtube.com/ watch?v=6AUN2NqOltM [Accessed 15 November 2017]. Nihalani, G. (2015). Conversation with Sudha Tiwari [in person], New Delhi, 21 May 2015. Nineteenth Annual Report 1978–79. (1979). Mumbai: Film Finance Corporation Limited. Prasad, Madhava, M. (1998). Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Paul, Willemen. (1998). Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Sheela, Raval, and Chopra, Anupama. (2001). ‘Bollywood Body Blow’, India Today, 22 January. Available at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/film-financierdiamond-merchant-bharat-shah-arrest-for-underworld-links-shakes-bollywood/ 1/233219.html [Accessed 10 November 2017]. Ray, Satyajit. (2014). ‘What Is Wrong with Indian Films’, in MacKenzie, Scott (ed.), Film Manifestos and Global Cinema Cultures: A Critical Anthology. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp. 117–120. Report of the Film Enquiry Committee. (1951). New Delhi: Government of India Press. Report of the Working Group on National Film Policy. (1980). New Delhi: Government of India. Seventh Annual Report 1981–82. (1982). Mumbai: NFDC. Seventeenth Annual Report 1976–77. (1977). Mumbai: Film Finance Corporation Limited.

From New Cinema to New Indie Cinema  45 Sharma, Sanjukta. (2011). ‘Indie Cinema’s New Old Hope’, Livemint, 18 November. Available at: www.livemint.com/Leisure/pV1e5xQPWciGzMd7ttxikL/Indiecinema8217s-new-old-hope.html [Accessed 02 November 2017]. Shedde, Meenakshi. (2017). ‘A World Beyond Bollywood: Surveying the New Indian Cinema’, BFI Film Forever, 22 March. Available at: www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/ sight-sound-magazine/features/beyond-bollywood-survey-new-indian-cinema [Accessed 02 November 2017]. Thirteenth Annual Report and Accounts 1972–73. (1973). Mumbai: Film Finance Corporation Limited. Vasudev, Aruna. (1986). New Indian Cinema. New Delhi: Macmillan.

3 Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider Inside the National and International Legal Framework Preti Taneja Introduction Haider (2014), Vishal Bhardwaj’s cinematic translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Indian-controlled Kashmir is based on Curfewed Night (2009) by Basharat Peer, a memoir of the intense conflict of the 1990s and its aftermath, the roots of which lie in the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947 following over a century of British colonial rule. At the time of writing, that conflict, in which Pakistani, Kashmiri separatists, and Indian armed forces are embroiled, has found new traction: yet another generation of civilians are suffering the direct impact. To watch Haider now is to take part in an impossible moment—“a time out of joint” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, I.V.190)—that forever breaks the curfews the film itself documents and those of the present reality it pre-empts. This moment is both memoriam and utopia; it offers potential futures based on retrospective understandings of a dramatically realised past. More, it is also a call to action, as this chapter argues, through its thinking about law and justice, its use of time and its critique of the purposes and potential of cinema via Shakespeare’s play. The film is grounded in the traumas of the conflict; it also appropriates real-time events across decades. These are treated inter-textually; woven into a few intense, imagined weeks in the second half of 1995, as a shot of a newspaper masthead dated Thursday, 6 December 1995, emphasises. Flashbacks to Haider’s imagined youth are mixed with news archive footage, temporal revolutions which have emancipatory potential. This is hinted at in the film’s beginning scenes when Haider/ Hamlet, (Shahid Kapoor), returning to Kashmir to seek answers after the disappearance of his father in a state-sponsored crackdown, tells the stop and search Indian security force commander that he is studying ‘the revolutionary poets of British India’, at university. Bhardwaj’s techniques—in the sense of his revision of two times, his evocation of a history at risk of reiterating, and, more unexpectedly, in the sense Haider evokes that positive change could, through its cyclical re-appraisal of old stories (Shakespearean and Kashmiri) occur—as well as the timing of

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  47 the film’s setting, production and release—turns both film and audience into revolutionary poets. We are charged with a task the film articulates, to go beyond our passivity as audience members and even as witnesses; instead to take what we have seen and answer with action that might spark a different kind of justice than the common, violent retaliation the film critiques. The unique conditions of Haider’s year of production (2013) and the violence that has subsequently overtaken Kashmir, as well as the change in political power and rise of extreme sensibility in India since the film was released bracket this ‘impossible moment’. In 2012 and 2013, there was a lull in civil unrest, the Indian army was decommissioning, and tourism in Srinagar was picking up again (Mahajan, 2014). It was therefore possible to scout for locations and shoot the film—2014 saw mass protests in July over civilian deaths in a car crash with security forces near Srinagar as the BBC reported, and by October violence had erupted along the IndiaPakistan border, causing major displacement of people.1 In 2016, the death of a popular Kashmiri leader, Burhan Wani led to mass protests and retaliation including the shutting down of communication, imposition of curfews and the use of weapons against civilians by the state (Waheed, 2016). In conversation with the author, Bhardwaj said it would have been difficult if not impossible to make the film there any later than it was made (Bhardwaj, 2016). In a phone-call interview with the author, Peer confirmed, ‘I don’t think Haider could have been made now’ (Peer, 2017), and, with reference to the rise of a more right-wing Hindu sensibility following the election of the current Prime Minister—Narendra Modi, via email further noted that even if the film had been shot later, it would not have passed the censor. ‘When Pahlaj Nihlani became censor board chief after Modi came to power, he and several censor board members spoke out against Haider and said they wouldn’t have let it release the way it was’ (Peer, 2017). That Haider was made and released in an impossible moment only serves to foreground its place in the avant-garde of contemporary Indie cinema: stepping beyond entertainment into a critique of dominant narratives in and about India, as India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid (Devasundaram, 2016) foregrounds, and into the territory of advocacy via its existence, its form and content. Its major tactic is to put its local and national focus into international context beyond mere comment on the legacy of British colonialism, by making a reproach and appeal to the instruments of international human rights law and humanitarian protection. By unpicking the real world national and international legal and human rights framework that Haider engages with, the chapter finds that Haider’s key strategy is to examine the impact of the failure of implementation of human rights protections while continuing to emphasise the aspirations enshrined within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The question of what the film’s critique of law and order and its breaking of various lines of control owes to Shakespeare’s Hamlet is of importance here. The play operates in the film on the level of what Ryan (2015: 9) terms

48  Preti Taneja “Shakespeare’s poetic justice”—a ‘revolutionary universalism [which is] dramatically and poetically articulated in Shakespeare’s plays, which reveals the potential, desire and possibility of all human beings to live according to principles of freedom, equality and justice’. This appeal is ‘genetically stored in their language and form from the start’ (2015: 6). Via Bhardwaj and Peer’s use of Hamlet’s language and form, (by which I mean both are scripted drama, rather than one a play and the other a novel, for example) Hamlet operates within Haider as the play within the play, aiming to catch the viewers’ conscience as it does so. Within this, the exploration of trauma in the film can be understood via Hamlet as a narrative of world pain enclosed in a prison of the state’s making as Haider (after Hamlet,) says, ‘all of Kashmir is a prison’, and the central critique of the film: that responsibility for the trauma of Kashmir lies at the world’s—not just India’s—feet. The gendering of the other in relation to the mainstream is under scrutiny here also: in a Kashmir constructed as panopticon, a culture of impunity and paranoia, the traumatised mentality of the colonised, the service of women’s love; the muscularity and toxic masculinity of state power all come under Bhardwaj’s critical gaze. It must be emphasised that this chapter does not sit only within the discipline of global Shakespeare studies although it will unpick some of the threads that bind Shakespeare’s play to Bhardwaj’s film. Nor will it draw on Spivak’s ideas to argue the film acts as its own theory, training us to read it (for this, see Mookherji, 2016). Instead by thinking with the film about time and the legal framework it exists within, and that exists within it, this chapter argues Haider, despite its devastating subject matter, realises a kind of freedom that it charges its viewers, in their own time, to bring into being. The argument is underscored by a close reading of a handful of the film’s key scenes including its ending, which points viewers ambivalently towards a potential future peace that might have been realised if the film’s imaginary had been seen and heard in 1995, and by asking its viewers to follow it into a possible, different future to the one we know has actually come.

Lal Chowk as a Critique of International Law The central scene in Haider, shot in the politically resonant setting of Lal Chowk, (literally, ‘Red Square’, named, as Nandal (2014) discusses for revolutionary action), forms the locus around which this chapter turns. Haider stands at the base of the clock tower (which has a much-contested flag pole on the top, though this is kept out of the frame) where newsreel footage captured Pandit Nehru, Prime Minister of a newly independent India, meeting crowds after proclaiming there would be a plebiscite on self-determination. According to Peer, this is always the place of gathering for Kashmiris to make political declarations and protest. ‘Even or especially in times of danger, people would fight to get to Lal Chowk and speak, or listen to what was being said’, and this was the first scene he imagined when writing the film (Peer, 2017).

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  49 A sign advertising ‘Dignity Sales’ behind him, Haider delivers a protest speech that lays bare the devastating trauma of being human in a place where nationalism at any cost has been uneasily overwritten by the universalising impulses of international law. Appropriating Hamlet’s question, ‘to be or not to be’, (Shakespeare, Hamlet, 3.1.58) Haider first asks whether the Kashmiri people exist or not. His meaning is existential and political—the word ‘Chenab’ (a river in Jammu & Kashmir, the significance of which I examine below) seems to flow away from him, and into the written international and national instruments of officialdom that trap Kashmiris in a mental, if not actual statelessness: ‘UN Council resolution no.47 of 1948. Article 2 of the Geneva Convention and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution’, he says, have played “chutzpah” with the Kashmiri people.2 He quotes the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act, (AFSPA) then beats his head—rhyming ‘law and order’ with ‘border’ evoking the trauma imposed by the Line of Control (LoC) which started life as the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan in 1972. The speech sums up the problem—a complex and contradictory legal framework traps the people of a divided ‘state’ (land and mind) that cannot be mapped without some absurdity (the LoC is the de facto, not the legally recognised international border). It is mapped through rivers (though as the UN agreement by India and Pakistan shows), at points, the Indian Army’s use of water from LoC springs does not violate it (UN, 1972). The psycho-geographic uncertainty and insecurity of being caught between the two countries is a source of madness, imagining crossing it in peace and friendship causes a ‘failure of the subconscious’ as Peer writes in Curfewed Night, The line of control did not run through 576 kilometres of militarised mountains. It ran through our souls, our hearts and our minds. It ran through everything a Kashmiri, an Indian and a Pakistani wrote, said, and did. It ran through the fingers of editors writing newspaper and magazine editorials, it ran through the eyes of reporters, it ran through the reels of Bollywood coming to life in dark theatres . . . it ran through families and dinner talk, the whispers of lovers. And it ran through our grief, our anger, our tears and our silences. (Peer, 2009: 238) The layers encoded within the construction, script and realisation of the Lal Chowk scene articulate the ‘impossible moment’ that breaks that ‘failure of the subconscious’ Peer describes. In the first instance, the thing we are watching—the war and its impact, went largely undocumented by the world’s media in 1995 (Peer, 2017) Access to Kashmir was severely limited, economic liberalisation was realigning India’s position in the world market and elsewhere the breakup of the former Yugoslavia and the war in Bosnia were claiming media attention.

50  Preti Taneja As corrective, the camera looks at Haider in close up and wide, showing us the Lal Chowk crowd from above as a news piece shot in real time might. Yet the scene takes liberties: Lal Chowk’s shops are closed either because of a state-imposed crackdown and curfew or ‘hartal’ (strike), undertaken as a regular form of civil protest against state atrocities. The crowd seems medium sized, until a pan shot reveals an impossibly large group to have gathered without army or police presence—in fact their numbers are digitally enhanced. The fact Haider does not get arrested or the crowd violently broken up is remarkable, but might be excusable because his powerful uncle Khurram/Claudius (KK Menon) is there (having recently been supported by India to win rigged local elections), and so is Ghazala/Gertrude (Tabu), Haider’s mother. Actually, the scene allows us to imagine Srinagar as it was and in a limited way, might have been—and that we might have borne witness to it at the time such moments during the conflict took place. It reminds viewers that the freedom of expression and of association and to peaceful assembly enshrined in Articles 19 and 20 of the UDHR and various instruments of international law to which (with some reservations) India is signatory (International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, 1966a), were and remain precious in Kashmir, worth risking arrest for. It is tense with the hope that perhaps all might still turn out well; that speaking out might prove a check to the descent into violence of Shakespeare’s play. Haider’s gambit to access international protections is to insist on the international nature of the conflict. His evocation ‘Chenab’, almost lost in the torrent of words that follow, refers to the ‘Chenab solution’, which as a BBC report explains, would have the state divided along the path of the Chenab and seen the majority of land and people becoming part of Pakistan, (and Pakistan effectively ‘winning’ the ground) (BBC, 2007). The word flows away into a litany of international human rights protections and laws, in addition to India’s vehement resistance to what it considers a disadvantageous division, make impossible the Chenab solution, beginning with UN Security Council resolution 47, 1948, which proposes a three-step approach to peace. Pakistan was to withdraw its nationals from the state; India was to withdraw troops. India was to appoint a UN-nominated plebiscite administrator to conduce a ‘free and fair’ plebiscite for self-determination. This mediation underlines a sense of the international nature of the conflict; it was agreed on paragraph by paragraph by the two new nations. Following this the details of Pakistan’s withdrawal and Indian demilitarisation could never be agreed; conditions for what is ‘free and fair’ became and remain a point of contention and the UN declared the failure of its commission on India and Pakistan in December 1949 (UN, 1947–96). Nevertheless, Haider next invokes Article 2 of the Geneva Conventions (International Committee of the Red Cross, ‘Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries’). India is signatory to the Conventions, which form the basis for international humanitarian law. Common Article 2 enshrines a code of conduct towards civilians and those such as aid workers and prisoners of

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  51 war specifically during ‘international armed conflicts’, but India’s repeated position on Kashmir is that it is ‘an integral part of India’. Organisations including Human Rights Watch and others have repeatedly called for the implementation of Common Article 3, meant to protect civilians in internal conflicts and occupied territory. If this were to be upheld, Human Rights Watch has noted that India would be open to accusations of war crimes answerable under international tribunal (HRW, 1999). Haider’s next legal invocation turns towards the national, and is of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir, including the right to its own Constitution, and to a limited autonomy via its legislative body. The Article limits the power of the Indian State in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) to the important triad of defence, external affairs and communication. Bhardwaj critiques all three when Haider uses the end of his noose as a microphone (see Figure 3.1) that carries his voice back in on itself, broadcasting to no one. Unconnected to anything but itself, his futile acting out of attempted communication has the potential to go nowhere; it only threatens to kill Kashmiris themselves. Meanwhile, Haider’s silent ghetto-blaster becomes a simulated gun. Any attempt to broadcast truth is a suicide mission, it seems. An actual shutting down of communications in the city, a tactic Amnesty International has reported is often used by India to sanction the people, is also a kind of torture and death (AI, 2016) But it is Haider’s final invocation—of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that puts his critique of India and its international obligations into context. This Act, promulgated in 1990, enshrines the impunity of the Indian Army into law. That the Act has its roots in colonial legislation

Figure 3.1  Haider uses his noose as a microphone.

52  Preti Taneja is an important pointer from which to read the film as a comment on the legacy of British rule in India and India’s neo-colonial practices in Kashmir. However, when placed by Bhardwaj in the context of the international obligations noted above, it makes what Haider might term ‘chutzpah’ of international claims to have final jurisdiction over humanitarian issues, and indeed universally applicable reach. Speaking to Reuters, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said the AFSPA ‘clearly violates international law’ (Bhalla, 2012) this is backed up by various international treaties including Article 4 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which upholds beyond all doubt the inherent right to life, without fear of arbitrary death (Article 6.). Entered into force in 1976, the ICCPR (1966b) was acceded to by India in 1979, with reservations against Article 1—on the definition of who has the right to self-determination; on Article 9—arbitrary arrest and detention, 19 (freedom of expression), 21 (right of peaceful assembly) and 22 (freedom of association). Articles 19, 21 and 22 fall against Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, which subjects them to ‘reasonable restrictions in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State’. Haider’s chanting of ‘law and order’ as he quotes from the text of the AFSPA mocks, in turn, the undefined ‘reasonable restrictions’ and brings into the mix the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA, 1978), a highly discretionary piece of legislation that allows for detention of any person ‘with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial . . . to the security of the State and the maintenance of public order’ with no reason given, and protects the detainer from prosecution ‘for anything done or meant to be done in good faith’. AI (2011) has noted that the PSA, Violates international human rights law and standards by providing for detention without trial while denying the possibility of judicial review and other safeguards for those in detention required under international human rights law. It also violates the principle of legality by defining offences so broadly as to allow security officials to detain individuals on extremely vague grounds including for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. (2011: 16) AI also argues that despite India’s reservations to Article 9 of the ICCPR in line with Article 22 of the Indian Constitution, India remains bound by the international treaty because, ‘under general or customary international law, reservations must not be incompatible with the object and purpose of the treaty’, and notes that Human Rights Committee General Comment No. 24, paragraphs 8 and 18 make clear that ‘states may not reserve the right, among other things, “to arbitrarily arrest and detain persons” ’ (2011: 16).

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  53 Haider defuses the very real risk of his own arrest via a sudden volte face. He sings Saare Jahan se Accha—a patriotic Indian song whose title translates as ‘better than the whole world’. India Today (2017) states that this Indian Army marching song first became popular as an anti-colonial protest; its lyrics now serve to protect Haider from arrest while reclaiming its use as a song of revolution. Singing this underlines Kashmir’s special place in the narrative of India’s self-fashioning. For Haider only gets as far as the second line, ‘Ham bulbule hai is kī’ (we are its nightingales—though the film’s English subtitles translate ‘bulbule’ as ‘children’), where the Bulbul is a bird commonly associated with Kashmir. There is also a hidden warning in the song—it lets Khurram know that Haider suspects his involvement in ‘Operation Bulbul’, the supporting by India of the Ikhwan-ul-Mukhbireen, a brutal extra-judiciary force made up of surrendered (some have argued, deeply coerced) Kashmiri militia meant to ‘catch and kill’ their own people. In reality, as Swami (2003) states, ‘Bulbul’ was a code name of one of the movement’s key players. As audience members we have already seen Khurram collude on the Ikhwan in exchange for political power—so Haider’s subtle confrontation only raises the hope that good might prevail even as the film has already made clear how complicated that concept is. It is telling that the Lal Chowk scene is preceded by a protest that takes place outside the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) compound. Laced in barbed wire, the shot serves as a reminder that the UN—which was meant to stand for the world’s eyes and ears, mouth and conscience, was very much (and remains) part of Srinagar’s psychogeography. Though UNMOGIP offered security to any relief efforts for civilians and reported on human rights violations including summary executions by the Indian state, its key purpose was not to protect civilians, it was to observe the respecting of LoC by India and Pakistan. Similarly, the position of the UN, though it was lobbied by states (including via working groups within the UK’s House of Lords) and carried out some diplomacy between the two countries in the 1990s, was to remain neutral despite its long-standing involvement. The crowd outside the UN compound pick up the protest, seen earlier of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, which was formed in 1994 after five years of documenting enforced disappearances. It holds a public protest in Srinagar on the 10th of each month to draw attention to the thousands of people, (of which, in the film, Haider’s father is one) who ‘disappeared’ during the conflict.3 The scene shows the crowd shouting the words to the question Haider later asks at Lal Chowk—do we exist or not? There is no answer from the UN. Though in 1995 the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances had yet to be formulated,4 the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted by the General Assembly without a vote in December 1992 ‘as a body of principles for all States’. Writing in The Hindu, Mukul Sharma, Director of AI India states,

54  Preti Taneja The Declaration emphasises the non-derogable right to be free from disappearances, stating in Article 2 that the prohibition of ‘disappearance’ is absolute. Article 7 states: “No circumstances whatsoever, whether a threat of war, a state of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked to justify [an] enforced ‘disappearance’ ”. This places an obligation on the states to adopt and enforce safeguards against disappearances, and requires them to provide judicial remedy and redress to the victims and their families. (Sharma, 2016) Reminding us of an obligation that, as we watch the film in our time, we recall India has yet to fulfil. The UNMOGIP protest puts an earlier scene into further focus. At a press conference held to address the issue of the disappeared, Arshia/Ophelia (Shradha Kapoor)—in very clear English (with all the political baggage the use of that language in India and in this film brings with it), and with the force of rhetoric behind her asks the Indian Army General, ‘Does the law allow you to use torture on people you have arrested?’ The question points to the fact that India had not signed the International Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (and did not do so until 1997; it remains unratified by the state). The General’s answer shows he is well aware of this: he has nothing but praise for his troops. The film’s protest and its manipulation of time and events is made all the more powerful when Haider finds the mass graveyard in which his father is buried, which Peer based on a place not actually ‘discovered’ until 2009. According to a report that year by the International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir (IPTK, 2009) the grave held, ‘bodies of those murdered in encounter and fake encounter killings between 1990 and 2009. These included those killed by ‘extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions, as well as massacres committed by the Indian military and paramilitary forces’. Even in this scene, some sense of possibility is maintained: Haider is at least allowed some closure to mourn, though the knowledge of the state’s secret activities contributes to his crazed grief. Many whose loved ones disappeared during that time have never had that chance, and not knowing, suffered the same fate. In the first half of the film, the ‘time out of joint’ of Lal Chowk is foreshadowed by an election that Khurram wins. In perhaps the most crucial imaginative leap he makes, Bhardwaj here breaks the restrictions of the realtime President’s Rule, which was imposed on Kashmir in 1990. The rule gives ultimate administrative powers to India—essentially, an undeclared state of emergency presided during the conflict, though India, as a report following a three day visit to the state in 1993 by the International Committee of Jurists found, ‘avoided classifying it as such in international terms, thereby obstructing the call for accountability and transparency inherent in

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  55 the comments of [bodies such as] the Human Rights Committee’, (1995: 42) a statement India strongly refuted as Appendix 1 of the report records. President’s rule was not lifted until 1996: there were no elections in Kashmir until spring of that year as the Institute for Conflict Studies noted in its 2002 survey. The creative licence is underlined by a montage that uses real archive footage interspersed with voiceover from the Indian Army and shots of various of the film’s political candidates. One sums up the point of the whole scene—the democracy being shown is a ‘sham-ocracy’. But the conflation of unattributed archive (which Peer told the author in a phone interview in 2017 was mostly taken from Press Association footage of protest marches before 1995), interspersed with imagined scenes that draw on events of 1996 gives us a future beyond the film, within the film’s time. It is an effective way of mapping events that resonate across time, reaching forwards into the viewers’ own reality and asking us to question what we know. Because this is the film’s sole use of archive montage it signals to us that the fiction of the film’s authenticity is being underlined by facts of what took place, the facts that constructed the cinematic world Bhardwaj creates.

A Critique of Cinema Deconstructing this might feel counter to the sleight of eye that cinema grants us, but my method is meant as the opposite. The film questions what gets known, heard and seen, and how and by whom, not only through its deconstruction of the intricate territory of international humanitarian law and action. It takes on its own cinematic peers in the same way—going from the local to the international industry and audience via the characters of Salman and Salman/ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Sumit Kaul and Rajat Bhagat) named for the Bollywood star Salman Khan, of whom they are superfans. They are Haider’s friends, owners of the fictional video store on the Dal Lake. Their major fixation is with Salman Khan’s hit film, Maine Pyar Kiya, a Romeo and Juliet story of inter-caste love that was released in 1989, the year the conflict in the Valley began to intensify and communications with the outside world began to shut down. As they double deal with the Army, Police and local administration to spy on Haider, they watch the Bollywood film on repeat and practice Salman Khan’s dance moves, particularly to the song Mere Rang Mein, Rangne Wali. The lines, ‘mere savaalon ka, jawaab do/ Do na’ translate as ‘give me answers to my question, please’ echo over the scene; the question being—do we exist or not?—made all the more uncanny as the twins who share a borrowed name mimic a movie star playing a role. Maine Pyar Kiya was the film that India was actually watching on cinema screens as the lives of the people of the Valley descended into darkness. A compelling spectacular, light entertainment with a stock hero narrative; it promotes the stability of respect for fathers, family and nation in true patriotic vein. For Indian and diaspora viewers of a certain age, the

56  Preti Taneja insertion of this film into Haider lightens the tone and evokes nostalgia, the lovely memory of a summer of love, perhaps. But it also rebukes: it is an uneasy distraction from the alignment with mainstream India, and corruption in Kashmir, that Salman and Salman represent. It’s a pointed and clever reproach, but so far, so focused on India and Indians. Then, two Western tourists come into the store, reminding us that through the conflict, tourists were still allowed into the Valley, and that concurrent to the time period of the film (autumn/winter, 1995) six Western men (including an American, a Norwegian and other nationalities,) were kidnapped in the Anantnag region, not far from where Haider’s home is fictionally located. A massive manhunt involving several nations ensued—the militant group Al Faran were suspected, negotiations went on for months with allegations surfacing later that the Indian state were paying the kidnappers and used the moment for political gain (Levy and Scott Clarke, 2012) In counterpoint to the global attention these six Westerners generated, the story does not figure in the world of Haider. Instead, as noted the film stays focused on the disappearance of countless Kashmiris and the trauma this wreaks on local families.5 To see white faces in an otherwise wholly Indian cast jolts us into the realisation of the world outside coming into the conflict we are being shown and having no clue of the conditions around them— they are renting videos on holiday. Furthermore, it is a point of note that no such video shop existed6 on the lake then; Peer (2017) maintains its addition was at Bhardwaj’s insistence. Perhaps this is his means of critiquing Bollywood’s colonisation of Indian cinema and with it Indian hearts and minds. Furthermore, the white tourists’ ignorance about Kashmir is dwarfed by their lack of knowledge of the ‘world’s biggest film industry’: Salman and Salman try to persuade the visitors to rent Maine Pyar Kiya but first they have to explain that Salman Khan is one of the most famous actors in the world. ‘This guy?’ says the bemused woman. The war against India’s, and then the West’s, political and cultural occupation can and must be won by freedom fighters as, with the failure of international law to protect it, Kashmir must free itself: so much is clear when Haider picks up a stone, the traditional weapon of Kashmiri youth against Indian military might and pelts it at the Salmans, killing one then the other for (their bad taste in cinema), their betrayal of their friends and of ‘azadi’ (independence). In short, the film can be read as Bhardwaj’s cinematic ‘stone’, not only against the dominant narratives of Bollywood but also against the might of those who wish to keep Kashmir a forgotten war. The films of Salman Khan make another appearance in Haider as backdrop for torture (perhaps revealing Bhardwaj’s own antic disposition). In a flashback accompanied by Roohdar’s/ the Ghost’s (Irrfan Khan) voiceover of how Haider’s father Hilal Meer (Narendra Jha) died, the Indian army is pictured in Faraz Cinema, lethargically watching 1994’s Salman starrer Sangdil Sanam, (they watch it again in the montage, seen earlier but in the film’s chronology, later—in which Haider and Arshia search for

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  57 Meer.) As the frenetic song One Two Three Give Me a Kiss plays on screen incongruously juxtaposed with the drab reality of the war, a line of prisoners, including Roohdar and Hilal Meer are marched up onto the stage to be identified by informers. For a moment, the film plays over their faces, obscuring their pain. Then the reel is stopped, and we see Khurram, looking down on the strange chorus line from the screening room. Roohdar’s voiceover explains that Khurram is an informant who used Ghazala to betray Hilal, and, more dangerously, that Khurram is also involved in the formation of the Ikhwan force. Can we believe Roohdar? We know him to be a Pakistan trained militia, serving overlords there. He is no ‘azadi’. His story is being recalled to manipulate an intensely vulnerable young man. His story is set in a cinema—it might be fiction. Nothing is what it seems. Yet, we must believe him, because to doubt would be to buy into the acid bright fantasy of the obedient, college-educated, new-capitalist children of ‘India’ that Salman Khan and his films here represent. The embedding of the cinematic space and Bollywood form as metatext in Haider works also to critique the abrogation of Article 27 of the UDHR, which states that ‘everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of a community, to enjoy the arts’. Kashmiri movie halls were closed during the 1990s and repurposed for Army use. They have yet to reopen. Kashmiris themselves cannot watch films on cinema screens. Meanwhile, mainstream Indian films continue to be shot in the Valley from different language cinema industries all over the country, in the main offering, as per Salman, family narratives or stories supportive of the Indian state, which obey the conventions of cultural propriety. When Bhardwaj gives us the snow-covered love song in Haider, he is engaging and subverting that tradition as well as echoing the many Bollywood films that use the Kashmiri landscape as mere backdrop for love stories (for example Kabhi Kabhi (1976) and others) made before the conflict began, which cements the beauty and romance of the Kashmiri landscape in the Indian imagination as a lovers’ paradise. That Bhardwaj ends the song with Haider and Arshia naked, alone in a cabin, marks a critique of Bollywood prurience; we then see a post-coital Arshia (who has never left Kashmir,) making beautiful mockery of those Bollywood dances she will have watched on VHS—(dances that as a leading Bollywood actress of the real world, Kapoor is expert in) to make Haider laugh. A critique of cinema’s role in culture is in action here, teasing the censor board to cut the explicit (for India) scene and a pushing of the boundaries of what an actress should bare—in terms of bodies and proper behaviour. The scene also asks us to consider more deeply the position of women and women’s rights in the conflict. Whereas in mainstream Indian cinema, women have often been imagined as the site and source for a subservient purity, the complicated nexus of love, pain and desire for real change in Haider is communicated and mediated through Ghazala and Arshia. Arshia is a journalist, which grants her an enviable freedom of movement that she uses to help Haider, who she loves. She intervenes to rescue him from the

58  Preti Taneja first stop and search, saying his love poems are about her (the implication is, they are actually about Kashmir.) She gets him into the Border Security Force compound, to ask questions about his father. Her credentials are precious to her, they give her a sense of protection against the threat of rape that as Asia Watch documented in 1993, Kashmiri women were subjected to by the Indian armed forces. Though her Police Commissioner father thinks she is a naïve child, and her brother (played by Aamir Bashir, director of Harud) tries to police her by imposing curfews on her leaving the house, she stands up for herself and her work to communicate to her region what is going on (her articles appear in the State newspaper, the Kashmir Times.) Just as much of Haider is rooted in lived experience as a method of mourning and hope, Arshia’s name, her occupation and her focus on the trauma caused by disappearances finds correlation in the life and work of Aasia Jeelani, a much-admired Kashmiri reporter who focused on the same issues. She was killed in 2004, aged 30, when her car ran over a landmine in a remote part of the state (The Committee to Protect Journalists, 2004). For a while at least, we can imagine her embodied in the fictional Arshia, wearing red—the same colour as the public telephone she uses, as the scarf she knits, as the blood that is spilled—she is love, the communicator of truth. But it is Ghazala who brings into focus Bhardwaj’s critique of patriarchy and moves the onus onto us. Like Arshia, Ghazala is a communicator—she begins the film as a primary school teacher. The two women are further linked by their emphasis of the extra syllable in the word ‘loved’. The mistake is misdirection, for though they do not say the word correctly their love for Haider is more ‘true’ than that of every other person around him. They are the conscience of Kashmir—perhaps in Ghazala’s case, she is even the ‘conscience of the King’ that Haider seeks to trap in his Mousetrap scene. It is striking that ‘Mauji’ (mother) is evoked as the ultimate authority of love and suffering in the film. The first word of script is ‘Mauji’, as the pain-ridden militant awaits his makeshift appendectomy. When, in Lal Chowk, Khurram attempts to censor Haider, it is with the warning, ‘Mauji’ a reminder that Ghazala, his mother is there, and he should have more respect for her feelings. Haider’s next action is to show her a picture of his dead father, freeing her from ‘half widow’ status and into her wedding to Khurram, the event Haider dreads above all. To consolidate the relationship between mother-love and torturous pain, Bhardwaj and Peer rename the notorious Indian Army detention centre known as Papa II, as Mama II linking the idea of the mother to Kashmir’s relationship pain to the Indian state—the ‘Mother India’ which loves its Paradise so much it can only claim and torture its children for their own good. At heart, this renaming of the prison evokes a Koshur saying used to speak about the disappeared: ‘mei cha dagh lalnawaan’, I am cradling this pain—as a mother (Ahangar, 2017). All of this prepares us for the film’s closing scenes, in which Ghazala dons a suicide vest to prevent Haider from continuing the cycle of pain (and perhaps to keep him from ending up in ‘Mama 2’ himself). Her sacrifice

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  59 ultimately stops him from shooting Khurram: he walks away from the site of destruction to a future the filmmaker leaves it up to the viewer to imagine. The ambivalent ending asks us to decide what might come next. And yet—we already know how events in Kashmir unfolded because two decades have passed since the end of the film’s time. In 2001, a group of young men, members of the group Lashkar e Taiba (one of who’s name was ‘Haider’) bombed the Indian parliament, heightening Indo-Pak tensions to critical. By 2017, the warning signs of radicalisation among young Kashmiris, noted in evidence over time seem to be coming to fruition (Safi, 2017). Is Haider, when he walks away, going to fulfil Roohdar’s plan for him, to train in jihad, to try to extract an even bigger revenge?

Conclusion As I have shown, Haider engages insistently with the norms and instruments of human rights, while its intimate yet epic gaze saturates each line of dialogue and each screen with a sense of longing for a better world. In its approach, Haider constantly circles and returns to the principles first articulated by the UDHR from which the instruments of law I have discussed here take their cue. Haider reveals (and revels in) the gap between human rights principles—which imagine the world as it should be, and the contradictions of implementing human rights legislation in the world as it is: bordered with lines of control. When, in Lal Chowk Haider beats his head, and cries, ‘hum kya chahta hai’ (what do we want?) and the crowd responds, ‘Azadi’ not only are they repeating an often heard ask-and-response to the political question of self-determination in the legal sense, but also expressing the right to be human—to choose their futures as individuals and collectively, for themselves—one of the highest aspirations of the UDHR. To end the sense of a people disappearing that the film constantly encodes. Joseph Slaughter argues in Human Rights Inc. (2007) that, ‘the gap between what everyone knows and what everyone should know poses human rights as a matter of both literacy and legislation, as much matters of literature as of law’ (2007: 3). Including cinema as a form of ‘literature’ here (particularly a film based on Shakespeare’s seminal play,) brings Slaughter’s thinking on the relationship between works of art (particularly the Bildungsroman) and the aspirations and dissemination of human rights to bear on Bhardwaj’s film. Recognising that Slaughter’s project is partly to discuss the genre of the novel as interdependent with the origination and aspirations of the UDHR in its creation of the bourgeois white male and his self-realisation that elevates this figure to universal subject, with all of the exclusions that entails, poses no problem here. Given that Haider’s critique of colonialism lies in its use of Shakespeare as political civilising tool, and its evocation of the AFSPA as answer to Hamlet’s existential question ‘to be, or not to be’. Haider also makes clear these exclusions; to recall one example: as Srinagar’s citizens protest outside the closed compound of

60  Preti Taneja UNMOGIP. In light of Slaughter’s work, we can understand better what is at work in Bhardwaj’s ending. Slaughter considers the Bildungsroman and UDHR as ‘mutually enabling fictions: each projects an image of the human personality that ratifies the other’s idealistic visions of the proper relations between individual and society and the normative career of free and full human personality development’, (2007: 4). He provides a useful definition: of the Bildungsroman as clarification: in as much as it can be understood as ‘the generic name of a kind of literary social work—a function or practice that articulates social relations’ (2007: 7) and amplifies the definitions of freedom (azadi) found in the Oxford English Dictionary, as Exemption or release from slavery or imprisonment; personal liberty . . . 2. Exemption from arbitrary, despotic, or autocratic control; independence; civil liberty . . . 4.a. The state of being able to act without hindrance or restraint, liberty of action . . . 13. The right of participating in the privileges attached to . . . b. citizenship of a town or city. (2007: 10) Taken together, what the UDHR and the Bildungsroman evoke is what Haider’s journey from literature student to spiritual revolutionary so clearly leaves us with: ‘the promise of the not yet’—an enlightenment still to come. And Slaughter’s clear-eyed take on the circumstances of formulation for the UDHR after World War II (concurrently with Partition,) and contemporary human rights law is one that Haider represents: neither as a Eurocentric monolith nor as a romanticized jurisprudence of the oppressed; rather . . . as a complex of contested—and often contradictory set of principles still in formation, whose fissures, discontinuities and inconsistencies are . . . the source of its emancipatory potential. (Slaughter, 2007: 16) With the Indian experience in mind, the high aspiration in the words of Laxshmi Menon Indian delegate to the UN in 1948 are worth remembering here: The declaration would pave the way to a new era of international solidarity, because the basis of rights was neither the State nor the individual, but the social human being, participating in social life, and striving for national and international co operation. (Menon cited in Slaughter, 2007: 17) Hamlet (and Shakespeare) as an indelible literary influence on the imagination of the white western liberal male for 400 years (and, by extension the Indian postcolonial subject) enters into Slaughter’s argument as a hungry ghost, seeking voice. ‘In Hamlet’, Slaughter argues, ‘the personal and the

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  61 political fully converge’, (2007: 104.) If Hamlet’s is an attempt to grow into a fully realised person, a revolutionary impulse enters the argument that negates revenge as a motive, and separates justice from the law in ways that are as emancipatory as Haider walking away from Khurram into an unknown future, and we follow him. We cannot fully understand the impulse at work here without testing further what Bhardwaj’s translation explicates from Hamlet above and beyond the Bildungsroman trajectory. Hamlet’s coming of age ends in death; his antic disposition falls silent and in itself cannot work further on our consciousness. But Shakespeare’s language, which endures to the point (and beyond) of being translated into Bhardwaj’s cinematic idiom encodes a revolutionary poetics taken from Hamlet that Haider updates. ‘Here’s fine revolution, an we had the trick to see’t’, (Shakespeare, Hamlet, 5.1.86–89) Hamlet says. Keirnan Ryan appreciates the nuances of this in Shakespeare’s Universality (2015), he considers the gravedigger scene. As Ryan points out, in this context ‘the strict historicist scholar will hasten to point out that the word revolution must be construed here as the wheel of fortune or the whirligig of time’, (2015: 71) both of which have fitting correlation in Haider’s milieu, (Taneja, 2017) and also in Bhardwaj’s approach to story telling, as I have noted. Though Ryan (2015) admits that to impute the modern meaning of political revolution into the word could be considered anachronistic, he argues that it would also ‘be perfectly in keeping with Shakespeare’s profoundly anachronistic imagination. Given the dramatic context in which Hamlet uses the word, it would be perverse not to perceive its modern political meaning already breaking through here. As George Steiner observes in After Babel: “Shakespeare at times seems to ‘hear’ inside a word or phrase, the history of its future echoes” ’ (2015: 72). This observation acts as a key to the perspective of Shakespeare’s writing, which never forgets that death comes to us all, kings or servants. With this knowledge Shakespeare stays true to his time but takes a perspective far beyond it to express an egalitarian vision that can have Hamlet, ‘terminally alienated from everything his rank entails’, (2015: 9) and state, ‘the King is a thing . . . Of nothing’ (Shakespeare, Hamlet, 4.2.27–29). In this liberating realisation, Hamlet’s antic disposition comes into its own. It cannot be bound by any line of control. With this in mind, it is difficult to watch Haider walking into the future we know actually came about. Instead, his final walk catches our consciences, in ways that are also integral to Shakespeare’s play. Working so intricately with the text, the film captures the essence of what Shakespearean tragedy offers us as Kottman, in the Oxford Handbook to Tragedy (Neil and Schalkwyk, 2016) notes: That loving and being loved make our worldly rights and social entitlements worth having, not the reverse, is something that can perhaps only be learned through the sting of finding oneself unloved, rebuked, put

62  Preti Taneja down (or conversely through the remorse which comes from having injured a loved one). . . . It is as if the worth of our shared word, of our lives together were determined by our success or failure in being, or somehow becoming worthwhile for one other. Success in this enterprise demands that we somehow inhabit others’ lives and imagine for ourselves what they would do, what they want from us, and why they act the way they do. Shakespearean tragedy responds to this demand. (Kottman, 2016: 17) When the film ends, whatever we have understood about how time’s revolutions have brought the state of Kashmir to its current circumstances, the next stage is ours. We are charged with telling Hamlet/ Haider’s story until it needs no more repetition. As Parveena Ahangar, founder of the APDP reminds us, ‘Yay tamasha nahi hai—yay matam sahi hai’, this is not a spectacle, our mourning is real (Ahangar, 2017). If we have properly heard the call to a revolution in how to hear others’ pain, how we might restore the broken trust in social justice Haider shows the impact of how we can better work towards an equal azadi via a human rights framework we have written down and pay lip service to, the rest cannot be silence.

Notes 1. India and Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir border clashes, Associated Press in Srinagar, the Guardian, 8 October 2014. www.theguardian.com/world/2014/ oct/08/india-pakistan-kashmir-border-clashes. 2. For a tone-deaf and racist reading of this scene, see Gilbey, 2014. Gilbey draws on the racist trope of the effeminate Asian man to undermine the lead actor’s performance and the film as a whole: he also misses the most basic nuance of Bhardwaj’s use of ‘chutzpah’—that it is mispronounced deliberately to call ‘bullshit’ on the state and international parties that have played havoc with Kashmiri lives. In doing so he falls victim to Bhardwaj’s joke against the cinema of the mono-lingual world and its expert critics, who won’t understand ‘chut’ as the pun. I point this out in line with my argument that the film contains a critique of cinema and the politics of distribution, and what is ‘known’ and by whom about the Kashmir conflict. 3. This demonstration is also represented in Harud (Aamir Bashir, 2010). In conversation with Ashvin Devasundaram, Bashir has noted the incredible hardships he faced getting access and permission to make his independent film compared with the Bhardwaj crew, who, as noted in this essay, were working three years later and also had the power of Bhardwaj’s reputation and Bollywood credentials behind them. Devasundaram notes that Bashir ‘spotted the APDP demonstration and the crew immediately moved to film the protest. They were accosted by police and Bashir had to stall for time as the crew tried to film as much as they could’ (Email to author. See also, Devasundaram, 2016: 87, 255). 4. Enforced disappearances are categorised ‘a crime against humanity’. India has signed, but not ratified the treaty (Human Rights Watch 2007). 5. In 2007, HRW quoted the APDP statement that ‘more than 10,000 people are missing in Jammu and Kashmir. The government has admitted that nearly 4,000 people are missing, but claims that some of them may have crossed into Pakistan to join militant groups. Until now, authorities have denied all responsibility for

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  63 the fate or whereabouts of the “disappeared” persons in response to habeas corpus petitions’. 6. Basharat Peer, interview with the author, 217. A new Indie fim Side A & Side B (Kazmi, 2017) reveals how access to cinema and VHS cassettes was a utopian dream for Kashmiri civilians.

References Ahangar, P. Rafto Lecture. Wande Magazine, Available at: www.wandemag.com/ parveena-ahangar-rafto-lecture/ [Accessed 03 November 2017]. Amnesty International. (2011). ‘A Lawless Law’, www.amnestyusa.org/files/ asa200012011en_11.pdf [Accessed 11 October 2017]. Amnesty International, Blackout in Kashmir Undermines Human Rights. (2016). Available at: www.amnesty.org.in/show/news/communications-blackout-in-kash mir-undermines-human-rights [Accessed 10 October 2017]. Asia Watch. (1993). ‘Rape in Kashmir’, Available at: www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/ reports/INDIA935.PDF, [Accessed 22 September 2017]. Association of Parents of Displaced Persons Kashmir. Available at: http://apdpkash mir.com/ [Accessed 10 October 2017]. Bhalla, N. (2012). ‘UN says India Should Scrap AFSPA’, Reuters. Available at: https://in.reuters.com/article/india-kashmir-security/u-n-says-india-should-scrapafspa-in-kashmir-idINDEE82T0CA20120330 [Accessed 10 October, 2017]. BBC. (2007). ‘The Future of Kashmir’, Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/ spl/hi/south_asia/03/kashmir_future/html/7.stm [Accessed 30 October 2017]. Bhardwaj, V. (2016). [conversation] (Personal communication, April 2016). The Committee to Protect Journalists. (2004). ‘Asiya Jeelani Killed in Kashmir’, Available at: https://cpj.org/killed/2004/asiya-jeelani.php [Accessed 20 October 2017]. Gilbey, R. (2014). ‘To Pout or Not to Pout, Hamlet goes Bollywood’, New Statesman, www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/10/pout-or-not-pout-hamlet-goesbollywood [Accessed 12 October 2017]. Haider. (2014). Directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. India: VB Pictures. Human Rights Watch. (1999). ‘Behind the Kashmir Conflict, the Applicable International Law’, www.hrw.org/reports/1999/kashmir/intl-law.htm [Accessed 13 October 2017]. Human Rights Watch. (2007). ‘Investigate all Disappearances in Kashmir’, www. hrw.org/news/2007/02/15/india-investigate-all-disappearances-kashmir [Accessed 31 October 2017]. India Today. (2017). ‘Saare Jahan se Achcha: Some Facts About the Most Loved Indian Patriotic Song and Its Creator’, Available at: http://indiatoday.intoday. in/education/story/saare-jahan-se-accha-facts/1/647730.html [Accessed 25 October 2017]. Institute for Conflict Studies. (2002). ‘A Survey of Elections in Kashmir’, www.ipcs. org/article/jammu-kashmir/a-survey-of-elections-in-kashmir-717.html [Accessed 13 October 2017]. International Commission of Jurists. (1995). ‘Human Rights in Kashmir’, www. icj.org/wp-content/uploads/1995/01/India-human-righst-in-Kashmir-fact-findingmission-report-1995-eng.pdf [Accessed 03 September 2017]. International Committee of the Red Cross. ‘Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries’, Available at: https://ihl-databases.icrc.org/ihl/385ec082b509e76c412567390 03e636d/6756482d86146898c125641e004aa3c5 [Accessed 09 September 2017].

64  Preti Taneja International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. (1966a). ‘Appendix 3’, Available at: https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/MTDSG/Volume%20I/Chapter%20IV/IV-4.en.pdf [Accessed 04 October, 2017]. International Convention on Civil and Political Rights. (1966b). ‘Appendix 4’, Available at: https://treaties.un.org/doc/Publication/MTDSG/Volume%20I/Chapter%20IV/IV-3.en.pdf International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir. (2009). ‘Buried Evidence: Unknown, Unmarked and Mass Graves in Indian Administered Kashmir’, Available at: www.kashmirprocess.org/reports/graves/toc.html [Accessed 13 October 2017]. Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. (1978). Available at: http://hrlibrary.umn. edu/research/jammu-publicsafetyact1978.html [Accessed 29 September 2017]. Kottman, P. (2016). ‘What is Shakespearean Tragedy?’ in Neill, M. and Schalkwyk, D. (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Tragedy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–18. Levy, A., and Scott Clarke, C. (2012). The Meadow. UK: Harper Press. Mahajan, A. S. (2014). ‘Kashmir Tourism, Paradise regained’, Business Today. Available at: www.businesstoday.in/magazine/cover-story/kashmir-tourism-growth/ story/201861.html [Accessed 17 September 2017]. Mookherji, T. (2016). ‘Absence and Repetition in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider’, Cogent Arts and Humanities, 3: 1260824. Nandal, R. S. (2014). ‘All Eyes on other R-Day March—to Lal Chowk’, Times of India. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/All-eyes-on-other-RDay-march-to-Lal-Chowk/articleshow/7364973.cms?referral=PM [Accessed 05 October 2017]. Nehru in Kashmir. (1947). Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGlcCNJSKwI [Accessed 15 September 2017]. ‘Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights’, Available at: www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CCPR.aspx [Accessed 16 September 2017]. Peer, B. (2009). Curfewed Night. India: Random House. Peer, B. email/ phone call with author, 25 October 2017. Transcripts available. Ryan, K. (2015). Shakespeare’s Universality: Here’s Fine Revolution. Coventry, UK: Arden. ‘India and Pakistan Exchange fire in Border Clashes’, Guardian. Available at: www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/08/india-pakistan-kashmir-border-clashes [Accessed 17 September 2017]. Safi, M. ‘Kashmir Conflict Shifts with Top Militia Vowing Fight is for an Islamic State’, Guardian. Available at: www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/22/kash mir-conflict-shifts-top-militant-fight-islam-independence-zakir-musa [Accessed 05 September 2017]. Shakespeare, W. Hamlet. London: Arden. Sharma, M. (2016). ‘Addressing the Issue of Enforced Disappearances’, Available at: www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/Addressing-the-issue-of-enforceddisappearances/article15247528.ece [Accessed 17 October 2017]. Slaughter, J. (2007). Human Rights Inc: The World Novel and Narrative Form. New York, USA: Fordham University Press. Swami, P. (2003). ‘India’s Forgotten Army’, The Hindu. Available at: www.thehindu. com/2003/09/14/stories/2003091406170800.htm [Accessed 16 October 2017]. Taneja, P. (2017). We That Are Young. UK: Galley Beggar Press.

Breaking Curfew, Presenting Utopia  65 United Nations. (1972). Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir as Agreed by India and Pakistan, 11 December 1972. [Folder] S360 7/ 4/ 37/9. New York: United Nations Public Archive. United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, Chapter IV Human Rights. (1984). Available at: https://treaties. un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-9&chapter=4&lang=en [Accessed 04 October 2017]. United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. Available at: www. un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/unmogip/background.shtml. [Accessed 03 October 2017] Waheed, M. (2016). ‘Is this the World’s First Mass Blinding?’ Guardian, Available at: www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/08/india-crackdown-in-kashmir-is-thisworlds-first-mass-blinding [Accessed 07 August 2017].

4 Queer Radiance Margarita with a Straw, Disability and Vision Amy Villarejo

Introduction First, the bare bones outline. Margarita with a Straw is a feature film from 2014, directed by Shonali Bose and starring Kalki Koechlin, a popular Bollywood and indie star, writer and theatre actor. Koechlin was born to French parents who were devotees of Sri Aurobindo (to whose ashram in Pondicherry they emigrated), and she was subsequently raised near Ooty, in Tamil Nadu; she then trained in theatre at Goldsmiths in London and returned to India to take up a career on stage and screen. In Margarita, Koechlin plays Laila, a young woman with cerebral palsy who likewise travels from India (Delhi) abroad (to New York) to attend New York University (NYU), where, among other experiences, she falls in love with a blind woman [Already, we see how difficult it is simply to describe the film simply as Indian, much less an Indian independent, but it is both of those things and more]. Bose’s script owes its general debt to Bose’s cousin, Malini Chib, who herself has cerebral palsy and wrote powerfully about her experiences in her memoir, One Little Finger (2011). In an interview, Bose describes the catalyst for the film: I have a cousin who was born with acute cerebral palsy. She’s only a year younger than me. We’re very much like sisters. We grew up together doing everything together. And when she was 39 and I was 40, we were in a London pub and I asked her, I said, ‘What would you like for your 40th birthday, the best birthday ever?’ And she replied, “I’d just like to have sex”. And it hit me in that moment that I hadn’t thought about my sister’s sexuality. This is something really important. There must be so many people who are disabled who are not considered sexual beings because of their bodies. And so I just felt like, in world cinema, it was a subject I didn’t see that had been dealt with. Particularly for women. And so that’s what was the inspiration. (Costa, 2016)

Queer Radiance  67 We should note that gendered experiences of disability itself have been seen in film culture, even in Indian film culture or ‘world cinema’. In some films, disability functions as a narrative ‘prosthesis’, or a kind of opportunistic metaphorical device (Mitchell and Snyder, 2001). In some films, disability is seen only in terms of stereotypes and victimhood. In some, there is a real effort to understand and advocate.1 But the conjunction of queerness and disability is terribly new for independent Indian cinema. What makes it now possible to interrogate this conjunction, this essay will argue, are the very conditions of globalisation that also render these coalitional and intersectional issues, although fraught in different ways in the two locales where the film takes place, India and the United States, as well as the imaginative territory crossed from East to West. This is a tale, after all, of nationalism, ability, normativity, pleasure and belonging, not just in the movies but in the lives of those this movie touches. What I hope to contribute by way of analysis and by way of method is a kind of insistent grounding, an appreciation for its specificity and vision and power, that I find disturbingly lacking in macro-level discussions of queer disability. In what follows, I track three levels of this grounding: lived experience (in a discussion drawn from disability media studies, phenomenology and cultural geography), visual pleasure (in a reading of the film itself) and sexual politics (in accounting for its radical impact).

Who Speaks? Bose centres her screenplay around the experiences of a woman like her cousin/sister Malini. Her vision for the film is consistent with the emphases that the emerging field of disability media studies (awkwardly already given the moniker DMS) has called for in merging disability studies with a cultural studies approach to media environments. According to a recent anthology, the first in the field, these emphases are (1) seeing disability as socially constructed, in a challenge to the ‘medical model’ of disability; (2) the identification of and challenges to the ‘normate’ subject position, a term coined by Garland-Thomson to describe the ‘privileged body without stigma’; and (3) an emphasis upon lived experience as an epistemological basis for making truth claims (Ellcessor et al., 2017). And although this introduction to Disability Media Studies (2017) draws largely from a North-American archive for its textual examples (Glee, Avatar), its insights, especially having to do with the foundational status of lived experience, are broadly applicable. I quote at some length: This valuation of lived experience has two major implications. First, it means that people with disabilities are welcomed as creators of knowledge in a range of scholarship. For instance, many scholars working with disability studies ‘claim disability’ or otherwise choose to articulate

68  Amy Villarejo their ‘relationship to disability’. Additionally, academic works may include disabled voices through various forms of direct quotation and may offer credit to participants or collaborators beyond standard academic practice. Second, this epistemological stance entails taking subjective forms of knowledge seriously including experiences of pain, specific narratives of oppression, and phenomenologies of everyday life. Disability is never a single experience or a generalizable phenomenon; it is always multiple, always contains contradictions, and is, at best, a political category used to group shared experiences without erasing the differences that persist. (2017: 8–9) These are welcome consequences. There are implications the authors don’t explore, too. An emphasis on their category of ‘phenomenologies of everyday life’ should after all indicate to us that we might remake phenomenology itself by exploring its normative assumptions about embodiment and pushing against the ‘normate’ knowledge those assumptions produce. Central to phenomenology, for example, is the symmetry of the standing human body as that which orients us right and left, up and down. Its notions of freedom, too, are likewise articulated through unrestricted bodily movement. Transforming the legacy of phenomenology for thinking queer disability seems particularly exciting and insistent, as two quick examples, from the queer phenomenologist Sara Ahmed and the cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan, will indicate. As Ahmed (2006) notes in discussing the idea of ‘orientation’, we can take from the philosophical literature (Husserl, Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty) a foundational insistence on the intimate co-dwelling of bodies and objects. As much as our senses provide perspectives and impressions of the world, these embodied experiences are not external to the objects they encounter but essential to them insofar as objects have purposive characteristics: we perceive of the table, according to Heidegger, its function as something “in order to” (write, have a meal, sew or play) (2006: 550–551). This perception is part of its essential ‘table-ness’. Similarly, for Merleau-Ponty, in Ahmed’s generous account of his thinking, the model of bodily space is not the body as an objective thing in space with objective coordinates, but instead the body does things and space takes shape as a field of action and purposiveness: ‘What counts for the orientation is not my body as it in fact is, as a thing in objective space, but as a system of possible actions, a virtual body with its phenomenal “place” defined by its task and situation. My body is wherever there is something to be done’ (Ahmed, 2006: 561). This is a nice formulation: my body is wherever there is something to be done, since it also describes the situation of facing barriers to doing things, or doing things in ways that my body might not allow, always within the context of a plurality of objects and others. The cultural geographer Yi-Fu Tuan has also deepened our understanding of the body’s relationship to space through the centrality of perception. His

Queer Radiance  69 humanism tries to take seriously the multiple ways in which we are emplaced in the world and attached to it. In his book Space and Place (1977), however, a more normative sense of the body emerges than that which Ahmed teases out of the philosophical tradition. For him, for example, ‘movements such as the simple ability to kick one’s legs and stretch one’s arms are basic to the awareness of space’ (Tuan, 1977: 12), so that an immobile person has a “primitive” sense of space (Tuan, 1977: 52). In his focus on the primacy of perception, especially visuality and touch, he additionally reinforces the normative status of binocular vision, bodily symmetry and dexterous hands, raising questions about the sense of space and engagement with place produced through disabled embodiments. For Tuan, it is precisely the role of art and literature to evoke, thickly one might say, these attunements and attachments, and so we may turn to Malini Chib’s lived experience that serves as the orienting sensibility, and importantly not the literal source narrative, for Margarita with a Straw as one such evocation (Tuan, 1977: 162). One Little Finger, Chib’s memoir published in 2011, reveals to us an activist, an intellectual, and a survivor. Some of her experiences, such as attending boarding school and graduate school in England, may have helped to sculpt the narrative of Laila’s journey to NYU in Margarita, but what seem more consequential about the story she tells are (1) her sense of her lived embodiment and particularly her emphasis upon the disabling effects of her speech, and (2) the political/intellectual habitat she both forges and depends upon, which shows us a strong sense of her agency, analysis, and capacity for change. Here is Chib’s story of her first day of college at St. Xavier’s an elite college in Bombay: I entered the classroom. There was a stunned silence. The silence was interrupted by the irritating, incessant noise of the motor of my electric wheelchair. There were whispers and unsure shuffles. The professor himself looked most scared and apprehensive. They must have wondered who this heap of undulating mass in an electric wheelchair was. Had she entered the wrong class? I parked myself in the front row. The class began. At least the entrance was over with. ‘Your names please’, said the professor, turning to the person next to me. ‘Malini Chib’, I said my name, which I know sounded completely garbled to all around me. No one understood. The professor looked perplexed. He asked again. I spoke again. He thought I had not understood the question. He was irritated, so were 88 other students. I tried spelling my name. He did not get me. I began to panic. I tried again. My speech was getting worse and worse. He looked away impatiently. He had not understood. I heard a cry from a student from behind. ‘She said Malini’. Eureka! She had understood at last. (Chib, 2011: 51–52) Chib’s self-deprecation (describing herself as an undulating mass) is laced with biting humour through One Little Finger, but it doesn’t dampen the

70  Amy Villarejo sense we get of how difficult it is to move through the world, especially of education, with what she calls ‘poor speech’. It is not until she enrols in graduate school in the UK that Chib finds a group of peers who are attentive enough to her specific speech and to inclusive education to be able really to hear her: On reflecting, I think this was the first time I had peers who would listen to my speech painstakingly and respond. Working in a team certainly helped as we could clarify and bounce back ideas on each other. What played a crucial part was that all three of my tutors had an interest in inclusive education and in me. Having a background in inclusive education, they pushed others to listen to me, and pushed me to contribute meaningfully to make intellectual sense. This made me an active contributor of the class. Thus began my academic journey where my voice was heard and what I had to say was important for the first time in my life. (Chib, 2011, 139–140) Chib’s own intellectual journey takes her through a master’s degree in Women’s Studies and to a high-profile role in disability activism in India: she received the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities as ‘role model’ in the same year that her book was published. Her own role model certainly is her mother, Padmashri awardee Dr. Mithu Alur, the founder of what was initially called the ‘Spastics Society’ of India and later became ADAPT (Able Disabled All People Together). As an early advocate for her daughter and eventually as an expert on disability education and social policy, Alur’s work has shifted historically as disability discourses, analyses and institutions have evolved, so that initiatives now address vulnerability and education for girls, children in poverty (in a pilot project in Dharavi, the famous slum in Mumbai), and disabled children together. Intrinsic to the work is an implicit conceptual challenge to the homogeneity of the ‘global South’ and to the category of ‘disability’ itself in relation to what Puar has recently called ‘debility’, a connection that I address in my closing section (Puar, 2017: 11). In what follows, I turn the film as itself a technology of orientation, an audio-visual means of addressing a largely immobile spectator through an apparatus of storytelling through movement. The film enlists many cinematic tools with which to reorient vision and sound, centring the experience of its protagonist, Laila, and building a specific story of her trajectory, her radiance, her vision. Although there are contentious discussions worldwide regarding the casting of films about disability with able-bodied actors, who often have the star power to bring necessary financing to these projects, it does seem clear that Malini’s lifeworld forms a kind of substrate for Bose’s story, over which is laid Koechlin’s extraordinary performance, one of the key tools upon which the film’s overall power depends (Ryan, 2017). For my purposes, it is as important to appreciate acting as a hard-earned craft in

Queer Radiance  71 order to see how the grounding through Malini emerges in Koechlin’s own embodied movement and speech. Indeed, the story offered by Malini Chib establishes just how difficult it is to define disability in general terms, especially through an ontology of visible embodiment, types of impairments, illnesses and their symptoms and the assumptions that accompany the encounter with difference. From my perspective, the question about speaking legitimately can be framed otherwise. For example, we can ask: what makes me legible for others in terms I can withstand? How is it possible for me to present myself to others as recognisable? What are the obligations I have to do so? I am a relatively able-bodied professor who has recently survived advanced cancer, undergoing a year of treatments that rendered me chronically unwell and my body permanently altered. I am the partner of a severely disabled stroke survivor, who has both hemiplegic paralysis and cognitive impairments. These are my relationships to disability, lived daily. The story of Margarita has touched me, indelibly.

Radiant Vision: Subtitling Disability The first screen of the film is a freeze frame advertising ADAPT, which is listed as a co-producer on the credits. If it is then jarring to see that VIACOM18 is its major source of funding, we have nevertheless glimpsed in the initial minute or two, before the film’s first photographic image, how a web of global disability rights advocacy coexists with a web of global media financing, especially through the circuits of television funding (over which the goliath multi-national corporation Viacom presides). VIACOM18 is the Indian division, which advertises itself as multi-platform, multigenerational and multicultural: a good fit for a film that appeals explicitly to young audiences through music and which bridges at least two continents (a key narrative figure in the film, Jared, is British, so maybe three continents!). Let me be clear that I am not saying that global media circuits are identical to global human rights circuits, nor am I thereby alleging that rights discourses and organisations are somehow corrupted when coupled with media conglomerates. What I am wishing to emphasise is the complicated notion of something we imagine to be ‘independent’ both from dominant film industries and from state-based governmentality: here we have a queer independent film emerging from the knowledge-base of an NGO and from the loins of finance capital, and such is the nature of the beast. Add to this mix an affective charge: the film is credited to ‘Ishan Talkies’, the production company named for Bose’s late son, whom she lost to a freak accident in Los Angeles when he was only 16 years old. In the closing credits, Bose dedicates the film to the memory of Ishan and to her son Vivan. This hybridity extends into the texture of the film in a number of ways familiar to most audiences of contemporary Indian cinema: through global brands, digital culture, travel and subtitling, which serves a unique role

72  Amy Villarejo in this film in ‘translating’ Laila’s speech. With regard to the former, this avowedly is not the equivalent of Shah Rukh Khan in a Tag Heuer watch in the Swiss Alps (lovingly mocked in the blockbuster Bollywood hit Om Shanti Om [2007]), but Margarita nonetheless gives us recognisable Beats brand headphones, Puma sneakers, rock music, FaceTime and lower Manhattan. With regard to the subtitles, rather than (as is the conventional case) titling only the Hindi dialogue for English-speaking ‘global’ audiences, the film gives the viewer—and here I should specify that I mean the viewer of that very global release to which I had access both via DVD and through the Netflix platform in the United States—subtitled dialogue that is not in English and all of Laila’s speech in addition. In a sense, Laila’s ‘poor speech’ gets fascinatingly translated into that which global audiences and fans of Indian cinema are simply used to accessing otherwise, i.e., via text as an addition to what we hear. It isn’t so much that Laila’s speech is no longer heard, therefore, but that we hear and understand it simultaneously, an experience for which Malini Chib struggled for the better part of three decades. Folding disability into cinematic convention, Bose circumvents the issue of subtitling only ‘poor’ speech, instead giving spectators multiple or multiplied speech for differential competencies in listening. It isn’t until we are well into the narrative that the character Laila acquires an iPad with text to speech capability, and a synthesised voice for Laila thus enters this multivalent soundscape as a digital competency. For Bose, those competencies are linked to ethical frames for living with and responding to disability, and those ethics are likewise tied to feminism (through a complicated lens of maternal care) and queerness. Like Bose, although I don’t want to make too much of our shared age, I came into consciousness as a feminist in the 1970s, finding in it (and in lesbian-feminism more pointedly) a framework of activism and analysis that put sexuality and the body under deeply anti-normative pressure, especially during the crisis years of HIV/AIDS. In Margarita, I see Bose as speaking from a position informed by this history, although I don’t see her in the slightest as an ideologue or mouthpiece for an outdated political position. Instead, she creates a film that updates a feminist vision for the 21st century, rejecting selfpity and the overcoming of hardship for a more porous vision and sense of inclusion with its own affective correlate, what I am calling a kind of radiance. I should note that it wasn’t until I had seen the film several times that I heeded the film’s closing epigraph, by Rumi (the 13th-century poet and mystic) for its own description of the process that is radiance: ‘the wound is the place where the light enters you’. A better description of the ethical openness of the film would be difficult to find! During the credit sequence, the first shots of the film follow Laila’s family (father, mother, brother, Laila) in a Tempo Matador van careening along the streets and highways of Delhi. Already Laila is marked by mobility, not by restriction but by freedom, indexed by the smile on her face as she feels the wind blow in the open van window and we see her face illuminated by

Queer Radiance  73 sunlight, our first glimpse of radiance that will become a motif, especially late in the film. With her family, she belongs, bickering good-humouredly with her brother, Monu (Malhar Kushu) in the backseat and joking with her father, Baljit (Kuljeet Singh) as he drives. The sense of the streets is open, too: they are, for an Indian metropolis, surprisingly uncrowded (was this shot at dawn before rush hour?) and convey the metaphorical association of the open road that is central to cinematic iconography and to LGBTQ-themed Indian indie films such as Loev (Sudhanshu Saria, 2015), Dear Dad (Tanuj Bhramar, 2016) and Angry Indian Goddesses (Pan Nalin, 2015). Soon the van arrives at Delhi University (formal name: University of Delhi), and Laila’s body becomes more legible to the viewer as she is framed being helped out of the vehicle and seated in her electric wheelchair. We gain a sense of the assemblage of body/chair that becomes her mode of moving through the world, just as we will soon get a sense of barriers to it (such as the broken elevator that necessitates guys carrying her heavy, wobbling chair up the staircase). From the beginning, in transferring from seat to seat, or in walking with helpers or a walker, Laila almost always is either smiling or anticipatory rather than fearful or cautious, amplifying our confidence in her worldliness. In introducing us after this credit sequence to Laila’s experiences at university, the film underscores Laila’s teenage sociality. As she meets up with her friend Dhruv (Hussain Dalal), also in a wheelchair, she assumes Dhruv’s eyeline gaze at a seated classmate’s underwear peeking out from her pants, cracking up with him at the pleasure of glimpsing something forbidden and a teeny-weeny bit naughty. Although there is nothing about this sequence that directly suggests Laila’s queer pleasure in looking at another woman (we have to read backward to comprehend it in this way), we do understand that she is a typical teenager, with sex and transgression on the mind and with raging desires that can land anywhere. Soon, her desire is directed towards the lead singer, Nima (Tenzing Dalha) in the band for which she is a lyricist; when she is rebuffed, she is heartbroken. Laila’s initial attraction to Nima is but a prelude to the film’s later exploration of Laila’s sexuality, but we should pause to notice several strategies the film adopts to convey both desire and relationality. While the film enlists our sympathy with Laila’s rather predictable crush on the rock band’s lead (that Dalha is an adorable Tibetan actor who has, since Margarita, landed as the face of Rajasthan in a tourist television advertisement doesn’t hurt), it rejects sentimentality in two key sequences. These firmly side with Laila, both against simple dichotomies between ability and disability and against pity. In the first, Dhruv confronts Laila with the fact that she has transferred her attention from him to Nima, the object of her attraction. ‘Being with normal people won’t make you normal’, he tells her in the hallway, framed by a volley between them of ‘fuck you’ and ‘asshole’ and ‘coward’. The film refuses to retreat from hard decisions and their consequences, in this case risking an important friendship and bond (with disability) for a fleeting

74  Amy Villarejo attraction (for ability). In the second, the Delhi University’s indie rock band has entered a competition among other area universities. While the band performs, Laila works the sound board, sharing a piece of the stage with her bandmates. At the competition’s close, the female MC announces that they can’t not award the top prize to the ‘band with a disabled girl’, whereupon Laila flips the MC off onstage and retreats with her comrades. While her face subsequently registers the pain of this pity that compounds the pain of Nima’s rejection, her gesture remains defiant and empowered, and it is clearly assumed to be aligned with the film’s overall point of view. The film itself says ‘fuck you’ to pity. Point of view is also key to how the film understands relationality, particularly Laila’s relationship to her mother, Subhangini (played by the luminous actor Revathy), known familiarly as Aai. In a scene in which her mother gives Laila a shower, a scene sandwiched precisely between the hallway exchange with Dhruv and the band competition that I have just described, Laila confesses her fondness for Nima (‘I like this boy’). Lingering above Laila’s seated body, the camera records a relay that plays itself out on Subhangini’s face. First, she seems to acknowledge that something has shifted: Laila is serious in a manner we suspect she has not yet been, and her sexuality becomes a question for Subhangini in this new way. Surprise yields to worry, concern, and fear as her face appears to reflect the anticipation of the pain of rejection and the difficulty that Laila may face as a disabled desiring being. I am, I want to underscore, reading the emotion on Revathy’s face without being guided by narrative information, and in this way, I am invited into a melodramatic world of unspoken emotion that nonetheless solidifies a bond of care between Laila and her mother. The shower scene will repeat itself later in the film, with equally important revelations between daughter and mother. For one might underscore that, in one important way, this film is generically speaking a maternal melodrama, ending (spoiler alert) with the felt consequences of the mother’s death from cancer. Laila’s bond with Subhangini, however, forms part of the very assemblage that allows Laila to move through the world, and for this reason we should linger with other details of this emotional shower sequence, as they foreshadow aspects of their relationship that are important not just to the narrative, but to our understanding of what I previously called Laila’s orientation, her mode of being among others in the world. For example, Laila asks for, or better demands, shampoo, smiling and laughing as her mother initially hesitates, changes her mind and indulges her daughter’s request. Fleetingly, we glimpse just a slight move of manipulation on Laila’s part, one that cajoles her caregiver into doing exactly what she wants, what feels good, even if it demands a bit of extra time and effort. The film thus paints a portrait of Laila as a person with agency but not as an angel, a characterisation that will be confirmed when she reveals her betrayal of her lover later in the narrative. During this exchange, we also learn more about the assemblage

Queer Radiance  75 of support upon which Laila relies in order to accomplish the activities of daily living that include self-care and education; it will not surprise us that Subhangini will accompany Laila to New York for a good part of the term when she is admitted and journeys to NYU. In sum, the bond that Laila has with her mother is importantly reframed as both belonging to the typical landscape of adolescence and as much more weighted and durably tied to Laila’s survival as an adult. The core of the film takes place after Laila and her mother journey to New York, introduced to the viewer as a snowstorm that impedes the movement of Laila’s electric chair on the sidewalk. In contrast to Delhi’s obstacles, however, New York mostly presents a vision of accessibility and increased mobility (figured, for example, through a New York City MTA bus, fitted with a wheelchair lift and with a perhaps unusually amiable and helpful driver), a reading of global movement that sees the West as more advanced in its accommodation and the global South as remaining less developed hence less accessible. This contrast mirrors Malini’s experiences abroad in London, although Manhattan is also seen as inviting bodies into ongoing struggles for their own appearance, as when Laila finds herself tear-gassed at a violent street demonstration, when she literally carries her new friend and girlfriend-to-be Khanum (Sayani Gupta), a blind Pakistani student, off in her wheelchair towards breathable air. The story’s arc does not, then, take us in simple terms from the restrictions of Delhi to the freedom of the West (since Laila returns to Delhi), and neither does it make a final decision about Laila’s sexuality. Even if Bose herself has identified as bisexual, the narrative does not in other words resolve the quandary that Laila faces in sleeping with Jared (the admittedly cute William Moseley) and in forging a more robust relationship with girlfriend Khanum. To my mind, the more melodramatic narrative that surrounds Laila’s infidelity and Khanum’s response, unfolded when Laila and Khanum return to Delhi for vacation only to witness the death of beloved Aai, is the least interesting part of the film, insofar as it depends upon clichés of betrayal and confession, meshed with the more standard death-from-cancer narrative of the maternal melodrama, complete with a shot of the hairbrush thick with hair lost from chemotherapy. It’s not that these are not moving elements of the narrative but that they are more predictably engaged. What beckons me more are the film’s final moments, which recapitulate and transform earlier motifs into a shining affirmation of self-sustenance and survival. Three elements stand out. First, the play of light and wind on Laila’s face in the van ride home after her mother’s death rehearses the tension between freedom and the unknown that has built to this point, signalling an end to childhood and a literal window onto an uncertain adult future. Although Koechlin can appear childlike, her appearance flirts with adult accoutrements, nowhere more than in the final scene, as I will describe. The van ride sets the tone for this transformation, introspection and emergence. Second, at her mother’s funeral ritual in their home, Laila asks her

76  Amy Villarejo father to play a CD recording of her mother’s singing along to her tanpura, which Laila had earlier accompanied, head resting on her mother’s shoulder. This singing, which is a kind of synchronised drone, suggests a motif for the binding of mother to daughter. Playing it at the funeral not only recollects the power of the bond, inducing mourning and grief, but it also demonstrates how ties remain after death and how memory can form a web of support when we are open to its working (‘the wound is the place where the light enters you’, if you let it, adds Bose in her epigraph). Third, Bose ends with Laila out for a ‘date’, for which she primps and has her hair cut and dons a dress and lipstick. Seated at a table at a bar, Laila watches as a waiter brings her a margarita and, instructed by her, pours it into her sippy cup, to which she adds a crazy straw. As she sips and the liquid travels through the loops, she regards her date, a mirror, with the Koechlin grin and laugh, and raises her drink in a toast. This is an unusual note to strike, one that emphasises Laila’s autonomy and capacity more than her ties to others, her mother or her girlfriend or her quasi-boyfriend. It takes her out of family and childhood to an adult drink that is pure pleasure, in the moment, adapted to Laila’s embodied joy. This, finally, seems to me to be the radiance the film affirms and conveys. That it is embodied by a queer disabled Indian woman, on her way somewhere in the world, makes Margarita one of the most remarkable films of this new century.

Sexual Politics I began by suggesting my impatience with some macro-level discussions of disability that refuse the specificity of experience and embodiment. Often, these discussions come armed with a critique of liberal disability rights frameworks, which advocate ‘for social accommodation, access, acceptance, pride, and empowerment’ (Puar, 2017: x). While I appreciate the nomination of analytic and conceptual fields like debility to name that which is excluded by the ‘empowerment and rights’ discourse of (Western) disability activism, I am more drawn to the texture of evocations of queer disabled experience such as Margarita, seen through the eyes of a filmmaker who wants to remake the world. The film doesn’t want us to decide what is retrograde and what is progressive about it: it wants us to linger with both loss and the glimpses of radiance it finds. In that sense, sure, it’s melodrama, but it is also transformative.

Note 1. Here is a partial archive: 123 (K. Subash, 2002); Beautiful (V.K. Prakash, 2011); Black (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2005); Dancer (Keyaar, 2005); Deiva Thirumagal (A.L. Vijay); Guzaarish (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2010); Haridas (G.N.R. Kumaravelan, 2013); Iqbal (Nagesh Kukunoor, 2005); Keshu (Sivan, 2009); Khamoshi (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 1996); Koshish (Gulzar, 1972); Main Aisa Hi Hoon (Showket Khanday, 2005); Moondram Pirai (Balu Mahendra, 1982); Mozhi

Queer Radiance  77 (Radha Mohan, 2007); My Name is Khan (Karan Johar, 2010); Naan Sigappu Manithan (Thiru, 2014); Naandi (N. Lakshminarayan, 1964); Namma Preethiya Ramu (Sanjay-Vijay, 2003); Perazhagan (Sasi Shanker, 2004); Pithamagan (Bala, 2003); Porkkaalam (Cheran, 1997); Prasad (Manoj Sati, 2012); Sadma (Balu Mahendra, 1983); Sargam (K. Viswanath, 1979); Sati (Aparna Sen, 1989); Sparsh (Sai Paranjpye, 1980); Style (Raghava Lawrence, 2006); Taare Zameen Par (Aamir Khan, 2007); Vaada Raha (Samir Karnik, 2009); Yellow (Mahesh Limaye, 2014).

References Ahmed, S. (2006). ‘Orientations: Toward a Queer Phenomenology’, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 12(4): 543–574. Chib, M. (2011). One Little Finger. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Costa, D. (2016). ‘Bisexual Director Shonali Bose on her Revolutionary Queer Film ‘Margarita with a Straw’’, Available at: www.afterellen.com/movies/478147-bisexualdirector-shonali-bose-revolutionary-queer-film-margarita-straw#Yh2wyO5uIK 34Q7bF.99 Ellcessor, E., and Kirkpatrick, B. (2017). Disability Studies Reader. New York: New York University Press, p. 5. Mitchell, D. T., and Snyder, S. L. (2001) Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, p. 47. Puar, Jasbir. (2017). The Right to Maim. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Ryan, P. (2017). ‘Hollywood’s Inclusion Excludes Disabled Actors’, USA Today, 23 October, p. 1D. Tuan, Yi-Fu. (1977). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

5 Indie Crowdfunded Narratives of Commercial Surrogacy, or the Contested Bodies of Neoliberalism Onir’s ‘I Am Afia’ and Arpita Kumar’s Sita Ana Cristina Mendes Introduction This chapter focuses on two Indie crowdfunded narratives of gestational commercial surrogacy, “I Am Afia”, the first story in the four-part anthology film I Am (2010) by Indian filmmaker Onir (also known as Anirban Dhar), and Sita (2012), written and directed by US-based filmmaker Arpita Kumar. The protagonist of Onir’s “I Am Afia” (a web designer played by the Indian actress and director Nandita Das) is a single woman seeking IVF treatment in 2009 Kolkata; Sita is a short, 20-minute narrative film whose protagonist rents her womb out to a Canadian woman, Kate. In different ways, these cinematic narratives offer a critique of the contested bodies of neoliberalism, speaking to the issue of surrogacy in India, a heated topic of debate in social, legal and academic circles. Beyond categories of local and diasporic, and in line with the premise that the films of the new independent Indian cinema are glocal—global in aesthetic and local in content—these films seek to explore new subjectivities and the attached social practices. In the context of globally gendered and classed interactions and the translocal reconfiguration of family and kin structures, the new independent Indian cinema acts as a catalyst for the emergence of social change, uncovering and disrupting ‘traditional’ social contracts. This chapter presents Onir’s and Kumar’s filmmaking as a situated artistic exercise, part of growing placebased practices which aim to be socially responsible. These arguments are sustained by an interview conducted with Onir, generous excerpts of which are given throughout the chapter. Power-knowledge is intimately related to representation—influencing which representations are authoritative, and which are not. Besides epistemological issues—related to practices of silencing the knowledge of minority groups (Dotson, 2011; Spivak, 1988) and involved in acts of epistemic disobedience (Mignolo, 2009) and attempts to redress epistemic injustice (Fricker, 2007; Medina, 2013), and well as in the epistemic stance of scepticism associated with postcolonial studies in general, one that opens space for asking questions—1the issue of representation through which knowledge

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  79 about the world is formed is vital for the purposes of this chapter. One of the aims is then to assess the contribution of I Am and Sita to the production and circulation of knowledge about assisted reproductive technologies in India and interrelatedly to widening the representation spectrum concerning the stakeholders (the surrogate, the surrogate’s family, the medical clinic’s personnel and the commissioning parents) involved in this process. Because I Am was crowdsourced, and Sita and I Am were crowdfunded, the first by 91 donors and the second by more than 400 from around the world, the participatory aesthetic and funding practices of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing provide another frame of reference whilst evaluating the two narratives. With its dual focus, the chapter concentrates on the ways recent transformations in funding mechanisms, in particular the uncharted but expanding co-funding and co-authorial practices of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, empower creative projects aimed at representing socially pressing issues such as commercial surrogacy in India. As the chapter details, both films were influenced by the rise of participatory practices fostered by new technologies and social media, even if the use of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing was not present in the conception of these artistic projects. Shaped by translocal cultural flows, creative projects such as Sita and I Am enable new representational possibilities and more agency for previously under or misrepresented individuals and groups, in particular at the gendered and classed levels. Indian society remains the site of inequalities and exploitation, as depicted in its new independent cinema. Instead, Bollywood cinema eases, to a certain extent, the transition of audiences into a burgeoning consumer society (Dissanayake, 2004: 149). Onir, clearly an exponent of this new independent cinema,2 self-defines his practice as inhabiting a ‘middle space’: As an artist, I feel my space in the Hindi film industry is neither arthouse nor mainstream Bollywood. . . . It matters to me a lot how I can reach out to a wider audience, and I constantly try to work towards it. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not work. It does not mean that I’ll put an item number3 in my film because it is populist. . . . Also, consciously, I work with a lot of artists from the mainstream cinema. So, my films are kind of in the middle. I call my films independent cinema because I make them independently. I do not have the pressure of populism, nor do I have the pressures of festivals. (Onir, 2017)4 I Am speaks to diverse socially pressing issues. As Onir clarifies, ‘ “I Am Afia” was actually the last story of the four that I shot, though it is the first story that comes in the film, and it is somehow the mildest’ (2017). The shooting took over a year and took place in four different cities. Kolkata, where Onir is based, was the location for “I Am Afia”. The setting of the opening scene is the fertility clinic, where Afia will meet her sperm donor

80  Ana Cristina Mendes for the first time. Onir’s use of cold colours builds tension within the scene (Figure 5.1). Through a series of flashbacks, we are then introduced to the main reasons that led to the breakup of Afia and Manav’s marriage: his falling in love with another woman and Afia’s desire to have a baby met by his reluctance because ‘it’ would change their whole life. These flashbacks frame Afia’s decision to be a single mother through sperm donation. The other three films that comprise this anthology film are “Omar” (on gay rights), “Abhimanyu” (on child abuse) and “Megha” (on Kashmiri Pandits).5 Onir’s artistic manifesto can arguably be characterised as focussing on social issues usually excluded from mainstream, popular Hindi cinema, even if Onir himself vehemently rejects the idea that his cinema is one of ‘issues’: My films are not on ‘issues’. . . . The only thing I do consciously is to avoid anything that I perceive as regressive. It is also important that through the film one learns about the world and the people around you. So, it is, in a way, a selfish form because I am looking at self-growth. For me, honestly, ‘issues’ have never been the starting point. Stories have. Stories that touch me so that, in that way, whatever I tell is much more personal. (Onir, 2017) Onir came into the limelight with My Brother Nikhil (2005), which deals with same-sex relationships and the stigma attached to HIV. As exemplified by Onir’s films, the subjectivities this new cinema focuses on are often

Figure 5.1 In the opening scene of Onir’s “I Am Afia”, the protagonist is seen nervously waiting for her sperm donor at a fertility clinic in Kolkata.

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  81 marked by asymmetrical power relations, often the result of continuing (and even, in some respects, emerging) socio-economic disjunctures and inequalities in the much vaunted ‘New India’. Examples of this new cinema include the more recent film by Onir Chauranga (released in 2016; produced by Onir and Sanjay Suri’s company Anticlock Films and directed by Bikas Ranjan Mishra), concerning Dalit-Brahmin relations in rural India, and 2017’s Shab (The Night), on the complex forging of human relationships in the large cosmopolitan cities of ‘New India’ such as New Delhi, as well as the 2015 Hindi films Parched (dir. Leena Yadav), Aligarh (dir. Hansal Mehta) and Masaan (dir. Neeraj Ghaywan). Through Afia and Sita’s characterisation in Onir’s “I Am” and Kumar’s Sita, we access the more emotional aspects of surrogacy as experienced by two single women, beyond the redefinition of power paradigms brought about by either changing family and kin structures or more income for the household. Besides issues of love, sexuality and reproduction, autonomy, mobility, power and knowledge inextricably connected to class are also key in these cinematic narratives. The commonalities shared by Onir’s and Kumar’s characters crisscross with the singularities of each woman’s class positionality. Issues of class stratification, power and knowledge strongly impact these two female characters in ways that will be detailed throughout this chapter. As reasoned by Michel Foucault, the issue of knowledge is inextricably bound with power; he states that ‘power is not an institution, not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society’ (1980a: 93); he further insists that power-knowledge is not exercised externally but through power relations: ‘there is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations’ (1977: 27).6 Elsewhere, the French philosopher states that, ‘It is not possible for power to be exercised without knowledge, it is impossible for knowledge not to engender power’ (1980b: 52). Gender studies have emphasised the aims of decentralising the map of inherited knowledge and of critically and decisively reformulating traditional perspectives on some of the basic ideological principles of Western culture, such as cultural conceptualisation of sexual difference and how it derives from strategies of power. As such, even if the usefulness of Foucault’s ideas for gender studies and feminism has been questioned (see, for example, McLaren, 2002: 1), the impact of Foucauldian concepts of power-discourse and knowledge needs to be acknowledged, as Caroline Ramazanoğlu observes: ‘Feminism cannot afford to ignore Foucault, because the problems he addresses and the criticisms he makes of existing theories and their political consequences identify problems in and for feminism’ (1993: 3). Wendy Brown uses Foucault in her critique of the biopolitics of contemporary neoliberalism, even if she recognises that ‘Foucault’s relative indifference to democracy and to capital constitutes the major limitations in his framework for my specific purposes’ (2015: 76–77).7

82  Ana Cristina Mendes Since power operates through the dissemination of knowledge, Onir and Kumar are also claiming power when producing knowledge about sperm donation and surrogacy, questioning categories and assumptions outside their families. Through Afia’s and Sita’s character development, audiences become acquainted with continuities and disruptions regarding the sociocultural roles ascribed and chosen by (and also enforced on) them in the context of changing notions of family and motherhood, and especially with how differences in social locations (not only between Kolkata/India and Canada, but also within the Indian city),8 translate into power differentials when they opt for a particular role in that context. Aesthetic and cultural practices have had a visible impact on questions of the perception of the social uses of reproductive technologies. With the representation of surrogate motherhood in Indian cinemas, surrogacy reached a certain level of social acceptability. Of note are the Hindi romantic dramas about infertile couples who hire a prostitute as a surrogate: Doosri Dulhan (The Second Bride) (1983), directed by Lekh Tandon and written by Anil Barve, remade as Chori Chori Chupke Chupke (Secretly and Stealthily) (2001), directed by Abbas-Mustan. In the early 1980s, Doosri Dulhan was a failure at the box office but, as Shabana Azmi, the actress who played the prostitute Chanda from Kamathipura, remarks, ‘[t]his film was way ahead of its time. It would be a success now, if released’ (quoted in Jha, 2016). Other examples of films on surrogacy are Dasaratham (in the Malayalam language) (1989), directed by Sibi Malayil, about a couple, Chandradas and Annie, who go through the process of bearing a child for the character Rajiv in exchange for money; Chutney Popcorn (1999), directed by Nisha Ganatra, about the lesbian Reena who offers to act as a surrogate for her infertile married sister, Sarita; Filhaal (2002), directed by Meghna Gulzar, about two close friends Rewa and Sia, the latter of whom lends her womb to the married Rewa; Mala Aai Vhaaychay! (in the Marathi language) (2011), written and directed by Samruddhi Porey, about the surrogate Yashoda who bears a child for Mary, a foreigner; and Vicky Donor (2012), directed by Shoojit Sircar, whose protagonist is the sperm donor Vicky Arora. Several documentaries have been made on the topic, for instance Google Baby (2009) by Zippi Brand Frank and Made in India: A Film about Surrogacy (2010) by Rebecca Haimowitz and Vaishali Sinha, as well as the Indian-NorwegianDanish docu-play Made in India: Notes from a Babyfarm (2012), directed by Ditte Maria Bjerg and based on Indian sociologist Amrita Pande’s research. Specifically, Onir sees his film segment “I Am Afia” as a clear departure from Vicky Donor (2012): The difference between my film and Vicky Donor, shot one year later, is that at the centre of Vicky Donor is a man who is donating his sperm (which is always accepted—and funny—making it automatically fundable for the industry). It is not about a woman’s needs, desires or dreams, or a woman’s right to be a single mother. Ultimately, the difference is

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  83 one of point of view. “Afia” is not only about surrogacy, but also about single motherhood. It is not about a couple that is unable to conceive, but about a woman wanting to be a mother on her own. This makes the story much more uncomfortable and un-fundable. (Onir, 2017) Afia experiences and encounters patriarchal power structures throughout the narrative: in the form of her husband Manav, the donor (especially when they meet in the ‘floatel’ and he, a young medical student, feels uncomfortable to be seen alone with an older woman), her work colleague and the doctor. Even her female friend Megha draws the line when Afia asks if Megha’s brother, Siddharth, would consider sperm donation. Instead of using artificial insemination as plot entertainment and erasing single women from representation, Onir’s film foregrounds the possibility of using this reproductive technology as liberating for the recently divorced Afia, granting her agency regarding the family she wants to build, while making the particular situation of single women in India visible. Indeed, the film sequence ends with Afia rejecting the possibility of initiating a romantic relationship with the sperm donor. She tears up the paper where he had written down his contact, and instead opts for single-ness. Plot-wise, this opens the feasibility of a non-marital destiny for the (expected) expecting mother. Over the years, despite different artistic manifestos, filmic narratives such as those mentioned have brought to the fore issues of biopolitical power, subalternity and commodification of the body related to artificial reproductive technologies. In fact, as argued in Anindita Majumdar’s (2014) analysis of the representation of surrogacy in India, the multiple social mobilities and frictions and those mobilities that organise social life at a local level are inextricably embedded in popular mass media products. Majumdar notes the ways in which the ‘rhetoric of the womb’ that circulates in the popular media downgrades issues of gender and reproductive rights across intersectional lines of class. To exemplify the way powerful voices entwine with media images to shape discourses, beginning with the famous Bollywood actor Amir Khan and his wife, the filmmaker Kiran Rao, and their surrogacy and IVF case in 2011 (followed by Shah Rukh Khan and his wife Gauri’s surrogacy controversy in 2013), Majumdar notes how this rhetoric of the womb ‘is a symbol of the power of the media as “opinion maker” in putting forth new readings of relationships in contemporary India’ (2014: 108), and also that ‘the way media shapes debates around these “new” practices are representative of public conversations around them’ (2014: 110). After the introduction of India’s Artificial Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill in 2016 by the Minister of Health and Family Welfare,9 the issues of power-knowledge and representation of surrogacy are even more topical. Discussing broader questions of cultural politics and representation, Glenn Jordan and Chris Weedon (1995) ask:

84  Ana Cristina Mendes Whose culture shall be the official one and whose shall be subordinated? What cultures shall be regarded as worthy of display and which shall be hidden? Whose history shall be remembered and whose marginalized? What images of social life shall be projected and which shall be marginalized? What voices shall be heard and on what basis? (1995: 4) Kumar’s Sita offers a window onto the intimate aspects of the process that many have termed the ‘outsourcing of wombs’ in India, when it shows us a day in the life of an Indian maidservant who is acting as commercial surrogate mother for a Canadian woman. Produced by Odd Talkies, Sita was Kumar’s MFA thesis film at the California Institute of the Arts. In the filmmaker’s words on the questions that motivated this artistic project: When I first read about commercial surrogacy or Assisted Reproductive Technology (A.R.T.), my mind came up with an image of a fortified space in which brown women wandered around with white babies in their stomachs. The image was plagued with questions about the ethical, emotional, and physical repercussions of surrogacy.10 Datta (2017) Following the introduction of the ART Bill, Jordan and Weedon’s questions, formulated more than two decades ago, remain timely; in particular, the implementation of the bill would mean that many of the situations depicted over the years in the Indian romantic drama films mentioned above are now on the brink of becoming illegal. In this current period of transition, when it is expected that practices of commercial gestational surrogacy will move underground, making surrogates more prone to exploitation and abuse, cultural producers have a vital role in revealing these social frictions and fault lines. The ART Bill means that surrogacy will be legally available only to married (read heterosexual) infertile couples. This would have excluded Onir’s character Afia from even contemplating IVF when she decides to have a child as a single mother (Figure 5.2). It is nonetheless legal for Non-Resident Indian (NRIs), People of Indian Origin (PIOs), Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs), as well as foreigners married to Indian citizens (after two years of marriage and if they manage to obtain a medical visa for surrogacy). In a broad sweep, this ban excludes foreigners (unless one member of the couple is an Indian citizen or resident), India’s LGBT communities, single men and women, and unmarried couples. As portrayed in the fourth story segment in I Am, for the LGBT communities, this further adds to the discrimination they already face in a country where sexual activity between people of the same gender is illegal, and same-sex couples cannot legally marry or obtain a civil partnership.

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  85

Figure 5.2 Afia decides to have a child as a single mother and she is met by surprise and incomprehension on the part of her friend Megha.

In a way this reproduces the invisibility of single Indian women in terms of reproductive health services, as these individuals are further erased from representation, given and permitted no role. As exemplified by Afia’s character in Onir’s film, single Indian women are not allowed to be surrogates or to commission surrogates, which reproduces the lack of agency that built the characterisation of single women in Indian filmic narratives on surrogacy. This feeling of erasure is acknowledged in a single woman’s ‘confession’ published in a 2017 issue of India Today celebrating 15 years of the newspaper’s sex surveys: In this country of teeming billions, I am just a blip, a statistic not worth bragging about: I am a single working woman, one of the 71.4 million out of India’s 587 million women. Without a husband, brother or father to take care of me, I defy the laws of Manu. . . . I cannot adopt a child, be a surrogate mother, and even if I conceive with donor sperms, it will be easier for me to climb the Everest than get a birth certificate for my child (lucky Karan Johar, whose unnamed twins at least got a birth certificate this week). (Datta, 2017)11 Surrogacy in India offers a particularly productive site to address the complexity of power not as an instrument of oppression and control but as something ‘which functions in a form of a chain . . . exercised through netlike organization’ (1980: 98). Karan Johar, the director of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye) (2006), dealing with the issue of infertility, has become the exception to the recent political ban, having been the single

86  Ana Cristina Mendes father to twins through surrogacy in 2017. This underscores the extent to which systemic structures of power inequality are still very much in place, despite the optimistic discourses of the ‘new Indian woman’ (Lau, 2010),12 where an influential Bollywood producer can circumvent legal bans, and whilst ordinary citizens cannot. The link between the controversial issues of sperm donation and the ‘new Indian woman’ touched upon in this single woman’s confession, epitomises the theme of Onir’s “I Am Afia”, based on a real-life story. ‘If I can survive alone, then I can raise a child by myself too, all by myself’, declares the defiant Afia who cannot trust another man after she was betrayed by her ex-husband. As exemplified by this character, the ‘new Indian woman’ (a figure that shares trans-historical affinities to the British and North-American ‘New Woman’) has become an economic and political force in India in the past decades and, with some restrictions, has been able to access reproductive technologies. Similar to ‘New India’, the current discourse of ‘new Indian woman’ is articulated with a fully fledged neoliberalism, growing out of the nation’s encounter with neoliberal reform in 1991 and a burgeoning middle class (to which the characters of Afia distinctively belongs). However, when one attends to the intersecting underprivileged socio-economic conditions of the vast majority of Indian surrogates, somehow the hopeful discourse13 surrounding the ‘new Indian woman’ becomes diluted and weakened. Especially in the area of international commercial gestational surrogacy, as illustrated by Sita’s dilemma, reproductive health and the feminisation of the labour force remain as much key issues as they have been in Indian society for several decades. The difference in the 2010s is arguably one of scenario. Under the shiny façade of the technology-driven, outsourcing service providers of the ‘New India’, the changing patterns of family and gender relations progressively determined by neoliberal market forces (Sangari, 2015) and exemplified by the label ‘new Indian woman’ poorly disguise the long-standing power asymmetries. A significant part of the creation of ‘New India’ as the ultimate outsourcing service provider at the global scale has been the growth of the healthcare and medical tourism industry in India, which (until the ART Bill) has included travel associated with reproductive therapies. Value in medical tourism is created by catering to the needs of a global clientele seeking more affordable high-tech medical services in combination with a tourism experience, as Elizabeth Matsangou (2015) explains: Industry players are endorsing India as the ideal destination for treatment by creating the idea of making a holiday out of the trip, while specialised tour groups are also emerging, offering packages that include hospital visits together with tours of local attractions. In fact, an example of outsourcing (in other words, transnationalisation, or even post-Fordist redistributions) of labour and services is the international commercial gestational surrogacy in India. The globalisation of assisted

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  87 reproductive technologies is not a new phenomenon, and it can be traced back at least to population control programs and sex selection practices, as Fouzieyha Towghi and Kalindi Vora (2014) emphasise: In the context of South Asian histories of women and women’s bodies as experimental sites, one must attend to both state projects within national contexts as well as the differential treatment of women’s bodies in the global North and global South as a line of stratification. (2014: 8) Here, vertical power differentials based on gender and most relevantly on class, and between the global North and South, are visible.

Outsourcing Bodies in the Postcolony The association of transnational gestational surrogacy with tourism, as in the terms ‘reproductive tourism’, ‘procreative tourism’ or ‘fertility tourism’ (integrated with class issues of unencumbered access to leisure, disposable income and freedom to choose the destination for travelling), has become a heated topic of debate in academic circles (Inhorn and Patrizio, 2012: 509). Departing from the above terms as vexed formulations, alternatives have been put forth, including ‘cross-border reproductive care’ and ‘reproductive exile’ (Inhorn and Patrizio, 2009). Considering the arguably unethical associations between the biological and tourism, these alternatives constitute an attempt to highlight the subjective dimensions of transnational commercial surrogacy, such as the emotionally draining aspects of the process.14 Even if reproductive technologies were legally redefining power paradigms within the low-income Indian families until the ART Bill, the emotional consequences of this process necessarily took its toll on the surrogates, as the unfortunate story of Kumar’s protagonist shows. Before Sita’s opening credits, a female figure enveloped in a pink shawl, with braided hair and red ribbons, her back to the viewer, stands out, occupying the centre of the frame (Figure 5.3). This mobile figure gradually becomes the focus of the viewer in a long shot of a Delhi street. She is then placed in the kitchen of a middle-class Indian household preparing tea. Despite the movement from long to medium shot, anticipating that this female character will be at the centre of the larger action of the film, we are still unable to completely see her face. She remains an unnamed character. In this almost over-the-shoulder shot, she suddenly leaves the frame to vomit, and we get to hear her name voiced by the mistress of the house. In this scene, waged domestic and procreative labours converge. A few minutes later, the viewer gets to know of Sita’s plans to open a beauty parlour with her friend Radha and escape from the drudgery of domestic work—the viewer is here reminded of the actual financial impact of reproductive technologies on the low-income Indian families

88  Ana Cristina Mendes

Figure 5.3  Sita occupies the frame in the opening scene of Arpita Kumar’s short film.

(in fact, many women were able to afford permanent housing for the family through opting for surrogacy). A controlling male figure, Sandeep, with whom we learn Sita was expecting to meet at a doctor’s clinic later, enters the scene and the straight-on angle of the camera shows us an extremely distressed Sita. The audience learns that both Sita and Sandeep work for a surrogacy clinic and that he is threatening to expose her as an unwed mother to-be, as a ‘whore’ for hire. ‘Surrogacy is no crime’, she cries out, in desperation, when threatened by Sandeep (Figure 5.4). In a subsequent scene set at the surrogacy clinic, the character of a Canadian woman named Kate is talking to Sita about the benefits for surrogates of living at that clinic’s hostel, where the needs of prospective mothers are apparently all taken care of. ‘The women there look really happy. They have no travel issues or grocery shopping’, Kate observes. Nevertheless, all that Sita seems to be interested in is knowing if this hostel is for women only. The audience later discovers that Sandeep administers Sita her daily luprite injections, but he is her husband on paper only. He is arrested when 11 fake marriage certificates are found on him. Yet, this does not mean freedom for Sita, as she is considered to be part of the scam. Her justification for having acted as surrogate mother now and before was that she did not want to be a servant all her life. While her motivations had to do with escaping a situation of structural dispossession, her predicament, specifically the ethical and legal conundrum she finds herself in, challenges the direct, non-complex association of transnational surrogacy with market empowerment and monetary benefits. Because this gestational surrogacy is illegal as Sita is a single woman, the transaction with Kate cannot be completed. Now, Kate’s sevenweek foetus is in Sita’s body and it is ultimately the latter’s decision to make.

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  89

Figure 5.4 Threatened and insulted by Sandeep, a distressed Sita utters, ‘Surrogacy is no crime’.

The baby is no more. The film ends with Sita, the disruptive force, undermining a narrative of victimisation in the face of the inequities of globalisation. Sita, even if a situated product of globalised forces, is a thoroughly consenting subject, as expected, rendered powerless by the structural inequalities considering her class background. Ironically, alongside this narrative that Sita disrupts, the film places her mistress’s daughter who has just become the subject of a contrasting narrative on reproductive and sexual health, and who might become, if it is her desire, a ‘new Indian woman’. In this way, the opposing narratives of Sita and her mistress’s daughter in Kumar’s short film, together with the narrative of Afia’s choice of sperm donation after a divorce in Onir’s I Am, demonstrate that reproduction remains a key site wherein social control can be exercised over single women. Indeed, the differing degrees of this power exercise are mostly related to class stratifications (Ginsburg and Rapp, 1995), a situation that also differentiates Sita’s predicament as a working-class woman and Afia’s in Onir’s film, affluent and thus able to access IVF treatments, as is Kate. In the context of a ‘light’ and ‘liquid’ modernity (Bauman, 2000),15 as Towghi and Vora point out (2014: 8), drawing on Sunder Rajan (2007), the offshore outsourcing of Indian wombs should not simply be seen as a form of neo-colonial exploitation of the working-class and lower middleclass local women by greedy multinationals embodied by the transnational commissioning parents. As such, these critics contend that these processes should be looked at through an intersectional lens, in the sense that they exist across intersectional lines of race and class, and ‘the uneven impact of the globalisation of new and old (low-tech and high-tech) RTs

90  Ana Cristina Mendes on women’s bodies, subjectivities, and social relations across sites and scales’ remain under-examined. As such, Towghi and Vora (2014) advocate a critical intervention in this respect, posing the following questions: ‘How are the effects of new RTs distinct or continuous from earlier colonial and postcolonial RTs? How are these technologies distributed, marketed, and administered as part of a broader international policy to govern women’s reproduction in the name of securing their health?’ (2014: 7). Similar questions are asked by Arpita Kumar when she discusses the genesis of Sita: Who are the women that ‘rent’ their womb? How do they navigate the sociocultural reactions to the physically visible pregnancy? Is there a legal framework to keep in check the exploitation associated with surrogacy? Sita was born out of these questions and hopefully will initiate a dialogue focused on the commoditization of the third world female body.16 (Kumar, n.d.) Sita shows the extent to which the industry of transnational commercial surrogacy is depriving individuals of the capacity to control and know their own interests, as they are encouraged to cater to the needs of foreign markets in exchange for a meagre percentage of the profits that the medical tourism industry mobilises in India. In fact, Kumar’s film stresses the unequal structuring of global North and South societies, and, at the same time, how the transnational marketing of reproductive technologies fostered by national commercial interests also contributes to the ‘commoditization of the third world female body’, using Kumar’s words. Sita’s womb is thus a high value-added commodity, and her reproductive labour is incorporated into similar organised transnational labour-force movements that have come to characterise the development of global markets towards service provision. As Sita’s dilemma illustrates, when she tries to escape a patriarchal quasifamilial regime that involves her in an illegal scheme of ‘renting’ her womb out to foreign women, and as Kumkum Sangari’s study (2015) posits, the root of the problem could be located in the structural violence of regimes of neocolonialism, patriarchy, and neoliberalism that reads in strictly economic terms the value of human life (Brown, 2015). Drawing on Foucault, Brown argues: To speak of the relentless and ubiquitous economization of all features of life by neoliberalism is . . . not to claim that neoliberalism literally marketizes all spheres, even as such marketization is certainly one important effect of neoliberalism. Rather, the point is that neoliberal rationality disseminates the model of the market to all domains and activities—even where money is not at issue—and configures human beings exhaustively as market actors, always, only, and everywhere as homo economicus. (2015: 31)

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  91 In the context of the ‘stealth revolution’ of neoliberalism, to borrow from the title of Wendy Brown’s book, that has witnessed the progressive annihilation of the homo politicus to the resurgence of the homo economicus, individuals who have been traditionally and structurally dispossessed, where multiple axes of vulnerability co-occur, may be drawn and compared to the financial benefits of ostensible forms of neoliberal and neo-colonial exploitation such as transnational commercial surrogate motherhood. Sita’s narrative demonstrates the extent to which structural inequality and subalternity permeate the global North-South relationships between mobile and affluent Western women and those of more modest means in India. The multidirectional process of globalisation (or, in Bauman’s terms, ‘light’ and ‘liquid’ modernity (2000)) has meant the collapse of traditional distinctions between the ‘First’ and ‘Third Worlds’, as noted by Arif Dirlik (2001) in an early 21st-century analysis of new, emerging social formations that resist fixation and uniformity. Dirlik contends that the circumstances of globality have produced new, local, vertical power differentials, uniting the world to then divide it through the creation of ‘transnational classes that abolish earlier distinctions between the First and the Third Worlds, but do not therefore abolish the importance of class’ (2001: 20). Arguably, beyond the fiction of a global community founded on gender lines and forged for anti-patriarchal purposes, Sita likewise makes visible, via the depiction of the relationship between the character of Sita and her employer, who interact in a highly stratified social system, the power differentials (parallel, to some extent, to the differentials between the global North and the South) that typify the interactions between Indian women of the upper and middle classes and those of the working class.

Participatory Culture, Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing The more active role of audiences in independent filmmaking reflects the changing mechanisms of funding (e.g. crowdfunding), production (e.g. crowdsourcing), exhibition (e.g. the role of film festivals), (formal and informal) distribution and consumption. The way these mechanisms impinge on questions of perception, experience and representation is ever more in need of tracking and analysis. Key terms here are ‘participatory culture’, which underscores the active nature of media spectatorships (Jenkins, 2006: 3), and ‘collective intelligence’, which encompasses the reality that the consumption of cultural products is done collectively (2006: 4). Following Henry Jenkins’ paradigm of 21st-century media convergence, the result of developments not only in technologies, social media and the internet, but also in visuality, is ‘the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want’ (2006: 2). The idea of the two screens—the film screen and the television screen—has long been discarded. Multiple screens are everywhere: in the home, the bus stop, the elevator, the plane,

92  Ana Cristina Mendes the taxi, the bus, even the workout machines at the gym. Media content is speedily shared on social media and other online platforms, such as the ones used by Onir and Kumar in their creative projects: YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook and Kickstarter, the most popular crowdfunding platform. Jenkins, Sam Ford and Joshua Green (2013), extending the concepts of participatory and convergence cultures to account for the different production practices, as well as industrial and economic determinants and constraints in the 2010s, emphasise, via the notion of ‘spreadable media’, the increasing extent to which audiences themselves create and circulate new meanings and texts out of our contemporary media environment. What concerns the authors is ‘an emerging hybrid model of circulation, where a mix of topdown and bottom-up forces determine how material is shared across and among cultures in far more participatory (and messier) ways’ (2013: 1). The changes we are witnessing now, according to the authors, extend form the ‘stickiness’ of tightly controlled media corporations to the ‘spreadability’17 that typifies uncentralised nodes of content creation and circulation. In Jenkins, Ford and Green’s phrasing, ‘if it doesn’t spread, it’s dead’ (2013: 1). The collaborative and participatory nature of film projects is particularly enhanced by processes of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding. An integral part of the perception and reception of Onir’s and Kumar’s projects was that they were co-authorial and/or co-produced. Perhaps beyond the growing participatory dimensions of screen texts that characterise newer paradigms of media convergence, this chapter places the success and effectiveness of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing projects—exemplified by the crowdfunding Kickstarter project to raise US $6,000 for Sita and Onir’s I Am crowdsourcing project of co-authorial contours—alongside the growth of a leisure and consumer society in India. Place is forged globally and virtually, via, for example, the social media that served as platforms for these films’ crowdfunding and crowdsourcing. Ironically, globalisation-induced cultural and economic flows largely facilitate crowdfunding. Attesting this, actorfilmmaker Pawan Kumar’s describes one of the stages of the crowdfunding process that his film Lucia (2013) (fully financed through crowdfunding and which won the Filmfare Award for Best Director—Kannada) underwent: I was able to raise Rs 51 lakh within 10 days. . . . I knew that regular film financiers would not back the script of the film so I decided to raise money through Facebook and my blog. . . . Once the film starts earning a profit, they will get back their money, depending on how much they have invested. (Gooptu and Kandavel, 2013) In the context of Indian cinemas, crowdfunding is not a new phenomenon, and can be traced back to Shyam Benegal’s Manthan in 1976 (Devasundaram, 2016). More than four decades ago, Benegal’s project of a narrative of rural empowerment and collective power set against the backdrop of the

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  93 White Revolution in India enlisted the financial support of 500,000 farmers, each donating Rs. 2 (ibid.). In 2010, Onir’s I Am became the first Hindi film to be crowdfunded through social networking sites which makes it a case study of changing production cultures, according to Davis et al. (2015: 52). As reported in the trailer of the film, ‘Over 400 people from 35 cities across the world came together to make a film’. Co-owners donated 1,000 to Rs. 100,000 via Twitter and Facebook and received a credit as co-producer; contributors of over Rs. 100,000 became co-producers de facto; many in the cast and production team worked for free on the project. When Onir used crowdsourcing for I Am (a co-authorial practice that was continued, using the film’s website as a platform), there was an intended project of extending self-expression and even self-representation to those individuals who have not usually been a part of the filmmaking process, and might even feel unrepresented in mainstream filmmaking discourses and narratives: Originally, I wanted to make each of the stories in I Am into feature films, but I realised it was almost impossible to get mainstream financing as these stories do not fit into what is perceived as commercially viable. . . . I thought, just as an experiment, of putting up a post on my Facebook saying that, if you believe in this film you can contribute money or volunteer for it. You were giving a lot of people an opportunity to fulfil their dreams of being associated with films or learning to work in films and, at the same time, people who could relate to the subject would see something that is important for them. So that is how the whole process started. . . . Me and my business partners from Anticlock Films, including co-producer Sanjay Suri, organised the funding, production, exhibition and distribution. Story by story we got financing. We started post-production so that people started seeing the pieces actually getting made. Ultimately, there were about 400 people from 47 cities across the world who contributed to making this film happen. (Onir, 2017) However, as Onir acknowledges in a passage that is worth quoting at length, crowdfunding as a means of making independent films does not have a significant future in India (unlike, for example, in the US), and for reasons besides the hegemony of Bollywood: Crowdfunding in India works only for short films or smaller art projects: otherwise, it is not really something that can be sustainable in terms of independent films. Because we do not have a chain of independent cinemas in India, you have to go back to the mainstream distributors and cinemas where you are competing with films which have huge budgets. So, unless you are part of the system, you can’t even get noticed. If you are going independent, you need a total ecosystem that supports it

94  Ana Cristina Mendes right from production to exhibition. . . . The distribution of I Am was independent because mainstream cinema distributors and studios do not believe in stories that are uncomfortable. They will probably believe in them if there is a star, as the system is very star-driven, but most stars would not often like to do something that is uncomfortable. . . . Also given the way the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is acting in this country, it is not easy to make these kinds of films. . . . There is likewise a lot of discrimination, even double standards, in the ways satellite channels and distributors do not allow you to reach out to audiences when you have a certain kind of film. I don’t see myself doing crowdfunding anymore. I Am was one of my most rewarding projects, because of the national awards, and also because it allowed me to make the film, but the entire process was exhausting. Not only because of the time and energy that went into it, but also because in India you are not allowed to raise money for films through crowdfunding.18 Whatever you raised, more than 40% of it goes to different kinds of taxes. In the US, where platforms like Kickstarter.com are tax-free, people can give money for films as charity for art. But in India that is not allowed. Everything that you raise is taxed. (Onir, 2017)19 I Am was the first Hindi film to be released with English subtitles throughout, aiming simultaneously at the domestic markets and to broader international audiences. As he points out, this resulted in a ‘category problem’: it is an “Indian film”, even a Hindi film, that explicitly addresses itself not simply to a diasporic or NRI (non-resident Indian) audience (as many larger films do by setting the action in the UK or US, by stitching themselves to global commodity culture, and by aggressively marketing their address to diasporic communities and their concerns); instead, these English subtitles make available a community of spectators who are potentially not just Indian, who are ‘beyond India’. (Davis et al., 2015: 52) Alongside the conception of the film as a creative project that aims to shine a light on invisible and ‘unacceptable’ stories, opting for English subtitles was part of an orientation towards differentiated local markets, and more than a strategy for going global. While this might be understood as marketing strategy catering to a diasporic or NRI audience and, beyond that, to a global audience (in all probability, also a motivating factor for his global crowdfunders), in fact the intended audiences Onir had primarily in mind were those from diverse linguistic backgrounds for whom English works as a lingua franca:

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  95 We released the entire film with English subtitles because I had used six different Indian languages [Hindi, English, Kannada, Marathi, Bengali and Kashmiri]—Bollywood films have Hindi as the main language. This gave access to people who speak other languages because the language that ties them together is English. I wanted to go beyond the domestic market, but even within this market it was important to use English because people for certain regions would not understand the languages of other regions. (Onir, 2017) On the impact the more active role of audiences has had on the development of Onir’s own identity as a filmmaker, and of I Am as a multidimensional exploration of identities, he states: It [I Am] is the first film in South Asia which is made through social networking, crowd funding and crowd sourcing, and it becomes an important statement as a filmmaker. The audiences have made the film; they are the ones who have funded the film so it is also about their identities. (quoted in Vats, 2012) While it may be tempting to analyse cinema and television in terms of the exercise of power, discovering the logic of economic, cultural and political interests, it is the audiences that make cinema into an inexorable meaningproducing machine. Even if theorists such as Michael Warner argue that audiences and publics are a constitutive grouping—in his words, [t]o address a public or to think of oneself as belonging to a public is to be a certain kind of person, to inhabit a certain kind of world, to have at one’s disposal certain media and genres, to be motivated by a certain normative horizon, and to speak within a certain language ideology. (2002: 10) —the idea of a public is not only ambiguous but also contradictory, and far removed from the idea of the audience as a mass possessing shared views. From the source materials used in this chapter—films and interviews with the filmmakers—the conclusion is that the social impact on audiences and publics of place-based artistic practices such as Onir’s and Arpita Kumar’s is real, in and outside India, even if the new sense of visuality and temporality that sets them apart from the conventions of Bollywood aesthetics might make them the target of criticisms of Westernisation. Furthermore, if we consider the dynamic cultural conditions that determine the production of these films, I Am and Sita should be read as critical instances within a larger politicised moment, one in which it becomes more pressing than ever to offer critiques of the contested bodies of neoliberalism.

96  Ana Cristina Mendes In fact, these films respond to the neoliberal imagination of a ‘New India’ of the ‘emerging economy’. As Brown posits, the neoliberal reason is ‘ubiquitous’, ever-present ‘in statecraft and the workplace, in jurisprudence, education, culture, and a vast range of quotidian activity’ (2015: 17). This idea is part and parcel of the politics and socio-historical timeline of the films under scrutiny in this chapter, and it is within this context that surrogacy—and, most relevantly, a new agency for single women—is reimagined.

Notes I would very much like to thank Anoop Babani and Savia Viegas for sharing their knowledge about the ‘new’ Hindi cinema with me and offering valuable advice. I am also deeply indebted to Onir who answered a long list of questions and thus gave me many important cues for developing my arguments. 1. Michel Foucault defines episteme as ‘the total set of relations that unite, at a given period, the discursive practices that give rise to epistemological figures’ (1978: 191). Offering the paradigmatic example of banning of the Hindu practice of sati by the British colonisers to demonstrate how Indian women were doubly silenced (and doubly colonised, by gender and race) during the British Empire, Gayatri Spivak contends that ‘[t]he clearest available example of . . . epistemic violence is the remotely orchestrated, far-flung, and heterogeneous project to constitute the colonial subject as Other’ (1988: 280–281). 2. The ‘About Us’ section of Anticlock Films, the company founded by Onir and fellow producer Sanjay Suri, defines the team as being ‘at the forefront of the current revolution of Independent Cinema in India’. See www.anticlockfilms. com/about-us. 3. An item number is a musical performance extraneous to the theme of the film, often abruptly interfering with and interrupting the film’s narrative structure, but which is nevertheless seen as being conventionally part (and characteristic of) of Hindi popular cinema or Bollywood. On popular Indian cinema as a ‘cinema of interruptions’ (caused by song-and-dance sequences, the interval and censorship) for Western viewers, see Gopalan (2002: 16–22). 4. In interview, Onir refers to the stereotype that ‘festival films’ will not have item numbers, e.g. song-and-dance sequences used not only in Hindi popular cinema, but also in Kannada, Tamil and Telugu cinemas. He disagrees with this preconceived notion, upholding song-and-dance as integral to Indian cinemas: ‘If you use it in an intelligent manner, it can cross over, and you will get people to relate to it’ (Onir, 2017). 5. A parallel can be drawn between the I Am project and the anthology film on 9/11, 11’09”01 September 11 (2002), a project conceived by French producer Alain Brigand, where 11 filmmakers, from different countries, set out to make sense and represent the (what were generally felt at the time) un-representable events of 9/11 in New York. This aesthetic vision of 9/11 was curated by Brigand, drawing on the creation of 11 different artists. In I Am, the filmmaker-curator Onir made a point of giving voice to issues that had been so far underrepresented or even misrepresented, in line with the kaleidoscopic, variegated vision of the 11’09”01 September 11 project. 6. By demonstrating the complexity of the deployment of power upon individuals and organisations, Foucault rejects the binary opposition of the oppressor and the oppressed: ‘I am not referring to Power — with a capital P — dominating and imposing its rationality upon the totality of the social body. In fact, there are power relations. They are multiple; they have different forms, they can be in

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  97 play in family relations, or within an institution, or an administration’ (1988: 38). Therefore, Foucault regards power not as an instrument of oppression and control but as something which is ‘exercised through net-like organisation’ (1980b: 98). 7. In this respect, Sara Mills offers a pick-and-choose approach to Foucault’s theorisation: ‘I will be using Foucault’s work . . . as a “tool-box” and not as totalizing theory, able to explain everything, but rather as a fragmentary theory which is descriptive of changing contexts, and therefore subjects itself to change and re-evaluation’ (1991: 7–8). 8. Saskia Sassen notes how cities have been increasingly incorporated ‘into a new cross-border geography of centrality’ in the sense that ‘[m]ajor cities have emerged as a strategic site not only for global capital, but also for the transnationalization of labor and the formation of translocal communities and identities or subjectivities’ (2005: 463). 9. Available at www.prsindia.org/billtrack/the-surrogacy-regulation-bill-2016-4470. 10. Arpita Kumar (n.d.), ‘Confessions’, available at http://arpitakumar.com/Sita. 11. I am indebted to Laila Abu-Er-Rub for this reference. 12. The term ‘new Indian woman’ was used by Lisa Lau (2010) to refer to middleclass, educated, urban Indian women, who are able to have career and careers or waged employment, and thus are relatively more autonomous in areas of life ranging from the financial to the emotional. 13. According to Michel Foucault, discourse stands for ‘the general domain of all statements, sometimes as an individualizable group of statements, and sometimes as a result of regulated practice that accounts for a number of statement’ ” (1978: 80). Foucault adds that ‘[d]iscourse transmits and produces power; it reinforces it, but also undermines and exposes it, renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart it’ (1980a: 101). 14. Inhorn and Patrizio (2012) compellingly argue that, ‘[w]hen applied to reproductive travel, the term “exile” bespeaks most patients’ feelings of being “forced” to travel in order to receive legal, affordable, high-quality assisted reproduction services. . . . [The term “reproductive exile”] clearly reflects the sense of betrayal and abandonment that most IVF patients feel as citizens of countries where their reproductive needs cannot or will not be met. Their choice to use IVF to overcome infertility is voluntary, but their travel abroad is not’ (2012: 510). 15. The signifier ‘liquid’ is also used in Kumkum Sangari’s analysis of the uses of assisted reproductive technologies in India: ‘It can also sketch the volatile relations between the family, market and state, and describe the cords that bind migrant with embedded labour, the national with the transnational, the social with the postsocial body. The solid may not always be old, the old may be becoming liquid—patriarchal family forms can be liquescent, while the state and market can act as either solvents or hardeners of patriarchal practices’ (2015: 3). Of note is the fact that the title of Sangari’s book (Solid, Liquid: a (Trans) national Reproductive Formation) plays with Marx’s statement: ‘All that is solid melts into the air’, from Marx and Engels’s Communist Manifesto (1848). 16. Arpita Kumar (n.d.), available at http://arpitakumar.com/Sita. 17. Jenkins, Ford and Green define ‘spreadability’ as ‘the technical resources that make it easier to circulate some kinds of content than others, the economic structures that support or restrict circulation, the attributes of a media text that might appeal to a community’s motivation for sharing material, and the social networks that link people through the exchange of meaningful bytes’ (2013: 4). 18. In India, film production is under the purview of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. 19. Onir’s despondent viewpoint on crowdfunding can be contrasted with Pawan Kumar’s high-spirited take (quoted earlier) on the process.

98  Ana Cristina Mendes

References Bauman, Z. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity. Brown, W. (2015). Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. New York and Cambridge, MA: Zone Books and MIT Press. Datta, D. (2017). ‘Confessions’, India Today, 8 March. Available at: http://indiatoday. intoday.in/story/sex-confessions-men-women-india-today-sex-survey/1/899958.html Devasundaram, A. I. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Davis, G., Dickinson, K., Patti, L., and Villarejo, A. (2015). Film Studies: A Global Introduction. New York: Routledge. Dirlik, A. (2001). ‘Placing Edward Said: Space Time and the Travelling Theorist’, in Ashcroft, B. and Kadhim, H. (eds.), Edward Said and the Post-Colonial. New York: Nova, pp. 1–31. Dissanayake, W. (2004). ‘Globalization and Cultural Narcissism: Note on Bollywood Cinema’, Asian Cinema, 15(1): 143–150. Dotson, K. (2011). ‘Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing’, Hypatia, 26(2): 236–257. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1978). The Archaeology of Knowledge. New York: Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1980a). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Harmondsworth: Penguin. Foucault, M. (1980b). Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972—1977. New York: Pantheon. Foucault, M. (1988). Politics, Philosophy, Culture: Interviews and Other Writings, 1977–1984, trans. Alan Sheridan et al., ed. Lawrence D. Kritzman. New York: Routledge. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing. New York: Oxford University Press. Ginsburg, F., and Rapp, R. (eds.). (1995). Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gooptu, B., and Kandavel, S. (2013). ‘Crowd-Funding show Gains Pace with Kannada Movie Lucia, over 100 People Invest Through Facebook & Blog’, The Economic Times, 13 April. Available at: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/media/ entertainment/media/crowd-funding-show-gains-pace-with-kannada-movie-luciaover-100-people-invest-through-facebook-blog/articleshow/19521049.cms Gopalan, L. (2002). Cinema of Interruptions: Action Genres in Contemporary Indian Cinema. London: BFI. Inhorn, M. C., and Patrizio, P. (2009). ‘Rethinking Reproductive “Tourism” as Reproductive “Exile” ’, Fertility and Sterility, 92(3): 904–906. Inhorn, M. C., and Patrizio, P. (2012). ‘Procreative Tourism: Debating the Meaning of Cross-Border Reproductive Care in the 21st Century’, Expert Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 7(6): 509–511. Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press. Jenkins, H., Ford, S., and Green, J. (2013). Spreadable Media: Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture. New York: New York University Press. Jha, S. K. ‘5 Bollywood Films That Dealt with Surrogacy’, 31 August 2016. Available at: www.dnaindia.com/entertainment/reportsurrogacyandbollywood2250399

Indie Crowdfunded Narratives  99 Jordan, G., and Weedon, C. (1995). Cultural Politics: Class, Gender, Race and the Postmodern World. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell. Kumar, Arpita. n.d. Sita. Available at: https://arpitakumar.com. [Accessed 11 June 2017]. Lau, L. (2010). ‘Literary Representations of the “New Indian Woman” ’, Journal of South Asian Development, 5(2): 271–292. Majumdar, A. (2014). ‘The Rhetoric of the Womb: The Representation of Surrogacy in the Popular Mass Media in India’, in DasGupta, S. and Das Dasgupta, S. (eds.), Globalization and Transnational Surrogacy in India: Outsourcing Life. Maryland: Lexington Books, pp. 106–123. Matsangou, E. (2015). ‘India’s Luxury Hospitals Spur Health Tourism’, Business Destinations, 4 August. Available at: www.businessdestinations.com/move/ travel-management/indias-luxury-hospitals-spur-health-tourism McLaren, M. A. (2002). Feminism, Foucault, and Embodied Subjectivity. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Medina, J. (2013). The Epistemology of Resistance: Gender and Racial Oppression, Epistemic Injustice, and Resistant Imaginations. New York: Oxford University Press. Mignolo, W. D. (2009). ‘Epistemic Disobedience, Independent Thought and DeColonial Freedom’, Theory, Culture & Society, 26(7–8): 1–23. Mills, S. (1991). Discourses of Difference: An Analysis of Women’s Travel Writing and Colonialism. London: Routledge. Onir. (2017). Interview with Ana Cristina Mendes on 3 December. Lisbon and Kolkata (via Whatsapp). Ramazanoğlu, C. (1993). Up Against Foucault: Explorations of Some Tensions Between Foucault and Feminism. London: Routledge. Sangari, K. (2015). Solid, Liquid: A (Trans)national Reproductive Formation. New Delhi: Tulika Books. Sassen, S. (2005). ‘The City: Its Return as a Lens for Social Theory’, in Calhoun, C., Rojek, C. and Turner, B. (eds.), The Sage Handbook of Sociology. London: Sage, pp. 457–470. Spivak, G. C. (1988). ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ in Nelson, C. and Grossberg, L. (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, pp. 271–313. Sunder, R. K. (2007). ‘Experimental Values: Indian Clinical Trials and Surplus Health’, New Left Review, 45: 67–88. Towghi, F., and Vora, K. (2014). ‘Bodies, Markets, and the Experimental in South Asia’, Ethnos, 79(1): 1–18. Vats, R. (2012). ‘Onir: Crowd Funding Was Necessary for “I Am” ’, 26 March 2012. Available at: www.news18.com/news/india/onir-crowd-funding-was-necessary-for-i-am459264.html Warner, M. (2002). Publics and Counterpublics. New York: Zone Books.

6 Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages A Case Study in Diasporic Cocreation Monia Acciari This chapter aims at discussing film festivals within the wider discourse of cosmopolitan studies and the growing proliferation and visibility of independent Indian films at film festivals in major cities in the UK, such as London and Leicester. In doing so, cosmopolitanism will be used as a lens to appraise Indie curation in film festivals as affected by a multitude of constituencies. In order to assess film festivals as formed by a variety of cosmopolitan manifestations, I will look at the intersecting nature of film festivals as events, at their programming choices and strategies, at audience responses and at the importance of the filmic texts they exhibit. In doing so, I will start by assessing some recent literature on cosmopolitanism in order to formulate a notion of ‘cosmopolitan assemblage’ that is inspired by the idea of multiple manifestations of cosmopolitanism and by the vision of a universe united in diversity (Fiala, 2017: 93). The notion of cosmopolitan assemblage will explain the complexity of identity-based film festivals, particularly those showcasing new Indian Indie films, seen as not merely events based on questions of imagined communities (Iordanova, 2009a, 2013), but more completely as events based on a variety of cosmopolitan phenomena. Over the past two decades or so, the notion of cosmopolitanism has attracted interest across a variety of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. The approach that these disciplines have provided has brought about an updating of the signification of this term from its origins in moral and political philosophy to its status as a core notion in social science, which also includes an evolving and developing interest in debates involving film and media studies (Delanty, 2012: 5). This article engages specifically with the notion of cultural cosmopolitanism, particularly with debates around multiculturalism, the nation and communities, which I seek to update through discourses on territorialisation and deterritorialisation, or ‘assemblage’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987: 7). Identity-based film festivals have to date been defined by their cultural specificities (Iordanova, 2010: 13); here, such festivals are studied as creative expressions that challenge the idea of identities as exclusive attachments to a particular culture. In doing so, the study of cosmopolitanism is married with the notion of assemblage

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  101 to encourage the reading of cultural diversity—the appreciation of multicultural mélange—as being intertwined with the creative processes of film festival programming. Within the growing intersection of multiple disciplines concerned with the study of cosmopolitanism lies the idea that I intend to explore in this article. By weaving together cosmopolitanism with assemblage and film festival programming, my aim is to converge with Gerard Delanty’s vision of cosmopolitanism, which recognises its potential for interdisciplinarity (2012: 3). However, it should be stressed that, although an interdisciplinary approach is essential to reveal the multiple layers of cosmopolitanism, such an approach has also its flaws. The term cosmopolitanism, as applied to disciplines such as political philosophy and ethnography, presents shades of signification distinct from its use in film and media studies. Nevertheless, there is a lot to gain from establishing a dialogue between disciplines while also analysing the evolution of the notion of cosmopolitanism, in order to restore the relationship between highly normative approaches and more empirical ones, thus broadening the field of cosmopolitan studies. Methodologically this article seeks to build on a variety of research approaches, such as textual analysis and audience studies, through the empirical acquisition of data. The aim is to analyse the data and to compensate for the weakness inherent in each individual method. Besides, this methodological approach, as mentioned, aims to address the interdisciplinarity at the core of cosmopolitan studies. Theoretically, this article departs from the optimistic notion of global citizenship, which, while appearing too abstract to be effectual, can suggest an individual and collective obligation towards human rights and global justice. Cosmopolitanism has been seen as an aspect of globalisation (Hannerz, 1997: 45; Delanty, 2012: 8), but within a normative understanding it has been distinguished from globalisation itself, which is not a normative concept per se (Delanty, 2012: 7). However, these two concepts are not too distant, but rather, in a broader sense, meet in considering the extension of moral, political and cultural horizons of people, societies and organisations. Cosmopolitanism, as a concept that has been widely informed by our need to conceive a broad identity, beyond the idea of ‘homeland’ and encompassing the notion of global scale (Delanty, 2012: 7), implies an attitude of openness rather than exclusivity, and a vision that emphasises and builds scopes for inclusivity. The exponential growth of and attention to cosmopolitanism is in large part due to the impact of discourses that globalisation and transnationalism have made over the past few years when it comes to evaluating how globally connected the world should be, taking into account multiple perspectives rather than one’s immediate context. As Zlatko Skrbiš and Ian Woodward argue, cosmopolitanism is never an absolute or fixed category (2013: 728); it is a dimension of social life that should be actively constructed and understood through practices which involve meaning-making in diverse social contexts (2013: 730). Such processes involve communities,

102  Monia Acciari collectives and nations, all affiliations to which one can direct a sense of connection and belongingness (Miller, 2010: 391; Chan, 2017: 1). Being a cosmopolite is often translated as being a ‘citizen of the world’, a person ‘at ease in the world’ (Chan, 2017: 2–3), someone who—as defined by Arjun Appadurai (2001)—acquires a certain knowledge of the world that goes beyond the immediate horizon of one’s culture, thus moving beyond cultural, political and symbolic boundaries and expanding their diasporic experience. It is in this spirit that I address cosmopolitanism and film festivals, in order to explore the role that communities with diasporic histories, characterised by the condition of longing for the homeland and by the formation of new homes, play in the programming of an event. The insights emerging from a dialogue between cosmopolitanism and film festivals are attractive in two ways: cosmopolitanism is especially interesting to proffer ideas of mobility and adaptability to new cultures, while film festivals are an ‘arena of emergence’ (Rüling and Strandgaard Pedersen, 2010: 319) and platforms of structured film culture (Nichols, 2013: 30). The programming of the first Leicester Asian Film Festival, held on 16–19 March 2017 in Leicester (UK), is my case study in an examination of festivals as expressions of cosmopolitan practices that are able to create room for various considerations of an institutional as well as cultural nature. By analysing this case study, I observe how the programming of this festival, and my involvement with it, was committed to constructing the idea of a venue characterised by an unlimited crossing of physical and symbolic boundaries. With this in mind, I establish here the idea of film festivals as cosmopolitan assemblage, wherein the notion of border is central to account for the programming process and also the all-inclusive diasporic experience of the event. Films such as Ajji (directed by Devashish Makhija, 2017) or Tikli and Laxmi Bomb (directed by Aditya Kripalani, 2017) in more recent editions of the festivals have been manifestations, of cogent thematic content that empowers women at the centre of the story, with cosmopolitan syncretism speaking broadly to the local and global dimensions of the festival spectator. This idea seeks to provide a less normalised definition of cosmopolitanism and, simultaneously, to engage with instances of symbolic, cultural and transitional border-crossing, all of which, as further explored below, are elements affecting film festival programming.

Constructing a Notion of Cosmopolitan Assemblage in Film Festivals In Ulf Hannerz’s work, cosmopolitanism is defined as ‘the willingness to become involved with the Other, and the concern with achieving competence in cultures’ (1997: 239–40). By keeping this in mind, and in the midst of cultural diversity and a divided world, cosmopolitanism seeks to build on the virtuousness of the human experience. This article argues, by means of a sociological and textual approach, that film festivals should be placed

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  103 at the centre of the larger debates on cosmopolitanism, especially because some festivals are cultural events built by multiple diasporic experiences. Furthermore, by setting up a dialogue between film festivals and cosmopolitan studies in order to upgrade the conception of identity-based festivals, this article reappraises Marijike de Valck’s definition of these festivals as events committed to political causes that transcend borders and intervene by circulating images at the supranational level (de Valck, 2013: 1502). On these festivals, de Valck writes that ‘they aim to influence identity building, for example by community outreach or countering prejudices and ethnic stereotypes, and foster what Benedict Anderson called imagined communities’ (2013: 1503). Dina Iordanova (2010) provides a more comprehensive account of diaspora-linked film festivals. Iordanova distinguishes between three types of film festivals: cultural democracy festivals, which are organised with national support; identity agenda festivals, which have specific functions such as fostering supranational communities and engaging in the struggle to unite a dispersed population, establish nationhood or increase identity awareness; and business and diaspora festivals, which are self-referential events normally sustained by diaspora entrepreneurship in the form of local businesses. Beside Iordanova’s selective categorisation of diaspora-based festivals, I propose a more flexible reading that is the one favouring a citizen’s approach, wherein the citizen/spectator plays an active role in the evolution of the event. It is important to study festivals as events able to contribute to the circulation of ‘other’ images of a changing nation, and to the crossing of its geographical and symbolic borders. They also play a role in deepening one’s awareness of transnational differences and connections (Iordanova 2016), fostering a cosmopolitan attitude, in which migration is considered to be a fluid element of life rather than a fixed perception of cultural identity. Implicit in some recent studies of cosmopolitanism in cinema, and in cosmopolitan cinema itself, are the notions of borders, mobilisation and identity, all complex categories that affect and problematise the relationships that define the social and cultural processes of the current transnational and global condition of interconnectivity.1 Maria Rovisco (2013) refers to the complexity of mobilities and cosmopolitanism as two research paradigms that are intrinsically connected, an argument that the author elaborates in parallel with Kira Kosnick (2009). The latter writes that contemporary cosmopolitanism relates to a world of flows, rather than a world made up of imagined boundaries, a view that also chimes with that of Mimi Shellar, who emphasises that mobility is the core of cosmopolitanism and that it ‘owes everything to the mobilities of people, cultures, and ideas around the world’ (2011: 361). This article, in line with the new research agenda on cosmopolitanism that calls for an upgrading of the terminology associated with human and cultural mobilisation related to cosmopolitan experiences (Delanty, 2012; Rovisco, 2013), seeks to unpack cosmopolitan attitudes within ‘new wave

104  Monia Acciari Indian cinema film festivals’ (Acciari, 2014a: 17). A central question is weather, by looking at the evolution of new wave Indian films across the world and observing the cultural, social and political barriers that certain films have experienced within the panorama of cinema distribution in India, it is possible to identify film festivals as ‘bordered’ symbolic events of a nation in progress, as well as spaces of diasporic dissent. This question will be addressed by exploring the term ‘cosmopolitan assemblage’ along with assessing the notion of assemblage itself. The latter will be used throughout this article to imply a particular understanding of cultural cosmopolitanism, border-crossing and the reimagination of the immediate horizon of one’s culture over a new diasporic one. I propose, indeed, to read film festival programming as affected by acts of border-creation (in the sense of defining a realm) and border-crossing under the umbrella of cosmopolitan assemblage. I capitalise on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s idea of assemblage to unpack both ‘forms of content’ and ‘forms of expression’ affecting film festival programming (1987: 77). Assemblages, the authors write, are composed of heterogeneous elements that enter into a relationship with one another. These elements are not all of the same type; they can be material objects, happenings and events, and also signs and words. While there are assemblages that are composed entirely of bodies, there are no assemblages composed entirely of signs and utterances. An assemblage comprises human and nonhuman bodies, actions and reactions. Within the collation of bodies, Deleuze and Guattari state that assemblages are not static acts but rather events characterised by the double process of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation. While deterritorialisation is defined as being characterised by the departing of elements from a given context, thus constituting disconnection from that original context, reterritorialisation describes to some extent the opposite mechanism, which is the influx of elements that generate new articulations and formations. Such ‘migration’ creates new assemblages. Deleuze and Guattari’s approach allows me to expound certain experiences of cultural mobility and cross-cultural engagement that are capable of revealing cosmopolitan ways of thinking about and planning film festivals. This cosmopolitanism is not a matter of assessing one migratory condition and identity over another as capable of producing a coherent festival programming, but rather a question of revealing the complexity of entering and exiting imaginary borders and contexts. These diverse clusters of mobility are the elements necessary to start theorising cosmopolitan assemblage. This article, therefore, shifts the focus away from reading and understanding cosmopolitanism as intersecting film festivals by means of discourses on the internationalisation of Asian film festivals (Nornes, 2013) or by depicting such internationalisation using a form of cartography of festivals (de Valck, 2006; de Valck and Loist, 2009). These evaluations are firmly rooted within debates of transnationalism (Elsaesser, 2013; Nornes, 2013). I propose instead to move towards the inclusion of the term ‘community’, that

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  105 is, not only the imagined communities as addressed by Iordanova and Ruby Cheung (2010), but also the communities within a city and their histories. Community involvement informs the new research agenda on cosmopolitanism and film festivals and is here the bridge that links the two disciplines. Reading film festivals via debates on cosmopolitanism provides a fresh view of film festivals as not necessarily and entirely confined within discourses of transnational mobility. By addressing some of the categories of cosmopolitanism, rather than selecting one approach over another, a conversation is created between various perspectives, such as those that emphasise the ability to produce public dialogue and an engagement with cinema that places national and global tensions at its core (Devasundaram, 2016: 18).

The First Leicester Asian Film Festival: A Case Study Film festivals are events that are situated at the crossroads of multiple institutional strategies, and at the intersection of technology, commerce, art, ideology and community (Iordanova, 2009: 23). It has been widely argued that film festivals are events able to bring together multiple constituencies, reflecting divergent sets of standards, and acting, as Lucy Mazdon reminds us, as spaces of global ‘travel and exchange’ (2006: 23) and, although happening within a specific city, these are also ‘site[s] of dwelling and travel’ (2006: 24). These events are often defined as transient organisations (Iordanova and Rhyne, 2009; Iordanova and Cheung, 2010), wherein diverse cultural, aesthetic and economic values are attached to the film industries they host, thereby satisfying the need for the emergence of other socioethnic discourses. Conceptually, film festivals lend themselves to be understood as ‘field configuring events’ (Lampel and Meyer, 2008: 1025) and as transient organisations that ‘encapsulate and shape the development of . . . technologies, markets and industries’ (2008: 1026). I would like to broaden these frames and highlight that festivals are often spaces that develop a cultural dialogue with some communities within the city. Such events engage with the diasporic status of the community not only at a level of ‘shaping identities’ (Iordanova, 2010: 14) or as a transcultural mediator for what is lost (the homeland) or as celebratory events of the cultural diversity of a city (Acciari, 2014a). Festivals should be read as cultural and social phenomena that, with reference to my particular case study, can connect (or disconnect) the diasporic condition with (or from) those forces that underpin the emergence of current new wave Indian cinema. As I already discussed elsewhere, indeed, the emergence of new wave Indian cinema film festivals demonstrates the need for a certain industry from India to find not only new audiences in and outside the country, but also alternative channels of distribution (Acciari, 2014b). Being the associate director of the first Leicester Asian Film Festival, I was faced with the

106  Monia Acciari privilege and the challenge of showcasing independent South Asian cinema to the large and historical Gujarati diaspora in Leicester. Curating a film festival is an exciting creative moment and a cultural challenge too. To provide a backdrop to this festival, the Leicester Asian Film Festival (henceforth LeAFF) branched out from the more established London Asian Film Festival (LAFF)—now rebranded as the UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF), which has celebrated and showcased independent productions from South Asia for about 20 years. Being the most enduring event in Europe of films from South Asia, this festival laid the foundations for other festivals of this kind to emerge, from 2000 onwards: first, the Florence Indian Film Festival in Italy, followed by the Indisches film festival Stuttgart in Germany. LeAFF was an event created in collaboration with an array of partners with a variety of visions, who have all come together to work collaboratively, to create a twin event.2 I will call these kinds of events ‘franchise events’—that have the ability to extend the temporal and spatial frame of a film festival as is normally conceived.3 The LeAFF, along with the Edinburgh Asian Film Festival (EAFF) franchise events, are the two reterritorialised festivals that constitute a narrative of migration to and from different cities in the UK. These festivals carry with them a selection of specially curated films that are at times refashioned to meet the needs and particularities of the diverse socio-cultural infrastructure of a city, while concurrently participating in the process of global film circulation. Programming the LeAFF was an exercise that allowed me to select from the abundance of film productions from South Asia for the audience of Leicester. The selection process did not happen independently but was a collaborative effort with other subjects, namely Phizzical, LAFF, Tongues on Fire and Phoenix and the community in the city. I was called on to tailor a selection of films that could connect my personal taste with the longing by the South Asian community for the city to be represented, acknowledged and narrated. In order to devise a programme that could take into account the diverse nuances of a diasporic state, I was able to organise a preparatory event in the community neighbourhood centre, Belgrave. The event aimed to challenge established film preferences and the history of film screening in Leicester, which centred on imported Bollywood films. For the Gujarati community, I programmed Queen (Vikas Bahl, 2013), a film that has heightened awareness of new wave Indian cinema. Following the screening, which was attended by about 100 people, a brief questionnaire was used to measure the audience’s response. While a large number of spectators (circa 83 out of 100) voiced the necessity for Leicester to have more film screenings of ‘this kind of cinema from India where women have a central role’ (Respondent 23), and commented that ‘it is great to see films from India that are not only Bollywood films’ (Respondent 1), other members of the audience mentioned that ‘this film does represent a kind of India that it is not yet back home, but it is here’ (Respondent 9).

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  107 This work emerges from my ongoing project ‘Building Audiences’, which seeks to address not only the programming of films and the very need for inclusively building audiences, but also to work collaboratively and creatively with the audience itself. Part of this project is currently being documented on buildingaudiences.org.uk, a research website that aims to record the variety of events capable of building a renewed idea of audiences for film festivals. The project is a window wherein to document how to educate communities about new wave Indian cinema, rebuild a renewed cinemagoing culture for South Asian communities in Leicester, support venues and theatres in building new South Asian audiences, and set Leicester as a case study. This research, which seeks to explore new creative ways of thinking about cosmopolitan audiences, was propaedeutic to get a feel for the taste of the wider community while programming the festival. The success of the festival lay in the alliance of personal taste (Bosma, 2015: 70)—used as a parameter to build an adequate programme, the starting point of the creative process—with a diverse set of constituencies, such as the consideration of the histories of cinema-going in Leicester and the creative relationship with the community in the city. The assemblage of these diverse features that affected the programming of the festival stems from a diversified idea of border(s) which they all have in common; histories of South Asian cinemagoing in Leicester have been mapped and individuated within a well-defined urban area, highlighting a bordered experience of this practice. The relationship that I have established with the South Asian community in the city has been built through the preparatory event with elements that had the scope to rehabilitate the locus of communal encounter—the community Belgrave Neighbour Centre located within the Golden Mile—as a core space to restore cinema-going practices.4 The collection of focused feedback allowed me to record the overall sentiments and, more importantly, the desire of this community to engage with new cinema from India, away from the mainstream Bollywood cinema; with a cinema that could speak about the evolution of their society, their diasporic path, their break with tradition and yet their ability to remain within the comfort zone of a neighbourhood centre. The engagement with the community, the organisation of a film screening event prior to the main festival, along with the physical travelling to reach spectators in their ‘comfort zone’, influenced the programming and significance of the festival. The organisation of film screenings that relocated the very experience of film viewing to the neighbourhood centre provided a disconnection from the ‘original’ film-viewing context: the film theatre. Simultaneously, the screening of new wave Indian cinema to an audience accustomed to the distinctive image of the Bollywood industry and regional cinema awakened in them the desire for new films. The LeAFF, physically, socially and culturally, sat at the intersection of multiple cosmopolitan experiences of border-crossing that are reflected in the changing physical screening localities, in the reterritorialisation of cultural identities and in the

108  Monia Acciari conceptual borders at the heart of the selected films, which foster the idea of a nation in flux. Border zones have been largely regarded as a term of securitisation (Shellar, 2011: 350)—as a border that prevents those considered undesirable from entering a given community or country. In more recent accounts, these same borders have been read as territories that are softer and more malleable (Rovisco, 2013), as sites of intense connectivity, cultural mingling and negotiation of differences. It is precisely in the idea of LeAFF as a malleable site, with its multiple cultural variables and its co-creative programming, that the notion of a film festival as a ‘cultural border’ resides. This approach opens up a range of readings for an identity-based film festival’s research agenda, positioning these events as central to cosmopolitanism. LeAFF needs to be seen as a case-study festival with an active role, a milieu able to create a discourse on ‘film festivals as borders’ where social, cultural and political transformations may occur. The study and experience of LeAFF lends itself to the observation of the complexity of localities, the borders of the diverse constituencies that formed this festival, and engages with the language and expression of community needs. Thus, the notion of film festivals as border spaces allows us to reflect and articulate the importance of a community, within the grammar of cosmopolitan events. Recent debates on film festivals have highlighted the option of suspending ‘the close scrutiny of film as text for the sake of bringing in awareness of the multiple other dimensions of film culture’ (Iordanova, 2009: 23). As much as this is fascinating, I would like to insist on the importance of the analysis of the filmic texts. Films are fundamental resources for awakening an awareness of a language (in development) that scrutinises the variations of cosmopolitanism in relation to the discourse on film festivals. Studying the films programmed at the festivals using a textual approach is to honour the very nature of each film through the tracing of novel perspectives. In this context, it is worth considering how borders and mobility are articulated in these texts and, further, how these films trace symbolic borders to overcome political conflict and social changes. LeAFF comprised seven films, which explored the complexity of borders and the associated human experience across a variety of narratives, stories and histories. Films such as Mantostaan (Rahat Khazmi, 2016) and Mango Dreams (John Upchurch, 2016) present evocative views on the theme of partition that historically and geographically address the idea of boundaries and the crossing of them. Here, I will concentrate my attention on the study of Lipstick Under My Burkha (Alankrita Shrivastava, 2016), a film labelled as controversial due to the censure that affected its release in India, which occurred a few weeks prior to the beginning of the festival. The film was, interestingly, produced shortly after the production and release of the BBC documentary India’s Daughter (Leslee Udwin, 2015), a critique of the lack of interest in women’s rights that relays the story of a 23-year-old medical student being raped and murdered in Delhi. Lipstick Under My

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  109 Burkha addresses, through the language of desire and social challenge, the repression of many affected by the bordered geographies of oppressed personal lives, suffering the tension between traditional versus modern societal values. The film narrates the story of four women from different religious backgrounds: a college girl wearing a burkha and fighting the orthodoxies of her family, a Muslim mother-of-three facing domestic rape and marital infidelity, a young beautician escaping the ‘certainties’ of an arranged marriage, and an ageing widow in search of youth and pleasure. The protagonists are neighbours living within a small community in Bhopal, and are driven by their diverse desires to assert personal, sexual and social rights; they find themselves living their lives on the border of what is socially accepted and what is not, outlining societal conflicts and geographies within the emotional microcosms of pleasure and desire. The film is a symbolic journey, a subgenre that uses the idea of a personal and intimate introspection to investigate the significance of borders and mobility, from other perspectives that are not necessarily geographical in a cartographic way. Rather, the film, through subjective experiences, adds another layer to a larger cosmopolitan picture. The encounter of the four women with diverse people within the society—a charming swimming teacher, a passionate lover, a young Sharukh Khan-like musician and a beautiful un-burkha-ed rival in love—punctuate the inner journeys of the four heroines, offering an insight into different aspects of women in Indian culture and politics, under the ruling of a society in turmoil. In line with a variety of films that have recently emerged within the prosperous independent Indian panorama treating the liberalisation of women in India—discourses enforced also by the emergence of activist groups such as the Gulabi Gang—Lipstick Under My Burkha addresses the story of many women. Cosmopolitan engagement with this image of restriction and lack of societal acknowledgement is enabled by an aesthetic of repetition that develops the narrative of a book on the lives of the four women, all looking for a form of independence and an assertion of their being valued citizens; they symbolically migrate from the discomfort of traditional requirements towards the comfort of transgressive identities. The symbolic-journey-film subgenre articulates the experiences of these four women across the city and the desire to migrate to another place (Figure 6.1) as well as to travel in an imagined and lost time (Figure 6.2). Interestingly, the multiple migratory experiences, which march in tandem with the sense of a changing society in the film, were also articulated in the response of female audience members answering to my questionnaire. While many of the respondents mentioned their experiences as migrants, Respondent 13 narrated that, while migrating from India to Uganda and from Uganda to Leicester, we all went through a shift that not only changed our homes and our lives, but also and especially our social status in this city. Being part

110  Monia Acciari of the very early group of migrants, we had to struggle and affirm our presence, particularly as women. Respondent 22, similarly to many other female respondents, explained: ‘the film reminds me when I first moved to this country, I was learning to be a new woman in a new place’. Another respondent expounded: ‘it is important to see how women are significantly addressed in this film, I feel one of them, perhaps I was one of them at the time I moved from Kenya to Leicester in 1970. And, this festival is all about our experiences’ (Respondent 35). The motifs of self-discovery in Lipstick Under My Burkha (Figures 6.1 and 6.2) and of social learning in contact with a kind of otherness (Mazierska and Rascaroli, 2006) is their own alien embodiment of tenets within a secular society of rules. The focus on this film and observation of LeAFF enables a discussion of mobility and the crossing of borders that identifies a new dimension of identity-based film festivals, as well as defining a tailored programming practice that does not necessarily unpack imagined community experiences (Iordanova, 2010), but articulates the different layers of diasporic histories—which include multiple migrations, the development of new identities and the affirmation of social status. This film festival, moving away from being merely a site for an imagined community (Iordanova and Rhyne, 2009), is a place of assemblage in which the experiential dimension of the festival and its programming are informed by the double process of deterritorialisation—that is, the disconnection from the original context (here, India)—and reterritorialization—that is, the arrival of new elements that generate a new formulation and articulation of identity. It is the expansion of the individual experience—the movement beyond cultural, political and symbolic boundaries—that defines the nature of the cosmopolitan assemblage, which here is intrinsically embedded within the nature of this festival. LeAFF is able to update the very notion of migration and border-crossing—in the case of the film analysed—through the disguising

Figure 6.1 Leela (Aahana Kumra), being forced into an arranged marriage, plots to elope with her lover to Delhi.

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  111

Figure 6.2 One of the protagonists, Usha (Ratna Pathak), rejuvenates her image and meets her young dream lover at a fair. Image source: Film Frame.

of human desires. A narrating voiceover actualises the characters’ desires and is often used to emphasise the subjective experience of this symbolic mobility from the point of view of the four protagonists. Their inner journeys, along with the imagination of other geographies, work as a narrative device to comment on the social condition of women in Indian society. There is a marked sense of duty observance and the normativity of patriarchal borders; all these are lines to be crossed and challenged in an India that is nevertheless depicted as a large and hard-to-delimit borderland, where different voices and cultures mix and clash simultaneously. While the burkha bestows women with some agency and individuality by concealing from the public eye the forbidden varnished nails, adornments and lipstick, in the film, it symbolically constitutes the very first critical term that confines identity and self-expression. The protagonists portray the subjugation of the women of South Asia, complicated by the use of and reference to a piece of clothing as a signifier for the oppression of thoughts and identities. Arguably, this film is an important text able to engage with cosmopolitanism that takes into account other less recognisable categories of migration, such as the migration from patriarchal values, to the extent that it succeeds in giving a voice to the ‘other’ whose access to cultural dialogue is severely limited. Lipstick Under My Burkha was also a moment to reflect on and remember the personal migration histories that interweave with the making of new diasporic identities in the city.

Conclusion: Programming Films and Cosmopolitan Assemblage The fundamental challenge that I faced as a film festival curator consisted of managing and negotiating the aims and work of a lot of different people

112  Monia Acciari over several days, as well as curating and managing multiple expectations. How was it possible to please everyone? By specialising and focusing on specific audiences and the interests of a minority ethnic population and the diasporic communities, I was able to achieve what Iordanova and Cheung (2010) describe as the tools of diplomacy: the promotion of a particular identity agenda, the exploration of the economic potential of diasporic events and the fostering of ethnic minority talents. The decision to respond to the large ethnic minority of Leicester was translated into a practical approach that would directly involve the creative taste and sense of the community. The central characteristic of a film festival, its spatiotemporal limitation, was challenged with a screening—within the Golden Mile—to involve the community in a form of preselection process that could give me an insight into the preferences of the community and the choices that they would accept. By screening Queen, I could collect information on their reactions, thus assessing what could function or not in a festival for this city. The responses received in about 100 questionnaires were pivotal to understand a little more about the needs of this community. Responses such as: ‘We want to see more films from India on women’ (Respondent 18), or ‘We watch enough Bollywood at home; I moved to Leicester 40 years ago, and films like Queen are new and refreshing. They say something new about India that is changing’ (Respondent 18), or ‘It is an India I did not know, I would like to see what is out there now’ (Respondent 35) increasingly shaped the idea of a collective preference. It was catering for this collective predilection, in combination with my own that enabled an extraordinary programming exercise that mobilised patterns of temporal and spatial disposition in the organisation of film festivals. In chorus with the films selected, the idea was to compose a programme that could express persuasive experiences regarding social problems and historical memory to create awareness and stimulate interaction with the public. Linked with the idea of programming with communities, the films selected for this festival engaged with the social history of the community, to form an overall cosmopolitan narrative of assemblage. While symbolic terms of mobilisation are visualised and represented in Lipstick Under My Burkha, Mantostaan or Queen, the very act of programming with and for the community challenges the assumption that programming is a solo action (Bosma: 2015). Programming films for festivals that have as their objective the challenging of fixed borders and that textually move across boundaries of what is accepted and denied within a society is to embrace the possibility of making meaning and addressing a multilayered and intricate cosmopolitanism and citizenship. The programming of the LeAFF has essentially happened by building a participatory narrative that saw the diasporic rehabilitation of a community scarcely acknowledged by the local cinema circuits in Leicester, which is now involved in the very creative act of co-programming. LeAFF challenged international censoring bodies, included matters of borders at its very core and built an idea of cosmopolitanism that is not rooted in fixed

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  113 secular perspectives but rather springs from a flexible and varied viewpoint. The strategies that have governed the programming of the festival have entwined the mobilisation of national causes—among which was women’s freedom of movement and expression—with the framework of an international panorama. This approach has accommodated, within the conception of this festival as a border, the dialectic of exclusion and inclusion of diverse elements that inform the nature of mobile identities. Social causes have been deterritorialised from their country of origin and reterritorialised within an international—diasporic—context. Such reterritorialisation is acknowledged also by the respondents participating at the festival. It determined how the status of being a woman and a migrant from India to Uganda and Kenya, and to Leicester, along with the condition of being part of a diaspora, underpinned liquid identity (Bauman, 2000), multiple citizenship and the geographical and moral crossing of boundaries that transcend secularist positions. The interactions of these various elements of a citizenship in transition are those informing the cosmopolitan assemblage at the heart of the programming of this festival. Programming is a crucial process affecting the creation and management of the film festival’s identity, along with its orientation and, therefore, its uniqueness. Studying film festival programming offers the opportunity to address some of the challenges posed by identity-related festivals (LGBTQ, ethnic, diaspora film festivals). In these specific contexts, the film selection involves the communities and their identities in transition, in tandem with curatorial practices, to provide a renewed agenda for programming practices. Film festivals are both symbolic and material spaces, which narrate at the same time constraints and movements, encounters and the crossing of boundaries for multiple categories of participants, and for multiple cosmopolitan constituencies. The intricate organisation of time, space, people and objectives inherent in the construction of a film festival relies simultaneously upon mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion. In this chapter, the observation of the LeAFF as a case study and the analysis of one specific film out of the seven programmed, along with the analysis of audience feedback, allowed me to propose (and experience) the reading of certain film festivals as border territories offering an updated perspective on film festivals as a network with nodes, flows and exchanges (de Valck, 2013; Elsaesser, 2013). Moving on from the analysis of film festivals as networks, this article proposed the image of festivals as borders (both physical and metaphorical) to be crossed and challenged under the umbrella of an assemblage of cosmopolitan stances. This view seeks to renovate the grammar of film festivals’ time, space and traditional programming modalities (Bosma: 2015), and confer on them an identity framed by fluidity, exchangeability and multiple functionalities (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987). In this chapter, I argued for film festivals as borders, positing that the cosmopolitan assemblage should be understood as a means of shaping specific

114  Monia Acciari identity-related festivals that seek to take into account multiple modalities of citizenship. By embracing a textual and sociological approach to unpack this concept, I suggested that, by directing the research of identity-related festivals to their condition as festival-borders, it is possible to identify cosmopolitanism at the core of their modus operandi. It should also be added that the array of independent Indian films presented at the festival, are boundary-pushing and work with the overall framework of the festival to deconstruct dominant hegemonic representations to facilitate and pave the way for unconventional narratives. Such an approach is capable of generating a public dialogue that has an impact on the audience, from the perspective not only of reception but also of creation. I argue that, while borders and mobility are experienced by a large range of interlocutors (audience, the media and the organising crew), film representations also have implications for the development of the cosmopolitanism of film festivals, as they enable continuous dialogue (inside and outside the screening room) with ‘others’ who do not otherwise have easy access to cultural dialogues.

Notes This chapter has been amended to align with the themes of this volume. It was published in its original form in Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media, Issue 14, Winter, 2017: 111–125. 1. See Rovisco, who describes migration flows, transnational experiences and global interconnectivity as being at the core of a cosmopolitan filmic experience. See also Chan, who interrogates aspects of identity, cultural boundaries and national cinemas in light of a cosmopolitan determinism. 2. The partners participating in this festival are multiple; specifically Phizzical Production, De Montfort University, CATHI Research Institute, Tongues on Fire, British Film Institute, UK Asian Film Festival and Film Hub Central East. 3. The idea of franchise events is explored and applied in the broadest sense here, where a selection of the same films is temporally, spatially and ideologically reterritorialised across the nation, and across a variety of diverse cities. 4. The Golden Mile in Leicester is the name given to a stretch of the Belgrave Road in North Leicester. It is an area dominated by South Asian shops, such as Indian restaurants and saree shops. This area is also famous for the celebration of Diwali with the switching on of lights during wintertime.

References Acciari, Monia. (2014a), ‘Film Festival and the Rhythm of Social Inclusivity: The Fluid Spaces of London and Florence Indian Film Festivals’, Cinergie, 2(6): 15–24. Acciari, Monia. (2014b). ‘River-to-River Florence Indian Film Festival: The Italian Response to Bollywood Cinema’, NECSUS: European Journal of Media Studies, 3(2): 231–237. Appadurai, Arjun. (2001). ‘Cosmopolitanism From Below: Some Ethical Lessons From the Slums of Mumbai’, Jwtc: Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism, 4. Available at: jwtc.org.za/volume_4_arjun_appadurai.htm [Accessed 12 July 2017].

Film Festivals as Cosmopolitan Assemblages  115 Bauman, Zigmunt. (2000). Liquid Modernity. Malden: Polity Press. Bosma, Peter. (2015). Film Programming: Curating for Cinema, Festivals, Archives. Wallflower/Columbia University Press. Chan, Felicia. (2017). Cosmopolitan Cinema: Imagining the Cross-Cultural in East Asian Film. I.B. Tauris. Delanty, Gerard. (2012). ‘Introduction: The Emerging Field of Cosmopolitanism Studies’, in Delanty, Gerard (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitanism Studies. Taylor & Francis, pp. 1–8. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. (1987). A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. de Valck, Marijke. (2013). ‘Film Festivals and Migration’, in Ness, I. (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. Wiley-Blackwell, Vol. 3, pp. 1502–1504. de Valck, Marijke. (2006). Film Festivals: From European Geopolitics to Global Cinephilia. Amsterdam University Press. de Valck, Marijke, and Loist, Skadi. (2009). ‘Film Festival Studies: An Overview of a Burgeoning Field’, in Dina Iordanova and Ragan Rhyne (ed.), Film Festival Yearbook 1. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 179–215. Devasundaram, Ashvin Immanuel. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. Routledge. Elsaesser, Thomas. (2013). ‘Film Festival Networks: The New Topographies of Cinema in Europe’, in Dina Iordanova (ed.), The Film Festival Reader. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 59–68. Fiala, Andrew. (2017). Secular Cosmopolitanism, Hospitality, and Religious Pluralism. Routledge. Hannerz, Ulf. (1997). Transnational Connections: Culture, People, Places. Routledge. India’s Daughter. (2015). Directed by Leslee Udwin, BBC. Iordanova, Dina. (2016). ‘Choosing the Transnational’, Frames Cinema Journal, (9), April. Available at: framescinemajournal.com/article/choosing-the-transnational/. Iordanova, Dina. (2009b). ‘The Film Festival Circuit’, in Dina Iordanova and Ragan Rhyne (eds.), Film Festival Yearbook 1. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 23–39. Iordanova, Dina. (2009a). Film Festival Yearbook 1: The Festival Circuits. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies. Iordanova, Dina. (2010). ‘Mediating Diaspora: Film Festivals and ‘Imagined Communities’’, in Dina Iordanova and Ruby Cheung (eds.), Film Festival Yearbook 2: Film Festivals and Imagined Communities. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 12–44. Iordanova, Dina. (2013). The Film Festival Reader (ed.). St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies. Iordanova, Dina, and Ragan Rhyne, editors. (2009). ‘Introduction’, in Dina Iordanova and Ragan Rhyne (eds.), Film Festival Yearbook 1. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 1–18. Iordanova, Dina, and Ruby Cheung. (2010). ‘Introduction’, in Dina Iordanova and Ruby Cheung (eds.), Film Festival Yearbook 2: Film Festivals and Imagined Communities. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 1–20. Kosnick, Kira. (2009). ‘Cosmopolitan Capital or Multicultural Community? Reflection on the Production and Management of Differential Mobilities in Germany’s Capital City’, in Magdalena Nowicka and Maria Rovisco (eds.), Cosmopolitanism in Practice. Routledge, pp. 161–180.

116  Monia Acciari Lampel, Joseph, and Alan D. Meyer. (2008). ‘Guest Editors’ Introduction: Field Configuring Events as Structuring Mechanisms: How Conferences, Ceremonies, and Trade Shows Constitute New Technologies, Industries, and Markets’, Journal of Management Studies, 45(6): 1025–1035. Lipstick Under My Burkha. (2016). Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava, Prakash Jha Productions. Mango Dreams. (2016). Directed by John Upchurch, Jack Films. Mantostaan. (2016). Directed by Rahat Kazmi, Aaditya Pratap Singh Entertainments. Mazdon, Lucy. (2006). ‘The Cannes Film Festival as Transnational Space’, Post Script, 25(2): 19–30. Mazierska, Ewa, and Laura Rascaroli. (2006). Crossing New Europe: Postmodern Travel and the European Road Movie. Wallflower/Columbia University Press. Miller, David. (2010). ‘Cosmopolitanism’, in Garrett Wallace Brown and David Held (eds.), The Cosmopolitanism Reader. Polity, pp. 377–392. Nichols, Bill. (2013). ‘Global Image Consumption in the Age of Capitalism’, in Dina Iordanova (ed.), The Film Festival Reader. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 29–44. Nornes, Abé Markus. (2013). ‘Asian Film Festivals, Translation and the International Film Festival Short Circuits’, in Dina Iordanova (ed.), The Film Festival Reader. St Andrews: St Andrews Film Studies, pp. 151–156. Queen. (2014). Directed by Vikas Bahl, ViaCom. Rovisco, Maria. (2013). ‘Towards a Cosmopolitan Cinema: Understanding the Connection Between Borders, Mobility and Cosmopolitanism in the Fiction Film’, Mobilities, 8(1): 148–165. Rüling, Charles-Clemens, and Jesper Strandgaard Pedersen. (2010). ‘Film Festival Research from an Organizational Studies Perspective’, Scandinavian Journal of Management, 26(3): 318–323. Shellar, Mimi. (2011). ‘Cosmopolitanism and Mobilities’, in Magdalena Nowicka and Maria Rovisco (eds.), The Ashgate Research Companion of Cosmopolitanism. Routledge, pp. 349–365. Skrbiš, Zlatko, and Ian Woodward. (2013). Cosmopolitanism: Uses of the Idea. London: Sage.

7 Documentary as Witness; Documentary as Counter-Narrative The Cinema of Sanjay Kak Aparna Sharma Documentary practice questions and contests power. It interrogates discourses of power and the rationalisations on which they are based. It records and inscribes the effects and affects of power in the everyday life worlds of communities. Through this, documentary films complicate the writing of histories. They resist the erasure of human experiences from memory and from the records of history. In India, documentary filmmakers have developed varied agendas, approaches and forms of practice through which to question and contest hegemonic values, discourses and modes of reason. The diversity of forms and practices is such that it is unsustainable to think of Indian documentaries as a singular or homogenous category (Jayasankar and Monteiro, 2016; Sharma, 2015). Driven by a political and an interrogatory charge, documentary-makers examine the possibilities of the political in film, debating and advancing it through formal experimentation. Documentary films in India are largely produced through innovative modes of financing and production. Commissions from semi-governmental, televisual and non-governmental organisations either singularly or in combination with research, crowdfunding and even filmmakers’ own funds drive the making and exhibition of documentary films. Unorganised, understudied and sparsely recognised as part of the cinema of India, documentary filmmaking is principally an independent effort undertaken with a view to devise informed, interrogatory and critical representations that put under lens India’s experiences as a modern nation. This independence fosters a diversity of perspectives, approaches, forms and discourses making the documentary field rich with discursive, political and aesthetic potentialities. One noticeably radical articulation of political documentary is encountered in the cinema of Delhi-based documentary filmmaker, Sanjay Kak. Sanjay Kak has worked in the documentary medium for close to three decades. After his early beginnings in television and commissioned documentary works, Kak branched into independent documentary-making in the early 2000s. The particular mode of documentary that can be seen taking shape through his successive works indicates a deeply contemplative sensibility that follows associations between hitherto unrelated places, events and experiences. Key films in Kak’s oeuvre include Jashn-e-Azadi

118  Aparna Sharma (English title: How We Celebrate Freedom, 2007) and Mati Ke Lal (English title: Red Ant Dream, 2013), both of which follow points of confrontation between marginal populations and the Indian State. Jashn-e-Azadi takes us to Kashmir, where we witness the order of everyday proceedings characterised by violence, trauma, uncertainty and a will for freedom. Mati Ke Lal, a more geographically and culturally diverse work, takes us to sites where dissent against the Indian State is articulated through ideas and ways of living informed by resistance and, calls for revolutionary action. This focus on sites of dissent—where ‘normality’ as defined within the framework of the nation is contested—is upheld by the independent mode of production that characterises documentary-making generally, and Kak’s cinema specifically. Without the pressure of narrow agendas or pre-formulated arguments, filmmakers such as Kak are able to use documentary-making as a process of study and investigation through which complex subjects as dissent against the state can be articulated, situated and historicised. Documentary-makers and theorists, Anjali Monteiro and K P Jayasankar situate Kak’s films in a wider body of political documentaries that map the inequities and violences of the Indian State thus exposing its workings as a hard nation-state. They note: The hard nation state that cracks down on its own dissenting citizens has been explored in many recent films that have been the focus of many debates in the public sphere. There is an interesting body of work on subaltern struggles, human rights violations and the tragedy of communities torn and trapped in militarized zones in Kashmir and in the North East. These films are very different in terms of their politics and their narrative styles, yet they work together intertextually to complicate the certainty of the national imaginary. (Jayasankar and Monteiro, 2016: 58) For Kak, documentary is a medium to provoke and complicate the terms by which political experiences and thinking get understood. While his documentaries are infused with a political sensibility, they do not offer a removed or total view of things. Kak also does not posture his films as tools for some kind of resolution. Further, there are no trappings of a narrow, ventriloquist or emotive agenda to voice the voiceless. Jashn-e-Azadi and Mati Ke Lal perform the work of bringing into consciousness the concrete effects of power in the lives and worlds of those upon whom it gets enacted and sustained. Often times, invisibly. These films articulate and assert those perspectives that do not align with the dominant order of things and, that embody discontent towards the operations of power. These films, as indeed the wider body of Indian documentary cinema, can thus be understood as embodying a counterpoint to mainstream cinemas in Bollywood, which assert hegemonic cultural and political ideals transposed.

Documentary as Witness  119 This essay introduces the work of Sanjay Kak and examines the formal and structural approaches in Kak’s films. The political interventions that Kak’s films make are developed through work with cinema’s techniques of image and montage construction. I commence this essay with discussion around Kak’s cinematography that I hold rests on an understanding of the documentary image as a witness, an understanding itself based on the indexical bond between image and its referent. I then propose that this witness function gets developed in Kak’s approach to film editing through which are constructed episodes in which documentary materials—images and sounds—are mobilised to examine modes of thought and how those inform peoples’ actions and their sense of place in the world. Concluding that Kak’s films constitute a form of counter-narrative, the essay leads into an interview with the filmmaker. In this interview Kak considers the scope and motivations for his documentary practice, whilst also elaborating on the methods for his work and his relationship to the audiences for his films. Kak’s documentaries have been widely acclaimed for their complex perspectives that do not offer summary conclusions or calls to action on pressing concerns. In this interview Kak offers his understanding of an independent cinema. For Kak an independent mode of production is one that preserves the vision of a maker and provides the circumstances in which the maker’s vision can be developed and articulated through film form. Often involving small sums of money and in turn, small in scale, Kak asserts that an independent cinema is removed from the interference of dominant market trends and/or cultural preferences that are likely to dictate documentary meanings, forms and even utility. Distant from any pre-formulated agendas, an independent documentary cinema, in Kak’s terms is truly a cinema that offers avenues for investigation, debate and critical thinking.

The Documentary Image as Witness Kak’s cinema takes viewers into remote and distant regions of India. Valleys, villages and forests—we see how people live in these environments, sensing their particular relationship to place and how that relationship has been shaped by the forces of history. In its approach, Kak’s camera exercises an appreciation for the indexical properties of the documentary image, i.e. the image serves as a record of the pro-filmic, with which it shares a relationship of extension and, of which it offers a likeness. Here I apply Charles Sanders Pierce’s classification of the index, icon and symbol for the study of signs. According to Pierce, an index is a sign that directly correlates with and is influenced by the object that it represents (cited in Wollen, 1972: 123–124). The indexicality of mediated image arises from the ontological link between the image and its referent, what Bill Nichols terms as the ‘indexical bond of photochemical and electronic images which they represent’ (1991: 149). Given the political concerns that are the focus of Kak’s films, the indexical

120  Aparna Sharma understanding of the image is of value and situates in the documentary image a specific function; the function of being witness. The recorded image is witness to and thereby shows us realities to which we ordinarily have little to no access and, which often times have been withheld or suppressed from popular consciousness. With this understanding of the image, Kak chronicles testimonies— visual, verbal and embodied. Early in Jashn-e-Azadi we are taken to a frozen Mazar-e-Shouda (Martyr’s Grave, Srinagar) where we follow an old father as he looks for his son’s grave. In Mati Ke Lal, we follow a group of fighters from the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army, Dandakaranya Division, as they make their way through the forests where they are based and where from they fight the war for the overthrow of the Indian State. Later in the same film, we hear verse from Avtar Singh ‘Pash’s’ poem questioning and disassembling the efficacy of the nation state’s security apparatus. This verse is mixed with the sound of slogans being shouted by red-flag waving protesters in Punjab. Such images filmed amidst communities present people and places as figures transacting wider social, political and economic processes. These transactions are not unidirectional, and Kak’s camera exposes us to how people question the forces that impact them and, that are also geared to silence them. A defining feature of Kak’s documentaries is that they do not make any particular human subjects or political events their singular focus. Kak emphatically departs from conventional documentary structures that deploy character- or event-centred narratives. Political events or situations are depicted in very measured terms for Kak’s interest is in following the long-term effects of politico-historical processes. Hence, Jashn-e-Azadi clearly departs from plotting a political-institutional history of Kashmir and instead, we are immersed in the everyday life and goings-on in a place that has been plunged in decades-long political uncertainty and violence. Personal, artistic and civic responses to the crises in the region are seen and, these enable the viewer to appreciate how people work through the circumstances with which they are confronted on an everyday basis. When the camera frames groups of people or individuals, it does not exploit the emotional charge one might derive from human testimonies. The move here is to socialise the subject rather than to individualise and abstract them from a wider social and political reality. In the absence of event- or character-led narratives, Kak’s documentaries command a freer structure and a key result of this is that his films offer a deep sense of place and time. This is remarkably executed in Mati Ke Lal where Kak examines ideas of revolution and practices of resistance. Persistently, the film explores how calls for revolution constitute reactions against the shapings of landscapes and peoples’ lives by the workings of the Indian State. It reveals how the Indian State’s adoption of the discourses and practices of industrial and post-industrial

Documentary as Witness  121 modernisation have occurred at the expense of varied cultural systems of knowledge and without ground-level dialogue with concerned communities. We are exposed to how agendas for development and progress involve the compromise, if not full annihilation, of alternative modes of reason and knowledge. As we traverse disparate landscapes and are exposed to the specific conditions and experiences that have provoked resistance, the viewer senses a wider concern about how the enactments of hegemonic power disempower sections of society. It becomes discernible that minority communities, particularly tribal peoples, get first, overlooked and whose resistances are then, constructed as ill-informed impediments in the wider causes of the nation.

Episodic Film Structure While Kak’s films rest on an appreciation of documentary materials for their witness value, he does not hold these materials as hermetically sealed containers with finite content or information. Documentary images and sounds are understood as tools for the interpretation and articulation of meanings that may not be readily apparent within them. In this, the work of editing is significant. Through the editing process, against-the-grain connections between seemingly disparate places, experiences and understandings are put forth. The editing process pushes the documentary image from its witness function into a more discursive direction, where interpretations and reasonings of documentary materials are contextualised in relation to the wider interface between lived experience and the negotiations with power. This move into a discursive direction is necessary because the indexical bond on which the witness function of the documentary image rests, while necessary is not sufficient for the construction of meaning. As Nichols points that the indexical bond ‘cannot account for the historical referent and meanings embedded within images’ (1991: 29, 150). Further, John Ellis adds that discursive structures, say those related to film editing, catapult raw footage into the realm of meaning: ‘Discursive structures grant a channel and a structure to a recording, an intentionality that it did not necessarily possess as an inert piece of footage’ (Ellis, 2012: 125). The witness value is fundamental to Kak’s work, and it is advanced through the editing process in which documentary materials are mobilised to provoke critical discourse. Specifically, Kak’s films can be termed episodic. An episodic film is one that depicts one or more episodes, with an episode constituting a distinct unit of events, processes or ideas that are part of a larger series. Siegfried Kracauer defines the episodic film as being made up of a single or multiple episodes that have a direct correlation with social life, what he calls the ‘flow of life’. Kracauer states that episode films involve stories, with stories understood most broadly, ‘whose common property is to emerge from, and

122  Aparna Sharma again disappear in, the flow of life, as suggested by the camera’ (1997: 51). Kracauer’s discussion of the episode film focuses on fiction filmmaking and I am applying his ideas to discuss the nature of Kak’s documentaries in which multiple episodes are assembled in a manner that does not develop into a narrative through-line. The episodes in Kak’s documentaries follow places or public events: rallies, marches, public meetings, theatrical performances, guerilla training camps, military actions and trainings, civic actions, etc. The camera approaches these with the intent to give a sense of the goings-on in these contexts, without committing to depicting those goings-on in the whole. Often, the episodes are interspersed with some form of verbal dialogue: between participants at a site, their direct address to the camera as say, in an interview or, through verbal discourse in a voiceover narration. As a whole, Kak’s films offer a ground-level view of peoples’ lives as they are impacted by national policies, programmes for development and those for containing the voices of dissidents. Whether the people of Kashmir who have faced structural and systemic violence through their long and protracted struggle for freedom or more recently, the Maoist insurgents from across Indian states, Kak’s films offer us a counterview of India’s narrative of progress and development as an independent nation. In doing this, Kak’s films constitute an antithetical posture that critiques India’s mainstream nationalist discourse that is increasingly complicit with neoliberalism and religious nationalism, which is upheld by mainstream cinema such as Bollywood. Kak’s cinema can thus be understood as aligned with the growing body of independent cinema in India that contrasts with the ‘Indian national metanarrative’ as ‘framed by Bollywood’ (Devasundaram 2016: 33). Both Jashn-e-Azadi and Mati Ke Lal are made up of a range of episodes that take up specific facets of everyday life and they together open for the viewer a space for considering, not in conclusive terms, the concerns that motivate peoples’ reactions against hegemonic power. There is an ideological motivation for positing the viewer in such a space where decisive conclusions towards concerns and issues are abandoned in favour of opening debate. The filmic articulation of such debate is enacted through following details, minutiae and nuances; exposing complex perspectives: embodied, poetic and even rhetorical; muddying unilinear arcs in which political experiences and their containment within such categories as the nation is posited through explicit cause and effect mechanics. While resisting resolution of arguments, this space of debate empowers the viewer by exposing them to the complexities, reasonings, memories and contradictions that inform peoples’ understandings of hegemonic power and the stances they adopt in relation to it and/or to rationalise its workings. For instance, Jashn-e-Azadi allows the viewer to historicise and better appreciate the calls for freedom in the Kashmir valley. The remote landscapes in which we encounter cries for

Documentary as Witness  123 resistance, seen in Mati Ke Lal, enable us to learn how sections of society question the logic of development. This mode of film construction facilitates critical thinking and it exercises what John Corner terms as proactive observationalism. Proactive observationalism involves an ‘increased scopic mobility, a more discursive use of mise-en-scene and smoother time compressions’; through which the documentarist creates a persuasive portrait that compels the viewer to deepen their understandings of political conditions (Corner, 1996: 28–29). Kak’s mode of editing is measured and contemplative. Though focusing on political conflicts, his films do not adopt a conflict-based structure involving the clash of antagonists and protagonists. The films situate the viewer in a place where their understanding of things is advanced by exposure to competing and alternative positions that are depicted as considered and coherent in their reasoning. Jashn-e-Azadi does not offer a resolution by which viewers may feel either totally in support or against the idea of Kashmir’s freedom. However, the film does position the viewer where their existing understandings stand challenged and/or advanced through exposure to nuanced perspectives. Likewise, Mati Ke Lal can be understood as a comprehensive text that studies Naxalism and Maoist insurgency without valorising or critiquing such politics through singular terms of discourse. The film leaves the viewer productively unable to adopt a determinist stance in relation to such politics. It can thus be noted that Kak’s documentary cinema does not approach the viewer as a passive entity, an empty vessel awaiting to be filled in unilinear terms with the documentarist’s discourse. The viewer is required to be active in deciphering materials they are presented with. The viewer is positioned to be appreciative that the political conditions depicted in the films are acutely complex; they do not lend themselves to any binaristic resolution as say upheld through jingoistic nationalism. Kak also integrates archival materials in his films. In Mati Ke Lal, the archival materials are training videos developed and used by the guerillas. These training videos sit in counterpoint to the world and ideas we have encountered in relation to the guerilla fighters through Kak’s own camera. This sharing of authorship in the film serves in destabilising the film’s own scopic regime and, this in turn adds weight to the film, providing a necessary complication into the representation of subjects and their experiences.

The Politics of a Counter-Narrative While Kak’s documentaries leave a viewer free to develop a stance in favour of or against what they see, or even remain undecided; his films do offer viewers exposure that lends necessary complexity into thinking about urgent political concerns. Kak’s earlier films have also engaged with political content: the Narmada dam and practices of indigenous knowledge in

124  Aparna Sharma India’s northeastern region. Viewing his films successively, it is discernible how filmmaking has served in cultivating a mode of thinking through film in which exposure—in quite visceral and tactile terms—to disparate experiences and perspectives is privileged over purely rationalised discourses, action-based agendas and/or hermetically sealed resolutions. Herein lies a certain independence of documentary practice—it is not influenced by criteria or discourses external to itself. Viewers are positioned to derive meaning and workout a stance in relation to what they see and hear, a stance that is not pre-constituted. Clearly political, Jashn-e-Azadi and Mati Ke Lal, redefine the scope of the political in documentary. Their episodic structure and proactive observationalism, positions documentary as a political medium as against documentary being simply a carrier of political content. Both films are inconclusive, and they can be termed counter-narratives for they resist coherent narratives by plotting counter-perspectives that have been made invisible, suppressed or vilified in public discourse. These perspectives appear ruptured and disjunctive. These features of inconclusivity and disjuncture are relevant to counter-narratives for as Bill Nichols points out, counter-narratives problematise the discourses and narrations of modernity (1991: 256–257). Counter-narrative documentaries contest the neatness and inevitability of the modern both as a socio-historical process and as an aesthetic. In the case of both Kashmir and the numerous peoples’ resistance movements against the State across India, Kak’s films reveal the limitations of India’s modern national project. They interrogate what it means to live in conditions rationalised as ‘normal’ or ‘aspirational’; how dissent is understood and contained; whose terms of reference form the basis of ‘progress’ and what gets called history.

References Corner, J. (1996). The Art of Record: A Critical Introduction to Documentary. New York: Manchester University Press. Devasundaram, A. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Ellis, J. (2012). Documentary: Witness and Self-Revelation. London and New York: Routledge. Jayasankar, K. P., and Monteiro, A. (2016). A Fly in the Curry: Independent Documentary Film in India. New Delhi: Sage. Kracauer, S. (1997 [1960]). Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality. Introduction by Miriam B. Hansen. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Nichols, B. (1991). Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. Sharma, A. (2015). Documentary Films in India: Critical Aesthetics at Work. UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Wollen, P. (1972). Signs and Meanings in the Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Documentary as Witness  125

Interview with Sanjay Kak (INTERVIEWED BY APARNA SHARMA, 13 JUNE 2017, NEW DELHI) 1. Thank you for this conversation. I want to discuss your practice from the position of making. Often times, in India, the content of documentary films takes precedence and the craft takes a backseat in discussions of documentary. I want to start by asking how you came to documentary filmmaking? What has been your trajectory in relation to this medium? When I finished my Masters in 1980, we had just come out of the Emergency at Delhi University, and were in its quite muddy aftermath. One of the important consequences, and something which would become apparent only much later, is that the event of the Emergency caused a major rupture between the state and the media in India, which was of course mostly the print media then. But it was out of that rupture that the Indian documentary emerged in its most coherent, contemporary shape. I had seen a few documentary films by then, sure, but there wasn’t a sustained exposure to a critical documentary in India, let alone a practice. Until then documentary viewing mostly meant the propaganda one-reeler from Films Division that was screened before every feature in the cinema houses, or going across to the British Council once in a while and getting to see 16MM prints of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, or Jacob Bronowski’s Ascent of Man. Although I can certainly remember, in 1978, a year after the Emergency was lifted, walking across to the Delhi School of Economics where Anand Patwardhan was going to show Prisoners of Conscience. He had come lugging a heavy 16mm projector and we had to all help him put up newspaper to darken the windows in the lecture theatre. As much as the film, I remember wondering: Who is this man? What is this thing that we are seeing, an independent film? What did this kind of documentary mean for us? The point that I’m making is that many of us who began making documentaries in the years that followed were doing so in a kind of a void. In my case there was no film school, for those who went to film school at least got some exposure there. Around the 1980s, the international film festival here in Delhi had started devoting small sections to documentaries, but on the whole, there wasn’t a great deal of stimulation. Apart from Anand, there were people like Tapan Bose, and Meera Dewan, who were trying something against the tide but the

126  Aparna Sharma overwhelming presence around us was of a kind of television/pedagogical documentary. If you drifted into the documentary, you mostly had to invent it for yourself. And yet obviously something had been triggered by the post-Emergency context, and by the end of the 1980s, it had quickly begun to feel that an eco-system of documentary production had started to come about. There were editors, camerapersons, sound recordists. And by the early 1990s, one felt that yes, there is such a thing as an Indian documentary scene. There were many emerging filmmakers; we knew each other; we watched each other’s films. The same editors, the same cinematographers, were working on different films. We’re talking about 1993, 94, 95. Looking back maybe because there wasn’t that much happening but whatever it was, there was a seriousness about it, and an excitement, and even outside of the filmmaking universe the press had begun taking note of the documentary. As I said, I did not go to film school and had grown up in an environment where there was not much stimulation towards or through documentary. And yet I quickly felt like there’s something here, something in the form which needs to be worked on, worked with. Perhaps one could sense that there was something else that seemed possible within it. I had myself stumbled into documentary filmmaking, without it having been the overriding passion of my life, and now here was a kind of eco-system that was building up, and it seemed to offer a language with which to deal with the world around us. I was—and continue to be—a very eager observer of that eco-system. I wanted to know what else is there, what else is possible in this practice. I think that my own training and inclination was towards an academic approach to understanding what was going on in the world around us. But although I respected scholarship, appreciated what it had to contribute, its methods, I didn’t want to be an academic. Documentary was a medium in which you felt that many things could be kept alive simultaneously, much more than journalism, which I was considering at the time. You could actually be involved with reading and thinking and yet produce something which people will see, which will affect them. To reach out you didn’t have to leave your brain outside. 2. You use the words ‘finding a language’. I feel there is a quest here that has a very particular articulation in the Indian documentary scene: we did inherit a very strong colonial, pedagogical model of

Documentary as Witness  127 making documentaries and most of us, in many ways contest that. Can you talk about what this finding a language is? It was probably 1987 when I saw Manjira Dutta’s Babulal Bhuiyan ki Kahani. She was a contemporary and yet with that film I had the feeling that I had for the first time seen a documentary film where the use of the image was not instrumental, that it had a kind of autonomy. There was obviously some existing discomfort with the older tradition of using the image simply to buttress a logic of words and ideas. Perhaps I was already struggling a little bit with what kind of a thing documentary could be. I had done this film for Doordarshan, called Cambodia Angkor Remembered, and there were ways in which we attempted to use the image, and even voice and text, into something unique, something particular to our needs. What did this mean? It meant looking at the shot material not as wallpaper, but as something that had an internal meaning of its own. And where the old-fashioned notion of montage, the bringing together of elements to bring forth fresh meaning, could get a lease of life. To not be trapped by the more prevalent, obvious logic of documentary in which verisimilitude is emphasised; the illusion of being reality confused with reality itself — I think this was a concern for me. But eventually I think that it was with video, and much more so with the arrival of digital technology that things really began to change, and we were all able to practice what we were thinking through. It made access to the wherewithal of filmmaking accessible, of course; it made shooting and editing and post-production much simpler, yes, but it also made the dissemination that much more dynamic. Up until the mid-90s I had shown my films around, but it was largely limited to metropolitan locations—Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, maybe Bangalore. With video and video projectors, suddenly everything started crackling open. 3. Your work foregrounds an investigation into documentary language. What do you see are the potentials of documentary and what are its limitations? Many times documentary gets hijacked as an instrument for a wider agenda and the language of cinema takes a retreat there. In my case, as the work became more political in an explicit sort of way, I obviously had to find a form that was appropriate to that politics. If you look at the terrain of my last few films—a movement against large dams in the Narmada valley, or for freedom in Kashmir, or a reflection on the idea of revolution in India—the issue of form has been central. These

128  Aparna Sharma may appear to be films about very clear-cut issues, but my politics about them is not! And I am not interested in producing agit-prop. Which is not to say that agit-prop should not be produced; it’s just not my way. This is perhaps why I have a serious problem with the hegemonic way of conceptualising documentary films as one sees them in the West, especially when television funding appears on the horizon. We must have a set of characters, we must have a narrative, with a discernible dramatic arc etc etc. To me that really comes from some kind of insecurity; a sort of timidity about our ability to hold an audience’s attention in any other way. Over the last 15 years, with each of the films that I have done I have shot material, brought it back and then stared at it afresh and asked: ‘What does this mean?’ Because it’s not that you know what something means at the moment that you shoot it. You’re in England, or you’re in South Africa, in a sugarcane field or a rehearsal of a play—when you are shooting all you have is an inkling; your cinematographer may get a feeling, you may sense you have come away with something. It’s only later that you look at it and ask: ‘What is really going on here?’ I hope I’m not being esoteric here. But that process of interrogation is real. And it’s critical because that’s when one begins to find some meaning in the material itself rather than using a logic or arguments that lie completely outside of the material in order to develop a coherent film. I think that the film that I made in Kashmir, and which was finished 10 years ago, was the first opportunity when all the thinking around film form crystallised for me. Jashn-E-Azaadi was about politics, and it had all the complications and ambiguities with which one thinks about politics. Yet, it worked politically. It happened partly because I had developed a strong relationship with an editor who was equally interested in questions of meaning and finding a language with which to address politics. Tarun Bhartiya and I work as very equal collaborators, and we have had as many conversations on film form as we have had about politics. I cannot even begin to describe our delight when we started showing Jashne-Azaadi, for despite all our nervousness, audiences had no problem with the film. It was the biggest charge of my life to realise that here we are, deploying a rather unattractive mode of storytelling, where there are no ‘characters’, there is apparently no ‘narrative’. Then it’s circular in structure, it’s very long, it keeps coming back, you do all kinds of things that push the audience, and yet audiences don’t leave. They’re troubled. They’re moved. And they stayed to talk. The other wonderful thing was that by the time that film was made, documentaries were being screened quite widely outside of the

Documentary as Witness  129 metropolitan and big city situations. Jashn-e-Azaadi has been shown extensively in very small towns and outside of the big city contexts. Wherever we have shown it, people really don’t have trouble with the form. They read the nuances in it. They understand why you are doing what you are, and they will also ask you about it. Red Ant Dream, the film that followed, worked in a similar way perhaps because Tarun and I had more confidence in a documentary form that did not privilege characters or narratives. Forms that sought to use the documentary image as a source of meaning, rather than simply capturing something called reality. 4. As we talk about investigating the language of documentary, documentary forms and how those sustain meanings, this requires a kind of authorship in which the investigation is free of pressures such as trends in documentary-making or even established techniques of making. This leads me to ask: What is the idea of the ‘independent’ in documentary cinema? How do you conceptualise the idea of the ‘independent’ in relation to documentary? Ideally, ‘independent’ should refer to a mode of production where the vision of the filmmaker is protected. If it is possible for such a vision to be protected, then it doesn’t matter to me where the money for that film is coming from. But if in a pitching workshop, 10 commissioning editors from 10 international television channels start to insinuate a certain form, then that’s not independent. If they say: ‘Nice. But can you not make this character more prominent. We really like that character. . . .’ If you didn’t want to, or you didn’t set off to make a film about that character then that intrusion compromises the filmmaker’s sense of independence in relation to their practice. . . . I’d also like to qualify: the idea of the independent does not equate with some arrogance of ‘I know and I know all’. Instead, independent is about the vision. It’s about valorising a distinct mode of looking and thinking. Thinking through documentary is work. It is a kind of labour. Exactly. When you create the circumstances for a vision to take shape—that to me is independent. Inevitably, and this I have learnt over time, that is only possible when the sums of money involved are small. Nobody ever gives you large sums of money to do pretty much what you want. So, a modest budget is a starting point. Now, can you do a feature film on a small budget? Once upon a time you could. But today, you cannot do that. In documentary, I think the arrival of the digital

130  Aparna Sharma medium contributed immensely towards advancing the possibilities of an independent cinema for precisely those reasons. The kind of freedom that the digital medium has given people, allowing them to shoot for long periods of time; to shoot with very small units, sometimes with just one person or at the most two; this has fostered a space for contemplating what a documentary filmmaker’s vision might mean. I remember in 1999, I bought my first digital camera. I had just begun thinking about this film in the Narmada Valley. I asked a friend of mine, Samina Mishra, filmmaker and writer, who used to do sound-work at the time, to come along. The two of us made several trips at the time and it was so simple. We had the camera and basic sound gear, and all you needed were train tickets and we could go and spend a week or 10 days in the Narmada valley. So that by the end of the year I had built up a body of material that was unthinkable only a few years prior to that. I think that digital technology really transformed the way in which we think about making films. Even if you are exploring an idea and are looking for funding, just to be able to cut something like a trailer, even 10–15 minutes long, that sets up possible lines of inquiry for the film—all this has tremendously strengthened one’s capacity to think freely about film form and meaning. Just the fact that: camera utthaya, kahin gaye, aur kuch shoot kar liya (pick up the camera, go somewhere and shoot)—this has had a very big impact on how we understand what documentary is and what it can do. I also think that the distribution part of documentary filmmaking in India really expanded after 2001–2002. It was shaped by the political climate of that time. Vikalp—Films for Freedom came about then, and one got a sense that all sorts of people were developing an appetite for documentary; and there was a growing trend for screening films in a festival environment. Ek projector chahiye, ek screen chahiye, ek parda chahiye aur zameen pe kuch gadde laga diye aur shuru ho gaya festival (You need a projector, you need a screen, you need a curtain, you throw some cushions on the floor and a film festival is in place)—that kind of approach. Suddenly it was possible to have great screenings. And, you could also set up a stall and sell VHS tapes. I remember once at a Vikalp screening in Mumbai, probably in 2002, this woman came up and asked to buy a copy of my Narmada film. ‘Are you sure? It’s Rs. 500, it’s a bit expensive. And you’ve seen it’, I told her. ‘Why do you want to buy it?’ I was dissuading her and, she said: ‘Oh, because I want to show it to my friends’. This was an entirely new experience for us at the time.

Documentary as Witness  131 If you ask me what’s the most interesting thing about Indian documentary I’d say it’s the audience, and the relationship that Indian filmmakers have with their audiences. For instance, I know that when I finish a film I could possibly do 100 screenings over the next four months, all across the country, and that different groups will pay for my travel, they’ll put me up. I may not make a great deal of money out of the film, but I am assured of a real, serious audience. Further, the documentary audience is not at all narrow in terms of what specific tastes they may have. They’re willing to accept documentaries of different forms, voices and modalities. They can engage with Jashn-e-Azaadi and a completely different film, of differing political and methodological approaches. They are serious about documentaries and open to what documentaries offer. It’s a very powerful thing that you are talking about. I think this has to do with the very phenomenology of documentary: that audiences have a respect for this medium and they enter it with an intent to learn from it. In relation to documentary cinema in India there are two connected things I want to raise. One, the absence of a successful, sustained, support system for Indian documentary. I think this is the best thing that could have happened for us. In the absence of powerful commissioning editors who tell you what their vision for your film is, people have been able to do whatever they wanted to do, however they interpreted what documentary is or should be. They may have accessed resources from different avenues, but one finds that this has led to a diversity of film production and modes in India. I don’t believe that we, in India, are making the best films in the world. But I do believe that there’s quite an inspiring diversity of form, of thinking in Indian documentary. And, it persists without any hierarchy around what works or not. To the point that it makes it unsustainable to think of Indian documentary as a unified, homogenous or singular category. I think what is so attractive is that there are audiences for every kind of film: be it Anand Patwardhan, Nishtha Jain, Paromita Vohra, RV Ramani or Sanjay Kak. They each represent very different approaches towards and understandings of documentary. As a filmmaker this is deeply sustaining. Certainly, the NGO-funded filmmaking is very present in India. But that is one kind of filmmaking. There is a vast field out there with other forms of documentary that are funded in different ways, from different sources and that, as such, have very different concerns and approaches. So there is a freedom in not having money from a singular or monolithic source. It has allowed people to do what they want to. ­Secondly, it has

132  Aparna Sharma compelled filmmakers to put in that extra work into finding and developing their audiences. Each of these people who I am talking about have worked very hard at meeting and sustaining their audiences. Before this, filmmakers had never thought that they could devise their own, specific audiences. Now it was their money, it was their films, there was no producer and, because they had rights to their works it led, for want of a better word, to an organic link between documentary filmmaking practices and audiences in India. Many of the little documentary festivals in India sell DVDs of the films. At the end of the year, I get a small sum of money—not enough to produce a film or to go on a holiday to the Bahamas with, I know, but I do know that hundreds of copies of my films are going out. Which means that when I go to speak somewhere or go to show a film, I will always come across people who will come up to me and say that they have seen my films, they own copies of my films. Of course, the internet is also going to impact documentary distribution further, even in India. How exactly, we don’t know yet. 5. Would you speak a little about how you support your films and build audiences? In the past my work was mostly commissioned work. I would write a proposal, give it to Doordarshan or some large government organisation and then with the allocated funds, proceed to make a film. I am talking about the 1990s. I’ve done films supported by semi-government organisations: CAPART for instance funded a film I made in Arunachal Pradesh on the making of a 1000-foot bridge of cane and bamboo. And each film has a different story. Words on Water, I started at a time when there was considerable attention on the struggle against the Narmada dams. Through the year that I shot it, I frequently sold footage to one international television network or the other, for what were for us large sums of money. That supported part of the making of Words on Water. The generosity of friends helped it along. Then quite out of the blue, that film won a very large cash prize at a festival in Brazil. In those days it was something like Rs. 650,000. I came off the plane and said to myself: ‘OK, now I can make a film in Kashmir. I have some money to start with’. Eventually we cut a trailer for the Kashmir film and managed to raise money for a post-production grant from IDFA and, that allowed me to finish that film. All this to say that my approach to financing a film is very erratic, piece-meal and project-specific.

Documentary as Witness  133 Documentary filmmaking is in that sense always quite mysterious in India. Every film finds its own sources of funding and its own audience. Every year, I go to some festival or screenings and one sees wonderful films being made. Each time it is some new story about how that film got made. One knows the downside of some behemoth being set up to support films. In this day and age, imagine if there was such as behemoth. Where’s their money going to come from? The State? In which case can you imagine what kinds of films will get made! And, if it was corporate funding, then can you imagine what are the films that would not be made! So, the vibrancy, the pugnaciousness, the disrespect towards a reified form or mode of documentary—all that comes from the fact that it’s happening in this non-prescribed, ad-hoc, crazy way in India. There’s no one person who is the thekedar (owner). Even if some NGO gives you Rs. 5 Lakhs, they’re not funding the whole film. They don’t take full responsibility and this I think offers a kind of autonomy in making and thinking about documentaries. 6. Speaking of audience, is there something you seek specifically in your engagement with audiences? I know numbers is one way of looking at it. There’s another way of looking at it in the sense of what is the context in which work gets shown? As a filmmaker what kind of response or challenge do you seek in relation to the audiences for your films? And, how do you choreograph this? However gentle and understated my approach maybe, the intention is to unabashedly persuade. What is a documentary film? For me it’s an argument. It’s not the truth, it’s not reality. It’s an argument about the world around us and the reality that surrounds us. I am trying as skillfully as possible to present my argument and to present it in a way that the audience, even if they do not accept it, are unable to reject it. For instance, people who watch my Kashmir film; it’s not as if they all come out saying that: ‘Yes, Kashmir should get azaadi!’ But certainly, after watching that film they can’t stay where they were. It makes them uncomfortable with their position and they have to move forward. That’s what I call persuasion. By persuasion I don’t mean that you have to agree with me but that I’ve persuaded you that where you were is not an adequate place to be in. That is the goal. Meghnath is a filmmaker based in Ranchi, and a very interesting figure who works closely with our first adivasi filmmaker, Biju Toppo. Meghnath also teaches media and communications at a local college there where

134  Aparna Sharma the student-body is almost 90% adivasi. He has been showing my film, In the Forest Hangs a Bridge, every year for nearly 15 years because he says that it’s a film that can be used to tell adivasis about what they have that they can be proud of. And, that was precisely the intention behind making that film even though I never had a conversation with Meghnath about it! I’ve hardly ever met a young film enthusiast from Jharkhand who has not seen that film. Likewise with the Kashmir film. I have no doubt that in the 10 years of its life, that film has impacted people in universities, journalists, and teachers. Forget numbers, forget the number of screenings or DVDs. If I didn’t have the feeling that all of this work played a part in public discourse, I wouldn’t be making films. Not the kind of films I make. I get a lot of feedback and I can sense my films have a value. If, Jashn-e-Azadi is being shown on the TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) campus this week, 10 years after it was made, it means there is something in it that has kept that film afloat for 10 years. And, that something continues to keep it in circulation. It’s a slightly vague way of gauging effectiveness or impact. But, it’s certainly something for which one keeps an eye out. It is important for me to know that one is pushing something. Pushing a form, pushing an argument. What is the process of making and thinking involved in your films? Especially, in relation to how you integrate materials that have not been authored by you. I am pretty old fashioned in that respect. I do undertake a lot of reading at first. Scholarly work, research papers . . . whatever. I take extensive notes. But there comes a point at which I just put all that away. It’s never a waste. Sometimes, it’s just an idea. A line you read somewhere that inflects something you say. It can be anything. It can be sitting and reading poetry aloud to oneself. So, I like to start by immersing myself into a lot of reading. In recent years, depending on the situation, I’ve either worked with a cinematographer, or I’ve shot myself. I’ve had the luxury for the last 10–12 years of not committing to one seven-day shoot. Now, I shoot for a few days and come back. I like to work in this way. In the case of Jashn-eAzadi, we were in Kashmir and shooting was not going to be easy there. We shot for seven weeks, but on seven different trips in the course of one year. Red Ant Dream was very different. It began with the journey I took into the forest with the writer Arundhati Roy, who is a close friend. That journey was 15 days long and I had no control over what I shot on

Documentary as Witness  135 that trip. We were walking every day, and for most of the day as well! It was—shoot, shoot, shoot. Whatever was there, you shot. But soon after that trip, I also started shooting in my older way, a little bit at a time, in other parts of Chhattisgarh, a little bit in Orissa, eventually in Punjab too. The truth is that when I begin I don’t know what the argument is. You start with a hunch about what you are thinking of saying. The process of filmmaking is for me an engagement with the documented materials. And, at the end of it, there is an argument that those materials will uphold. An argument that takes the shape of a film because it’s only possible for a film to make that argument. And this has a lot to do with the range of materials that you use. How has working with different audio-visual materials developed in your practice? When and how in your process do you understand that your camera has to take a backseat and that it is time for say, one of the Maoists’ training videos to come into the film? In the case of Jashn-e-Azadi, it happened because I wanted to evoke the 1990s. We were shooting in 2004, and I was simply not getting anybody who would talk about it. I started looking for videos with the idea that: is there a way I could suggest what was going on in the 1990s through videos of that time? It was nerve-racking and when I did get some material, after almost a year of looking for it, it was incredibly powerful material. We haven’t even deployed 1/100 of the power of that material in the final film. This was because we found the materials when the first cut of our film was done. We spent two to three days looking at the materials we had found. And my editor Tarun Bhartiya turned to me and said, ‘This will just run away with the film. We have to use it very, very carefully, because it is just so strong’. The metaphor we used to use for it was ‘steroids’. We were certain that we only needed to use very tiny amounts. One of the decisions we took was never to show the viewer the main action in a sequence from the archive, particularly where it involved violence, or bloodshed. Of which it had plenty. We would just show you something before or something after the heart of the sequence. And guess what? Audiences totally got what we were doing. They would ask about this strategy. More crucially, the audience would sense other things, would sense that something critical is going on offscreen. While there is a frustration at not seeing things in their totality, but at the same time there is a heightened psychological state where the audience knows something is going on, but does not know what it is that is going

136  Aparna Sharma on, in literal terms. I feel, this keeps the audience much more alert. That’s how the archival material in Jashn-e-Azadi got used. In Red Ant Dream, the weeks we had spent with the Maoist guerillas was quite an exhilarating time, perhaps even a joyous time. They were trying something very major, trying to fashion another, alternative way of life, working with the adivasis of the region, not simply leading them. And yet we very concerned that just going with that would lead us to overlook the brutal side to things. That’s an essential part of being a guerilla; it’s about killing and fighting. Depicting that was only possible by using some of their material where the same people, in the same uniforms, the same women, the same men—you don’t see them dancing, or cooking or anything. You see them with the same sense of ease as these things, but you see them doing completely other stuff. In a sense that archival material is what puts the steel in the story. It’s the same when you come to the state of Punjab in that film, and encounter those inspiring meetings and rallies. But, it’s only when you hear the poetry of Avtar Pash, hear his contempt and rage for constitutional democracy that you know there’s more to this story than these beautiful turbans, these good-looking Punjabis and those flags fluttering in the breeze. You get a sense that actually there is some real anger here and it’s not new. It’s been around for some 30 years. To close the discussion about process: You have talked about reading, use of archival materials, proposing an argument. But, I feel there are further elements that cannot easily be pin-pointed, but that are present and crucial for the meanings that your films offer. Your thoughts? In my films, I am also very interested in evoking a place. Always. While I am not so interested in developing characters, I do want to give a feel of a place. It is very important to me. So, whether it is in a film about a cane and bamboo bridge in Arunachal Pradesh or it’s Words on Water, I want the viewer to know what it feels like to be in that village for a night, to be in that protest or march. There are always two things that I am trying to do simultaneously. One, I use image and sound to very strongly evoke a place. Then I want to people that place with an argument. I want you to see that woman from the back when she is doing her harvesting and hear what she is saying, which is at a slight remove from how she appears. Having built an intense sense of place, then you want to put the viewer there and just lift the argument a little bit. It’s like allowing the viewer to think about something, not wallowing in it.

Documentary as Witness  137 I remember a journalist who met me after a screening of Jashn-eAzadi and said; ‘You know when your film opened with that scene in the graveyard and you see an old man pointing out his son’s grave and, then you see this woman in a burqa walking with her son, seen through the grill . . . I had thought that we’ll follow that woman. But you never go back to that place again’. This journalist was clearly looking for a conventional narrative. I responded saying: ‘That’s precisely the intention. I really want you to get an intense feeling of that winter, in that place. It’s a strong sense of place; it is cut for that. Everything around it is meant to uphold that’. You want to give the audience a feeling of being there, but then you don’t want them to get comfortable in that. You want jerk the audience out of there. I am not very controlling when we are shooting either because I work with exceptional cinematographers. I loosely describe things because I am also looking for interpretations. I believe that my work is to find the time and place where the cinematographer is comfortable in that they are able to sense things, what’s going on that may not be apparent. Then I see Ranjan obsessively shooting something that seems very peripheral to the main action and I am thinking: ‘Should I pull him back?’ But then I say: ‘No! Hang on. Maybe he’s got his eye on something. Let me not interfere and be too controlling’. That’s part of the excitement: ‘Let’s see what the cinematographer sees who does not know 1/100 of that place, or the person we have come to meet, or the poet or his poetry’. When I am sitting to edit with Tarun Bhartiya and trying to figure out what is the argument, what are we trying to say or evoke; a lot of it does come from the image itself. I am not obsessive about controlling the image, but once the image is there, I am very obsessive about reading every image. So what I do is that before the editor walks in, I watch and log everything that has been shot. I do not use an assistant. This is all by myself. Then, we repeat that when the editor comes in to the process. What that really means is that everything is in my system and that process of looking at the material is very crucial. For it is through that process we are able to get a sense of what it is: an argument, an idea, a place—that the film will propose and evoke. With that sense of relationship with the materials we build the film. Thank you so much!

8 Divercity Independent Documentary as an Alternative Narrative of the City Faiz Ullah, Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar Introduction Mumbai has been the site of a rather prolific Hindi film industry—it produces, by conservative estimates, more than 200 films every year. Understandably, it is also one of the most represented Indian cities on film, so much so that Mumbai has come to be seen as the ‘default metropolis in the popular Hindi cinema’ (Prasad, 2001) and the Bombay Hindi film industry1 as an ‘unofficial archive of the city in India’ (Mazumdar, 2007). Given its immense reach and popularity, it will not be amiss to state that the Bombay Hindi film industry has played a singularly important role in visually articulating and framing the experience of modern urban life. As Gyan Prakash reminds us, ‘Photography, cinema, print, and advertising have trained our senses to experience modern life through images. Even if we do not always realize it, visuality is integral to our knowledge and practice’ (2010: 2). For illustration, one of the predominant filmic representations of the city has been within the noir tradition. While there are several competing definitions of the tradition, noir is largely understood as a repertoire of techniques which help advance the narrative visually, though a play of tone and mood, rather than thematically (Schrader, 1972). While the city, in such narratives, potentially offers plenty of opportunities for reinvention and freedom for the individual, the menace of estrangement and degeneration are never very far. Such an imagination of the city informs how we may have come to encounter it, especially at the contemporary juncture with its promises beginning to fade. Several staples of the noir tradition, like cynicism and corruption, have inflected our perception of the modern cities as much as, if not more than, our experience of inhabiting them, clearly suggesting that our imaginations are contingent on the imaginaries available to us. While visual representations are abstractions, such abstractions are crucial in the way we make sense of the real. If the act of representation is entangled within the extant dominant relations of power, it is imperative to continually interrogate and resist it for we have seen how discourses can have material consequences by way of misrepresentations or erasures. It is always politically pertinent to ask questions

Divercity  139 about who gets to represent whom and why. What are the terms of recognition available to those who are represented? In the process of representation what are the parts of the whole that are elided and what are accentuated? For illustration, take the example of various media discourses that coalesce into projecting Mumbai as the foremost commercial city in the country and, by extension, the globalised economy. Terms like ‘world-class city’, ‘urban renewal’ and ‘smart city’ are often invoked in mainstream broadcast and print media to suggest a development trajectory that the city should adopt to be favourably compared to other global economic nodes like Shanghai, with China being seen as both a competitor as well as an ideal worth emulating. Such discourses have attained a level of salience in the public discourse that it is no longer required to explain or analyse as to what being world-class or smart means or entails. A large push for such discourses comes from multilateral aid agencies like the World Bank, which seek to rapidly integrate developing countries in the globalised economy for their material and labour resources as well as access to their large markets. The key elements of such a project are measures that seek to limit the responsibility of democratic institutions in the planning, decision-making and delivery of public goods and services and instead seek a greater role for private organisations with minimal regulations. While collusion between business lobbies, technocratic and political elites, and media introduce such neoliberal agenda on the national level, middle-class civil society formations provide the crucial grist on the level of the city and the street, as has been seen in Delhi (Ghertner, 2011) Mumbai (Roy, 2009), Bangalore (Benjamin, 2010), and Chennai (Ellis 2012). The poor and the marginalised are often found at the receiving end in such a paradigm of urban development, often marked as ‘denizens’ of the city as opposed to their middle-class and elite neighbours who are recognised as ‘citizens’ with attendant rights (Harris, 2007). The slum-dweller, the hawker, and the migrant worker are predominantly represented as squatters, public nuisance, and safety risks in dominant media discourses, including the Bombay Hindi film. To be sure, there is a small and critically acclaimed cinema, which offers May be worth locating this as Bollywood here alternative and sympathetic representations, but ironically and unfortunately it has remained confined to elite spaces like expensive multiplexes, which remain unaffordable and inaccessible to the majority of the population. It will be important to highlight here, within the current discussion focused on the Remembering 1992 web archive how such discourses of othering, operating within the logic of globalisation and liberalisation, acquire particularly violent forms in Indian cities riddled with multiple fault lines, especially those of religious identities. Emerging work in the area has shown that neoliberal policies that claim to produce ‘world class’ cities ‘utlilise place-specific ethnocentrism to exclude and fragment the poor’ (Chatterjee, 2009) and the ‘dominant discourses not only essentialise the aspersed

140  Faiz Ullah, et al. identity, but also utilise this to rationalise the oppressive material conditions, and thereby accumulate more capital’ (Jamil, 2017: 167). Against this background, we claim that the medium of documentary film provides an alternative archive of the city, which resists the hegemony of the mainstream and provides a fuller measure of the urban life. Though documentary films, in popular perception, are still widely considered to be an incontrovertible account of the real, the relation of the image to the reality is not so straightforward of course. Described by John Grierson—an influential figure in the realm of documentary film, credited with coining the term documentary in 1926—as ‘creative treatment of actuality’, the form was tasked with presenting an account of the socio-historical world for a social purpose in a manner that was aesthetically satisfying (Hardy, 1979). However, such a conception was fraught with several complexities. In the debates that followed, several questions were raised in order to arrive at a more precise definition of the form. It was asked if mere representation of reality would be adequate in revealing and conveying important truths? Or, how can the seemingly irreconcilable ideas of reality and artifice be brought together effectively? The interventionist role and position of the filmmaker, especially with regard to the subjects of the film, was also held up to scrutiny. How do the preconceptions of the filmmakers shape their particular interpretation of the world or how do they negotiate the relation of power with people they are trying to represent? The lively debate and inventive praxis kept the productive tensions alive between various views of the form and contributed to its significance and vitality. It embraced the ambivalence of maintaining an ever-complicating affinity with the discourses of sobriety (Nichols, 1991)—gaining from its direct relation to the real—as well as availing of the devices, conventions, and experiments of narrative forms. In hindsight, it seems that Grierson’s succinct early definition of the form has endured its evolution well to accommodate a range of hybrids. The alternative archive of the city constituted by the documentary then becomes significant in two ways. One, due to its uneasy alignment with other discourses, like politics and economics, as opposed to forms that stage their distance from the real; and two, because of the inventiveness of the form, which has stretched over to accommodate an array of critical and reflexive narrative practices. For most of the history of the documentary film in India, films were largely produced by various agencies of both the colonial and postcolonial state with an aim to educate and transform the masses into citizens who were to play their respective parts with responsibility in the nation-building project. Part didactic, part propaganda, such films addressed the ‘ethically incomplete’ and ‘infantile’ citizen subject (Roy, 2002). It needs to be remarked here that there were several filmmakers 2who in spite of restrictions managed to subvert the state agenda to a certain extent. However, they clearly avoided the political questions as well and remained, at best, ambivalent to popular movements for equity and justice.

Divercity  141 The 1970s marked the emergence of the truly independent documentary in the country, which inaugurated and expanded new discursive spaces for dissent and resistance. Later the arrival of video technologies further invigorated the movement by providing it relatively affordable and accessible means to capture and distribute moving images (Battaglia, 2014). Through their films, filmmakers and collectives like Anand Patwardhan and Deepa Dhanraj’s Yugantar respectively ‘exposed and critiqued injustice and the violation of human rights’ (Monteiro and Jayasankar, 2016: 17). The city, of course, formed one of the mainstays of the early independent documentary in the country. Departing from the state-sponsored agendas of information, education and propaganda, the early independent documentary filmmakers took a critical look at several issues of the city, like urban poverty and violence. What were earlier passed off as issues arising from individual moral shortcomings, were reframed in films like Patwardhan’s landmark Bombay Our City (1985) as pervasive political and systemic failures. Further, the film significantly eschewed the then prevalent othering middle-class gaze and represented the unhoused people in empowering ways, thereby challenging dominant representations of the poor and the marginalised as lacking agency.3 Similarly, Surabhi Sharma’s Jari Mari: Of Cloth and Other Stories (2001) presents a sensitive and engaged account of the precarious lives of the inhabitants of a suburban slum, which doubles up as an informal manufacturing hub, facing constant threats of eviction from their makeshift homes. It flies in the face of various fictions advanced by the votaries of world-class city, as workers plugged into the global supply chains struggle to keep a foothold in one. Madhusree Dutta’s I Live in Behrampada (1993) is the story of Behrampada, a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Mumbai’s Bandra Suburb, going through the convulsions of the communal violence of 1992–93. The film places particular emphasis on the lived experience of Muslim women, challenging the prevalent way of framing the issue of violence, particularly communal violence, as concerning only the men. These three examples, we hope, adequately demonstrate how independent documentary makes possible diverse ways of representations and therefore remains a crucial site for articulation of alternative narratives and visions of the city. The independent documentary movement in India is a dense network of individual filmmakers and collectives, social and cultural activists and organisations, institutions and ephemeral events and gatherings. More often than not, filmmakers initiate documentary projects at the behest of organisations and peoples’ movements working in the areas of their interest. The resulting films are used for purposes as varied as advocacy work, training and fund-raising. Even self-initiated projects rely on the access and, in many cases, know-how provided by the people directly involved within the movements. Filmmakers also develop associations with movements working in the areas of their interest, even as they work on their short and long-term projects, for distribution and outreach of their work. Often, independent

142  Faiz Ullah, et al. filmmakers do not just remain confined to the remit of professional filmmaking but also remain significantly invested in their subject matters. Online communities, screenings and film festivals, seminars and workshops, and public protests are the other ways in which the new members get to access the network and old members renew acquaintances, explore opportunities for collaborative work or relay news and updates. The Shared Footage Group, a collective of filmmakers and activists which got together to aggregate and archive video footage shot during the 2002 Gujarat violence or the emergence of the Campaign Against Censorship and Vikalp, a protest film festival conceived in response to state’s attempt to censor documentary films during the Mumbai International Film Festival in 2004 (Jayasankar and Monteiro, 2016) can been seen as initiatives that could possibly not have emanated in the absence of such a network. Documentary film schools are other crucial nodes of the network, which are not only involved in the study of the documentary form and its practice, but also provide a range of support to independent filmmakers and social movements. Conversely, using extant networks, the schools also initiate and expose students to issues in the realm of democratic struggles. Such an approach is not only useful in expanding their capacities for research but also to sensitise them to different realities as well. It encourages them to learn new concepts, physically explore the city, seek out spaces, individuals, objects and information related to the topic at hand, and organise what they have gathered into engaging narratives. While leveraging on the ethos, concerns, and vitality of the independent documentary form, The DiverCity Web Archive (http://divercity.tiss. edu) initiated at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai hosts a group of compact online archives which allow the users to access and explore a particular issue or theme through different perspectives and materials produced and curated collaboratively by the students and faculty. It actively seeks to resist the politics of forgetting central to the realisation of the project of creating a homogenised and sanitised world-class city at the expense of its vulnerable communities and their histories and their geographies. So far, the School has put together four compact online archives centred around the commemoration of the violence the city of Mumbai witnessed in 1992–93 and its enduring impact on the lives of various communities, revisiting the spaces of the what was the textile mill district in South-Central Mumbai, which gave the city its cosmopolitan character, an archive documenting the often-negated and degrading experiences of the persistence of casteism in the modern Indian cities and recently, an archive that explores how the city deals with its waste. They can be accessed at the following links, respectively: Remembering 1992 (http://mumbairiots.tiss.edu), Mill Mumbai (http://millmumbai.tiss.edu), Castemopolitan Mumbai (http://cas temumbai.tiss.edu) and Wastelines (http://wastemumbai.tiss.edu).

Divercity  143

The Remembering 1992 Web Archive On 6 December 1992, Hindu fundamentalists demolished the centuries old Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, on the grounds that it was the birthplace of Lord Ram. In the aftermath of this cataclysmic event, that deeply scarred the Indian polity, violence ensued in many parts of India. In Mumbai, then Bombay, over 900 people lost their lives in two phases of violence between December 1992 and January 1993. Of these, 356 people died in police firing. Thousands were injured, lost their homes and livelihoods, and left the city. It is important to remember this violence because it changed the city in various different ways. From spatial segregation of communities on religious lines to the proliferation of the politics of hate, these changes have deeply affected the cosmopolitan fabric of Mumbai. This section discusses the process of collectively creating the 1992 Memory Archive (organised around a series of six films and a website with additional resources) with students of the School of Media and Cultural Studies (SMCS), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, 20 years after this violence of 1992–93. In a political and social context where the memory of this violence has been rewritten and all but erased, this project sought to remember, to explore the contours of normalised prejudice, to understand how the survivors have struggled with the denial of justice, and to problematise the question of social memory. These erasures are related to flows of power that seek to rewrite the past in keeping with the expediencies of the present. This initiative was a part of the campaign, Bombay ki Kahani, Mumbai ki Zubani (BKMZ),4 or Bombay’s Story, [in] Mumbai’s Voice. The BKMZ campaign, which ran from 14 December 2012 to 13 January 2013, was initiated by a ‘loose conglomeration of activists, academics, students, film makers, journalists, artists, individuals and organisations, who [came] to speak together for and about the city that we care so much for’. There were ‘art installations, music on streets, railway platforms and in auditoriums, panel discussions, day long events in many colleges, universities and in various community centres, film screenings, leafleting at several stations of Mumbai suburban train network, discussions and much more’.5 The School’s participation in the BKMZ campaign was in keeping with the institutional ethos of TISS which encourages its faculty members and students to support and partner with civil society organisations, people’s groups and social initiatives engaged in the struggles for social justice. State Complicity in Violence Against Minorities Organised violence, especially the kind that is directed towards a particular section of the society, usually takes place in a state of exception, where law is indefinitely suspended without necessarily being repealed. In this state of exception the political subject, stripped of citizenship and associated rights, is reduced to, what Giorgio Agamben (2005) calls bare life, where one’s

144  Faiz Ullah, et al. agency over own life is severely curtailed. Marked out and banished from society with no legal protection, the bare life can be extinguished by anyone without attracting any moral or legal strictures. Many respondents commented on this state of vulnerability that seemed to be tacitly sanctioned and supported by the state and its apparatuses. Although we live in a secular state, it is as if Muslims can be easily beaten and doing so is no sin. This is what became obvious in ’92–’93. Seher, Activist, Mumbra, cited in the film Ek Aakhri Panah. State machinery, when not complicit in the violence itself, was unsympathetic and unyielding to the plight of those who were being intimidated, threatened and killed with impunity. Law enforcing bodies were biased and the legal apparatus selectively applied the laws with complete disregard to standard procedures. That some of the major protagonists of the violence were either not indicted or convicted, in some cases both, lends credence to the fact that the state, as veteran journalist Jyoti Punwani told us, accorded differential citizenship status to different groups and individuals during and after the violence. But if the state machinery is a part of the wrongdoings, then it’ll never investigate. Every time material turns up, it will reject the material saying, ‘Oh, there is nothing in this’ or they might deliberately sabotage the investigation so that the real wrongdoers are not brought to book. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, cited in the film Farooq Versus the State. Without having recourse to law, survivors of the 1992–93 violence had limited options to represent themselves. Numerous people in the interviews we conducted spoke of physical abuse at the hands of police, inability to file complaints, and perversion of justice in the courts of law. Even independent and quasi-judicial commissions of inquiry instituted by the state itself, like the Srikrishna Commission, were ironically discredited and their findings and recommendations largely disregarded. While such reports may appear to the state as nothing more than compendia of narratives without any political or legal import, we believe that narratives are both important and powerful. Yusuf Muchhala, a senior lawyer we spoke to, said that the common refrain after the Srikrishna Commission Report was tabled in the state assembly and dismissed was ‘Aisa nahin hona chaahiye tha!’ (‘This should not have happened!’) Narrative, in a state of exception, is the only mode of representation available to an individual or group reduced to bare life. In the absence of legal remedy all the victims of such violence invariably become narrators of their sufferings. 6Some tell their stories to lawyers, some to sympathetic journalists, and the rest to whoever has time

Divercity  145 and interest to lend them an ear, like Farooq Mhapkar, an indefatigable campaigner for justice, whose long struggle for justice was narrated in the film Farooq versus the State. Such efforts, which Paul Brass (2003) calls ‘rhetorical struggle’ persist long after the violent conflict over the interpretation and explanation of the riot and challenge the ways in which riots are automatically ascribed to ‘preexisting history of communal antagonisms’ and ‘precipitating incident(s)’ as opposed to taking into consideration ‘action that takes place before the precipitating incidents and immediately thereafter, action that is often planned and organised and that fills the intermediated space and time between past history and immediate circumstance’ (2003: 10–11). Several interviews and resources in the archive attest to the complex nature of the violence of 1992–93 and contradict popular understanding of it as a product of mere inter-community hostility and a spontaneous reaction to an event. While these narratives, their telling and re-telling, archiving and dissemination offer opportunities, however limited, of redemption for the victims of the violence, their real potential lies in the way they open up spaces for emergence of novel politics. It is an attempt that seeks to inhabit the uneasy space between remembering and forgetting, mourning and moving on and creating not just ‘memorials that close the roads to further enquiry, but signposts that ask for more journeys to be undertaken’ (Raqs Media Collective, 2008). Struggle for Justice The common leitmotif that marks most of 1992–93 narratives is of denial of justice. Several people we spoke to, shared with us their frustrating experiences of having little or no recourse to justice during and after the violence. Thousands of people who suffered at the hands of unruly mobs have yet not seen their tormentors being convicted in the court of law or received any compensation for the loss of lives, property or trauma they suffered, in spite of the recommendations of the official commission of inquiry. In fact, many victims and activists believe that the miscarriage of justice, in a significant measure, was made possible because established criminal procedures were abandoned in the favour of instituting commissions of inquiry because their findings and recommendations were not legally binding. Yes, the legal procedure demands registration of the offence. Charge sheets have to be filed. Investigations have to be made. Then the trials take place. All these procedures were cut short in the name of Srikrishna Commission. Shakil Ahmed, Lawyer, Wadala, Mumbai, cited in Farooq Versus the State Adding further insult to the injury, very little action has been taken against the police personnel who, instead of protecting the vulnerable, were party

146  Faiz Ullah, et al. to the violence and charged their victims instead as accused in numerous cases. Some of these police personnel, as advocate Shakil Ahmed told us, continue to be promoted within the force. A case in point is the Hari Masjid case, documented in the film Farooq Versus the State, where on January 10, 1993, a group of police personnel, under the command of Inspector Nikhil Kapse, entered the mosque where people were praying and opened fire, killing seven persons and wounding several others. After this event, the people at the masjid were arrested and kept in the lock-up for 15 days, without medical treatment. The police version of events, as reported in the Srikrishna Commission report was as follows: According to police, on 10th January 1993 a large crowd of about 2,000–2,500 Muslims, armed with deadly weapons, collected at Hari Masjid and was seen menacingly advancing on RAK Marg towards Sukkur Panchayat Bhavan and Sahakar Nagar, setting fire to huts and vehicles and that there was private firing from Hari Masjid. A police contingent led by Sub—Inspector Kapse and his men resorted to firing to control the mob. The number of rounds fired in this incident is as high as 64. Fifty miscreants are allegedly arrested on the spot out of which 17 were allegedly found with deadly weapons. This firing resulted in death of seven persons and injuries to six persons. (Srikrishna Commission Report, 1998) However, after a thorough investigation into the case, including an examination of the alleged perpetrators and the survivors, the Commission found this version untenable and demanded that action be taken against Nikhil Kapse, the Inspector in charge. In the Hari Masjid case, the evidence did suggest prima facie that the police had opened fire on an innocent unsuspecting group of Namazees inside the Masjid by locking out all entrances. And that it was somewhat of an inhuman incident. The evidence did suggest that a particular officer by the name, of Nikhil Kapse, I think, who was the inspector of the police station concerned, was prima facie guilty of all this atrocity and recommended that action should be taken against him. Once the recommendation is made by the Commission, the Commission’s job is over. Thereafter, it is for the state government and the machinery of criminal court to deal with the issue. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, cited in Farooq Versus the State This trend of protecting the keepers of law continues unabated even to this date, where the political establishment argues that such action would undermine the morale of the police force. Their victims on the other hand are tried and convicted on flimsy grounds through abbreviated and perverse processes to satisfy an abstract notion of collective conscience. In our interviews the

Divercity  147 role hate-mongering campaigns by the right-wing outfits played in influencing and communalising the constabulary comes through clearly and validates the observations of the official commission of inquiry. He [Inspector Nikhil Kapse] began shouting at us at the top of his voice. He said you people have lot of attitude. You should be taught a lesson. I was stunned. I was shocked. I had never thought that a government servant will ever talk like this. He was hardly 6–7 feet away from me. He took out his revolver and then kept it on my temple. He was constantly throwing verbal abuses. His magazine was over I guess. So he started reloading his revolver. I had cold feet. Naushad Shaikh, Wadala, Mumbai, cited in Farooq Versus the State This struggle also demonstrates clearly the majoritarian impulses of the political parties, even those that claim to be secular. The change in the state government, for instance, did not bring the relief promised to the victims of the violence before the elections. Therefore, there should be some more teeth given to The Commission of Enquiries Act, on the line of Truth Commissions in South Africa, where definite powers are given to the person who makes the findings and makes it binding on the state government. Such is not the case in our country and it requires political will to deal with the Act. And what is politically convenient is always the easiest way that is sought. Justice B.N. Srikrishna, cited in Farooq Versus the State The survivors of such injustice have had to spend considerable effort to clear their names in the face of an ossified legal and political system. While a majority of them were content to clear their names, as they could not afford to carry on their struggle for justice for the lack of resources and support, a brave few are still determined to see the struggle to its end. Farooq Mhapkar is one of them. In 2000, in response to a Supreme Court query on implementation of the Srikrishna Commission Report, the Maharashtra government appointed a Special Taskforce. It reopened only 112 of the 1,358 cases. Except for 15 all cases were closed again. Of the 31 policemen, 22 including Nikhil Kapse were exonerated. The state’s denial of justice did not deter Farooq and his supporters. In 2001, they filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding action against 31 policemen indicted by the Srikrishna Commission. The case is still pending, more than 14 years later. Farooq himself, who was framed as a rioter in this case, took 15 years to get acquitted. Through a combination of intimidation caused by constant court appearances and lack of responsiveness of the legal system, many of the other witnesses backed out of the case. And those who were willing to give evidence were dubbed as ‘interested parties’ by the CBI and their evidence was not given due credence. The Hari Masjid case clearly demonstrates how

148  Faiz Ullah, et al. justice delayed is justice denied. Yet, at the time of the completion of the film, in December 2012, Farooq’s struggle for justice was ongoing. I was 26 then, I wasn’t married and I used to do service. I got married in ’93. I always had the drive to work towards something. I would always present myself before the commissions to have charges filed against the inspector who opened fire, this is what I have been fighting for right from the start. Farooq Mhapkar, Wadala, Mumbai, cited in Farooq Versus the State

Dislocation Cities have long been imagined as sites of filth, corruption, alienation and despair. This dystopic vision emerges from the fact that urban agglomerations, as they grow on the back of accumulation of economic and political resources reproduce sharp inequalities among their inhabitants. Yet, on the other hand, cities have also presented themselves as beacons of hope to people who find opportunities of dignified livelihoods diminishing elsewhere. Driven to the city by poverty and aspirations of a better future, such migrants, while trying to make a living in the bustling urban environment, also shape it in definite ways. They create habitable spaces out of nowhere and run the city with their unassuming intellectual and physical efforts. While they make the city their home they do not quite get to enjoy the accompanying sense of belonging. They are required because of their importance to processes through which urban spaces are renewed and world-class cities created, yet they are treated like the unwanted residual by-products that such processes are wont to throw up. On the one hand their labour is important to keep the cities running while on the other they are continuously rendered marginal, even invisible. This contradiction is the defining feature of the experiences of the urban underclass. A rapid decline in steady sources of employment and non-existent social security coupled with systematic stigmatisation and marginalisation exposes such disadvantaged groups to frequent and brutal surges in the political and economic spheres. This is particularly true of ‘ghettoised’ spaces, such as Mumbra (discussed later in this paper), that witnessed rapid expansion in the wake of the 1992–3 violence, when many Muslims were compelled to shift from their homes into Muslim majority areas. People are not particularly inclined towards formal jobs. They prefer to run small businesses within Mumbra so that they don’t have to go out and they make Mumbra a world in itself. So many colleges have come up, so many classes, hotels and small eateries. You will find all

Divercity  149 kinds of things in Mumbra. The Muslims have created an entire world for themselves. They try to fulfil all their needs here so that they don’t have to leave. Fauzia Qureshi, Activist, Mumbra, cited in the film Ek Aakhri Panah The violence that the city of Mumbai experienced in 1992–93 and its aftermath then need to be examined in the context of both the liberalisation process and the resurgence of right-wing politics. The subsequent reconfiguration in the makeup of the city and the melancholy discourse about the demise of the cosmopolitan city should not lead us to only contemplate the experiences of the violence and the subsequent physical dislocation but also remember the turbulent days, more importantly, for the destruction of lifechances of those who were already living on the edges of the city. Why should I feel safe only here? Why should I not feel safe in Malad? From one point of view, this feeling isn’t correct. Why shouldn’t Hindus be able to live here? Why shouldn’t I be able to live in Malad? This is wrong and we should not encourage it. Farhana Ashraf, Teacher, Jogeshwari, Mumbai, cited in Badalte Nakshe Farhana Ashraf, who had to shift with her family after the 1992 violence from a mixed area in Malad to a Muslim majority area in Jogeshwari reflects on what this means for the cosmopolitan fabric of the city and for a dialogue with and celebration of difference. She regrets the fact that her daughter will not be able to participate in festivals like Gokul Ashtami or Holi. She also reflects on how this shrinking of diversity and lack of engagement with other communities tends to lead to stereotypes about the other. Hardening Divides In the last two decades after the violence of 1992–93 Mumbai has not seen any instance of large-scale sectarian violence. The city though has since been polarised along narrowly defined identity lines, a phenomenon that adequately reflects in the emergence of exclusive neighbourhoods and housing societies. The aftershocks of the violence continue to reverberate behind the façade of an uncanny calm as visible and invisible borders restrict free movement and interaction. With the rapid informalisation of the work opportunities and almost half of the city’s population being reduced to live in slums, the city is also being reorganised along the class lines. The sight of improbably high steel and glass towers rising above the working-class districts is a common sight in the city. This process also unfolds in necessarily violent ways. Illegal demolitions and evictions and appropriation of public

150  Faiz Ullah, et al. land by force or deceit are some of the common strategies with which the poor of the city are being dispossessed of their basic rights and entitlements. Mumbai city has a lot of facilities . . . there are hospitals, administration offices, schools and colleges . . . when I’m approaching Mumbra, one can tell by the station that this is outside the city. If one were to look at the difference, there are differences everywhere. Seher, Activist, Mumbra, cited in Ek Aakhri Panah These overlapping phenomena create newer and durable forms of marginalisation. The suburban township of Mumbra, 40 kilometres from the island city centre, has grown exponentially in the last two decades. From 44,000 in 1992, the population of Mumbra today stands upwards of 800,000; threefourths are Muslims who came here from various parts of the city after experiencing the violence of 1992–93. In a perpetual state of disrepair this high-density township has been recently in news for two events—the extrajudicial killing of one of its young residents Ishrat Jahan, considered a terror operative, and death of around 80 people in two building collapses in the area. These two incidents provide us the frame to understand the ways in which the inhabitants of Mumbra experience marginalisation on the basis of their identities and the space they occupy. Pejoratively called Chhota Pakistan, a term which has been uncritically and mischievously deployed even by the civic bodies and the media, it is widely perceived as a hotbed of terrorist activity and squalor, lending its residents a damning label and precarious existence. Moreover, if you notice, there are signboards in Urdu. Since people spoke Urdu here, they decided to use it on the boards. But later outsiders started saying that by using Urdu on signboards along the streets, Mumbra has been turned into Pakistan. Fauzia Qureshi, Activist, Mumbra, cited in Ek Aakhri Panah It needs to be emphasised here that migration to areas like Mumbra, or for that matter creation of other exclusive communities, was not voluntary. It is an evident outcome of the structural processes that have been allowed to advance unchecked by the state as it continues to abandon large sections of its citizenry to face the relentless vicious social and economic assaults. Media Representation The precursor to the violence of 1992–93 was a long and sustained mobilisation campaign spearheaded by the Bharatiya Janata Party which culminated in an event that took place around 1500 km away from Mumbai. On 6 December 1992 a large mob of Hindu karsevaks entirely destroyed the 16th-century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. In the days following

Divercity  151 the demolition several places in the country found themselves descending in a spiral of mistrust and violence. Mumbai, then Bombay, was one such place. Commercial 24 x 7 live media was still some time away and most of the people came to know about the extent of the violence through broadsheets, magazines and state news agencies. The journalists and photographers on the streets of the city not only diligently reported the instances of violence and chronicled the injustices meted out to the poor and the hapless, they also emerged as a collective voice of reason that the city needed desperately in those days. At that time, newspaper vendors weren’t there either. The entire city was in a strange state. Though papers were being published, who would distribute them? So we knew that whatever we were covering might not reach the people, but it was so important that we always thought we had to cover it. At least later people would see it, and hopefully, people would be a little more sensitive and stop this horrible, horrible rioting. Soumitra Ghosh, Journalist, Mumbai, cited in Framing 92 They played an important role in post-violence mobilisations for providing humanitarian relief and campaigns for justice, driven by human rights activists engaged in recording and publishing reports based on the testimonies of the victims. A closer reading of the journalistic accounts of those tumultuous days shows us how these efforts were as much a response to large-scale brutal violence as it was an elite reaction to the destruction of the mythic cosmopolitan spirit of the city. Also, with the benefit of hindsight we can see how their relative inability to see and articulate the violence as a larger process, rather than a self-contained event, has come to have a bearing on how we remember it. The violence of 1992–93 largely emerges, in journalistic and popular narratives, as a minor episode bracketed between the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the serial bomb-blasts in Mumbai in March 1993. The subsequent attention given to the Babri Masjid land title case and the bomb-blast trials by the state and their coverage by the mainstream media attest to this phenomenon. Works by journalists and their film adaptations like Black Friday (Anurag Kashyap, 2004) also point towards this narrative framework, which makes the bomb-blasts its main focus, rendering the violence of 1992–93 only through the flashback device. It does not come as a surprise then that some of our respondents believed that the violent episodes of 1992–93 were a popular response to the bombblasts, even though the episodes of violence took place well before the Black Friday. There’s been this whispering campaign, an effort to turn history around. Because what happened was that there were these riots in December and January 1992–93 and in March 1993, there were bomb blasts. The

152  Faiz Ullah, et al. people who set off those bombs said they were in retaliation for the riots which is, I think, completely repulsive to hear. But there have been people who have turned that around and try to say that the riots actually happened after the bomb blast. And are, you know, an understandable reaction to the blast. Dilip D’Souza, Journalist, Mumbai, cited in Flashpoint It is this violence of erasure that compelled us to work towards constructing a memory of the violence of 1992–93. Through this effort we hope to give an imaginative existence to a period of history that remains underrepresented and misrepresented to a large extent in the available narratives. Facts of history dissolve from our unstable memories if not nurtured by narratives. Narratives make it possible for us to think about and relate better with our collective pasts that were previously unheard and unseen. Peace Initiatives We have an expansive and sophisticated vocabulary to describe our differences and violence, yet little facility with modes of thinking and articulating that enable us to engage with the ideas of compassion and peace. This archive would not have been complete without bringing into its fold the memories and accounts of those who resisted the onslaught of communal forces and went about patching the ripped social fabric of the city. With the waning of progressive social movements, especially after the unsuccessful textile mill workers strike a decade before, there was no effective bulwark against the renascent chauvinistic political forces in the late 1980s and the 90s. It was in this context that several citizen groups organised to bring together various communities through relief work, cultural interventions and campaigns for restorative justice in the aftermath of the 1992–93 violence. The documentary film Naata (Monteiro and Jayasankar, 2003) explores this theme in the context of the work of the Mohalla Committee in Dharavi, which has been involved grassroots media creation for communal amity since the 1990s. The film Naata traces the inspiring work of two friends, Bhau Korde and Waqar Khan, both active in the Dharavi Mohalla Committee, juxtaposing issues of negotiating religious identities within Dharavi with a self-reflexive narrative where the filmmakers problematise their own identities. The Mohalla Committee Movement is one of the many initiatives in the city that has helped the city come to terms with its violent and traumatic past, paving way for more tolerant and inclusive society. Apart from bringing ordinary people to come together to celebrate their cultures together, the movement has also been making efforts to address the lack of trust people have in the police force.

Divercity  153 During Ramzan, we usually have an Iftar party. Men usually get invited to many parties, but ladies are never given invitations. They usually stay at home and spend time with each other. Bhau came up with the idea of organizing an Iftar party exclusively for women, wherein women not only from the Muslim community, but from all religions would be invited, including women police. Najma, Activist, Dharavi, Mumbai, cited in the film Aman Ki Khoj Though such initiatives have faced criticism from those who were at the receiving end of police brutality, it has seen a lot of success in violenceaffected areas like Dharavi. Such initiatives also complement individual struggles for justice. The reconfiguration of the neighbourhoods in Mumbai on the basis of religion and class, many of the people we interviewed felt, can largely be attributed to the civil society’s relative failure to work closely with the communities and make them feel safe. We knew it was not a short-term project of 6–8 months or a year. It must be a continuous process. And only if it is kept continuous can peace be maintained. Bhau Korde, Activist, Dharavi, Mumbai, cited in the film Aman Ki Khoj Community work not only instils confidence in the people to stay rooted to their homes and neighbourhoods in turbulent times but also gives them confidence to actively pursue justice through various means. Initiatives like these, which are led by ordinary people, are indispensable in today’s political environment as we gather our energies to resist and fight the insidious spread of communalism in state institutions and in civil society. Naata (2003) and Aman Ki Khoj (2012) both films made by SMCS almost a decade apart explore this changing space of community peace initiatives, with the emergence of a new generation of activists in Dharavi who are committed to dialogue and ongoing work to strengthen relationships between communities. While much of independent documentary work on issues of communalism has focused on communal violence, its anatomy and aftermath, these films, Naata in particular, stand out for the way in which they explore the theme of inter-faith relationships through a non-polemical, self-reflexive language.

SMCS Involvement in the Campaign In the run up to the campaign, there were many meetings held in TISS and elsewhere in the city, beginning about eight months prior to the campaign. The involvement of SMCS was discussed and it was decided to explore

154  Faiz Ullah, et al. whether the students would be interested in working on a series of films for the campaign. In a class discussion that followed as a part of a third semester course in documentary film production of the MA in Media and Cultural Studies, class of 2013, the students readily agreed to work on this series. As teachers, the authors were a little apprehensive about the project as the students were infants at the time of the event, and hence, had little lived experience of the event. Many of them were new to the city, having come from different parts of India. Moreover, they were making their first documentary and the activity was to be graded as a part of coursework and to be completed within a defined timeframe. In spite of these ‘hurdles’, the class, comprising 25 students unanimously decided to take up the challenge. Various resource persons—journalists, academics and activists—who have engaged with the violence of 1992–93 in different capacities were invited to interact with the class, which was then divided into five groups. The orientation sessions at the beginning of the activity provided necessary entrypoints, which enabled the students to think about various themes, conduct research, and access relevant networks. Shivani Gupta, one of the makers of the film Flashpoint, felt that these sessions ‘helped in building a background to the conversation and the broader script that was used for making the film. It also gave us insight into what happened 20 years back and what is the “reality” that people believed about the riots’. Mridula Chari, a student involved in the production of Flashpoint as well as the Remembering 1992 portal, shared that it was while working on the project that she found herself exposed to the “politics of hate”: ‘While I had evidently been aware of divisions and sharp inequalities in Mumbai, I was not directly aware of how deep it ran. This series then became a turning point as my first really critical engagement with the city’, she said. This was the case for many others too. Their perceptions of the city changed and became far more complex and nuanced, providing space for building relationships with a range of people and organisations they would not have come into contact with in the course of their everyday lives. Pratik Bhakta speaks of his changed relationship with the city in course of making a film on peace initiatives in Dharavi: Usually people relate Bombay with the beaches and the highrises; for us Bombay became a place with innumerable stories, stories of suffering, poverty and corruption as well as stories of perseverance, humanity and struggles. Be it a Bhau Korde and his relentless struggle for equality and fraternity, be it Nazma and her ideas of feminism or even someone from upscale Bandra who had a distorted notion of the history of his own city—it is these people who create Bombay or Mumbai, this is something which we learnt. Each group discussed the ideas that they wanted to work on and subsequently arrived at the themes of the films. They worked on producing the

Divercity  155 films between July and October 2012. Working broadly within the rubric of ‘violence’, ‘city’ and ‘memory’ the process also opened up spaces and opportunities for peer-learning, an aspect central to the pedagogical approach practiced at the School. Nithila Kanagasabai, a member of the team who directed Badalte Nakshe, related that working on this project ‘facilitated interaction between groups’. She added: The feedback received from peers at every stage of the filmmaking process was invaluable. . . . (T)his film . . . helped us put into practice a lot of things that we had discussed in the classroom. Questions of representation and agency of our subjects were thought of constantly, especially since we were dealing with children. During this process, the authors, as faculty members who were mentoring the students, also thought of making a sixth film, on a crucial theme that was not covered by the five films, namely, the denial of justice to the victims and survivors of the violence. The final packaging of the six films was completed by December 2012, just before the launch of the campaign. The films were screened at several events during the campaign, including during the opening and closing events as well as at several colleges and other institutional locations in Mumbai.7 The students participated in many of these screenings and had discussions with their peers in other institutions. Nithila describes her experiences of screenings as an important learning experience because: it involved not just pre-production research work and production, but also taking the films made to different audiences within the city—from college students in Wilson and St. Xavier’s, to trainee teachers in Muktangan and residents of Bandra in mCubed Library—and discussing the issues each of the films raised. There was a lot of discussion and exchange even within the various groups in class that led to a deeper understanding of the issues we were grappling with. The experience of participating in a city-wide campaign was for many students very gratifying, which deepened their relationship with the city, as Pratik Bhakta says: When our films became a part of a city-wide campaign, for us, who have come from different parts of the country, we felt very much a part of the city and felt the responsibility to tell the story in a proper manner so that it could make a difference. The television news channel NDTV24/7 selected three of the films for their slot Documentary 24/7 and they were telecast at prime time during the month of January 2013 and generated a lot of conversation on online

156  Faiz Ullah, et al. social networks. In addition, the films were also screened later at several film festivals and other events in India, Australia and Sweden, and won many awards. The films were also made available for screening and acquisition as a 2-DVD pack and have been acquired by several institutions and individuals.

Remembering 1992 Web Portal In order to facilitate wider dissemination of the films and create an online resource around the theme Remembering 1992, which could resist the process of erasure on an ongoing basis, it was decided to set up a website.8 The website explores different kinds of memory, organised around themes that explore various aspects of the violence and its aftermath: • Dislocation: memories of forced shifting and resettlement, the emergence of ghettos and segregation (stories from Mumbra and Jogeshwari, in the films Ek Aakhri Panah and Badalte Nakshe respectively). • Hardening Divides: Memories of bystanders in communally polarised areas, the formation of stereotypes and rewriting of history (Mohammad Ali Road, Mahim, in the film Flashpoint). • Struggle for Justice: Memories of and struggles against denial of justice (the Hari Masjid police firing, explored through interviews with survivors, lawyers and activists, in the film Farooq Versus the State). • Peace Initiatives: Memories of those who tried to work for peace in communities torn apart by the violence (The Mohalla Committee Movement Trust in Dharavi, in the films Aman Ki Khoj and Naata). • Media Representation: Memories of those who represented the events of 1992–93 in print and visual media (journalists, photographers, artists, in the film Framing 92). The website,9 in addition to the films, includes other resources, including a timeline and a map, that enables readers to explore events during the period from December 1992 to March 1993. This was based on the report of the Justice Srikrishna Commission.10 It also has reports by citizens’ fact-finding groups and tribunals, news archives around the themes, complete interviews from the films and additional interviews, all with transcripts. With very few public records of the violence of 1992–93, the website was conceived and designed in such a way that it not merely brought various kinds of media and resources together but also presented them in a manner that is accessible, interactive and allows for different levels of engagement. General users, like school-going and undergraduate students, may not essentially like to read lengthy and dense reports and probably need information broken down into summaries, sequence of events, maps and quotes for assignments and projects. Intermediate level users, like journalists and civil society groups, usually access such resources in relation to

Divercity  157 developments in legal cases, commemorative events or activist action; they need material and helpful analysis that they can use in their stories and campaigns respectively. Advanced users, like academics and independent researchers, may use a site like this to download materials for an upcoming class, get raw data for use in their ongoing research work and prepare for upcoming field visits to the city. By keeping in mind access preferences of various user groups we were able to design a site where the emphasis was resolutely on the outward flow of the material, or dissemination, rather than inward, which makes it more likely to be used than a static repository of undistinguishable material. Such an approach, where information is broken down into smaller chunks and presented in forms that are easy on the eyes, interactive and demand moderate levels of engagement, has also translated into site material being shared on online social networks regularly and with ease. According to Mridula, the portal also situates student work in a much larger context, which might therefore bring in people who are interested in the larger issues the series portrays. The voices in these films might be valuable documentary material. Besides, in the interest of open access ideologies, it makes eminent sense for all resources to be as widely available as possible. The question of distribution has always been a fraught one for independent documentary filmmakers, for their aims and objectives far exceed making films on political issues or making films politically, that is in a democratic and reflexive manner. From carrying around VCRs and television sets in rural areas to laptops and projectors that could turn any space—a school, a community centre, a marriage hall—into a screening space, independent documentary filmmakers have been equally, if not more, concerned with how to show their work politically. This broadly implies that they seek to mobilise the documentary film as an actant in the larger processes of effecting progressive change. As already sparse formal institutional spaces become increasingly inaccessible, making creative use of the Internet and mobile phones has cleaved open novel opportunities for them to engage a range of audiences beyond film festivals and the few odd screenings.

Conclusion The Remembering 1992 website is a part of a larger family of sites under the umbrella of a portal named DiverCity that seeks to present the film and research work of SMCS around various themes (http://divercity.tiss.edu). The objective of such initiatives is to expand the horizon of independent documentary as a form, by enabling its interaction with other texts, by permitting incremental and non-linear participatory engagement with content in ways that escape the regimes of state and market control that apply to

158  Faiz Ullah, et al. documentary film and other alternative media in India. The analytics of traffic to the site http://mumbairiots.tiss.edu indicates a very high and engaged access rate.11 Many users have sent in appreciative comments indicating its usefulness for research and action. The ability of these initiatives, however, to reach wide readership is limited by the digital divide and the issue of language, as the site is in English. India’s Internet penetration in 2016 stood at approximately 34.8%, as compared to China’s 52.2% and US’s 88.5%.12 There are also infrastructural issues related to bandwidth and access. While undoubtedly, the Internet and social media have contributed to an interest in non-fiction content, to what extent this translates into a greater visibility to the issue—the question of resisting erasures, the processes of elision of such traumatic events from public memory and the rewriting of history for political gains—is a question for the future. Apart from their resonances in the public sphere, the significance of such initiatives is that they offer possibilities for critical pedagogies and research interventions that interrogate the act of representation and the partial nature of truths, affirming the understanding that ‘looking’ is a ‘historical act’ (Rabinowitz, 1993). At a time when right-wing populisms seem to be taking shape of a global movement, entrenching themselves firmly in formal politics as well as popular imagination, particularly through exploiting the vulnerabilities of networked media, the independent documentary continues to assert its vitality by challenging the dominant relations of power. To be sure, the contemporary ferment has reinvigorated not only the realm of independent documentary but has also forced sections of the mainstream to address their blindspots vis a vis issues that were so far dealt with perfunctorily, like social and economic inequalities borne of highly skewed gender, caste and class relations. Newton (2017) is a bright example, among several others, where one can discern a significant and positive shift in the politics of representation in the Indian independent films. Yet, a single ticket for a film like Newton could cost as much as the prescribed daily minimum wage in most metropolitan cities. While one would not go so far as to label such a contradictory phenomenon which some scholars have described as progressive neoliberalism (Brenner and Fraser, 2017), an alliance of new social movements and high-end symbolic business sectors, it would definitely be premature to read it as a definitive sign of a deeper transformation. Their value, of course, cannot be underestimated in creating a broader, generalised discourse around specific issues. The independent documentary, on the other hand is more invested in exploring the potential material effects of such discourses, all the while keeping the audiences at the centre of its varied practices.

Notes 1. We use Bombay Hindi film industry, instead of the much popular ‘Bollywood’ or ‘Hindi film industry’, to emphasise the specificity of forms and themes of the

Divercity  159 Hindi cinema made in the city of Mumbai. Ashish Rajadhyaksha (2013) holds that ‘Bollywood admittedly occupies a space analogous to the film industry, but might be seen as a more diffuse cultural conglomeration involving a range of distribution and consumption activities from websites to music cassettes, from cable to radio . . . the film industry itself . . . can by definition constitute only a part, and perhaps even an alarmingly small part, of the overall culture industry that is currently being created and marketed’ (pp. 24). 2. Filmmakers such as S.N.S. Sastry, Sukhdev and Mani Kaul managed to use the space of Films Division to produce cinematically innovative work (Jayasankar and Monteiro, 2016). 3. Through the 1970s and 1980s, one also has a parallel New Wave cinema movement in Bombay, with filmmakers such as Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and others producing films on rural and urban exploitation. As compared to these, it appears to us that the alternative documentary films of this period engaged more directly with the marginalised poor, which perhaps has also to do with the location of the filmmakers within various movements of the oppressed, and their close and sustained engagement with the communities they were representing. These documentary films were also not bound by the logic of the market or of state control. 4. https://bombaykikahani.wordpress.com/ 5. https://bombaykikahani.wordpress.com/about/ 6. One sees this at work in some Indie feature films too, that seek to bring the narratives of the survivors of violence to the fore. These include films such as Chaitanya Tamhane’s Court (2014), Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry (2013) and Sairat (2016). 7. These included colleges such as St. Xavier’s and Wilson College, Pravin Gandhi College of Law, and M Cubed Library. 8. The website development was supported by a grant from the Research Council, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. 9. The URL of the website Remembering 1992 is: http://mumbairiots.tiss.edu. 10. The Srikrishna Commission, headed by Justice B.N. Srikrishna, was appointed by the Congress government in 1993, to look into the causes and events of the riots. It examined thousands of witnesses and produced a report in 1998 that was promptly buried by the then Shiv Sena government. 11. The web analytics between December 17, 2014 and March 28, 2016 indicate 27,997 page views, 7,270 unique users and 8,528 sessions 12. www.internetlivestats.com/internet-users-by-country/

References Agamben, Giorgio. (2005). State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago. Print. Benjamin, S. (2010). ‘Manufacturing Neoliberalism: Lifestyling Indian Urbanity’, in Banerjee-Guha, Swapna (ed.), Accumulation by Dispossession: Transformative Cities in the New Global Order. New Delhi: Sage. Brass, Paul. (2003). The Production of Hindu-Muslim Violence in Contemporary India. Seattle: University of Washington Press. Print. Brenner, Johanna, and Fraser, Nancy. (2017). ‘What is Progressive Neoliberalism? A Debate’, Dissent, 64(2): 130. Chatterjee, I. (2009). ‘Social Conflict and the Neoliberal City: A Case of Hindu— Muslim Violence in India’, Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 34: 143–160.

160  Faiz Ullah, et al. Dutta, M. (1993). I Live in Behrampada. Majlis. Video. Ellis, R. (2012). ‘ “A World Class City of Your Own!”: Civic Governmentality in Chennai, India’, Antipode, 44: 1143–1160. Ghertner, D. A. (2011). ‘Gentrifying the State, Gentrifying Participation: Elite Governance Programs in Delhi’, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35: 504–532. Giulia, Battaglia. (2014). ‘The Video Turn: Documentary Film Practices in 1980s India’, Visual Anthropology: Published in Cooperation with the Commission on Visual Anthropology, 27: 1–2, 72–90. Hardy, F. (1979). Grierson on Documentary. London: Faber and Faber. Harriss, J. (2007). ‘Antimonies of Empowerment: Observations on Civil Society, Politics and Urban Governance in India’, Economic and Political Weekly, 42: 2716–2724. Jamil, G. (2017). Accumulation by Segregation: Muslim Localities in Delhi. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Jayasankar, K. P., and Monteiro, Anjali. (2016). A Fly in the Curry: Independent Documentary Film in India. New Delhi: Sage. Mazumdar, R. (2007). Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Monteiro, Anjali, and Jayasankar, K. P. (2012). Remembering 1992 Series. Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Video. Monteiro, Anjali, and Jayasankar, K. P. (2003). Naata. Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Video.Nichols, B. (1991). Representing Reality: Issues and Concepts in Documentary. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Patwardhan, A. (1985). Bombay Our City. Mumbai: Anand Patwardhan. Video. Prakash, G. (2010). ‘Introduction: Imagining the Modern City, Darkly’, in Prakash, Gyan (ed.), Noir Urbanisms: Dystopic Image of the Modern City. Princeton University Press. Prasad, M. (2001). ‘Realism and Fantasy in Representations of Metropolitan Life in Indian Cinema’, Journal of Moving Image, 2 Rabinowitz, Paula. (1993). ‘Wreckage upon Wreckage: History, Documentary and the Ruins of Memory’, History and Theory, 32(2): 119–137, May. Print. Rajadhyaksha, Ashish. (2013). ‘The ‘Bollywoodization’ of the Indian Cinema’, in Sundaram, Ravi (ed.), No Limits: Media Studies from India. New Delhi. Oxford University Press. Raqs Media Collective. (2008). Curatorial note accompanying “The Rest of Now” curated by the authors at Manifesta 7, p. 3. Print. Roy, A. (2009). ‘Civic Governmentality: The Politics of Inclusion in Beirut and Mumbai’, Antipode, 41: 159–179. Roy, S. (2002). ‘Moving Pictures: The Postcolonial State and Visual Representation of India’, Contributions to Indian Sociology, 36: 233–263. Schrader, P. (1972). ‘Notes on Film Noir’, in Silver, Alain and Ursini, James (ed.), Film Noir Reader, Proscenium Publishers. Fourth Limelight Edition, February 1998. Sharma, S. (2001). Jari Mari: Of Cloth and Other Stories. New Delhi: Magic Lantern Movies. Video. Srikrishna Commission Report. (1998). Available at: www.sabrang.com/srikrish/ sri%20main.htm [Accessed 19 November 2015].

9  Zanjeer to Pink The Trajectory of Amitabh Bachchan’s Angry Young/Old Man Persona From Mainstream to Indie Cinema Swarnavel Eswaran Introduction From the ‘angry young man’, particularly of Zanjeer (1973) and Deewar (1975), iconic actor Amitabh Bachchan’s persona has now transitioned to an angry old man, as emblematised by the film Pink (2016). Of course, it would be tempting for me to focus on particular films of my choice and argue for a straightforward and lucid trajectory of the transformation of the Bachchan persona from an angry young man—the predominant and the most enduring aspect of this megastar, to an angry old man who has tasted critical and commercial success across the globe in the film Pink. However, the star text of a prolific and popular actor like Amitabh Bachchan is complex like the diverse characters he has played over the last five decades. For instance, there were middle of the road films, like Chupke Chupke (1975), which were released in the same year as Deewar and Sholay (1975). In a similar vein, mainstream big-budget films like Wazir (2016) and Sarkar 3 (2017) could be seen as coexisting/paralleling the moderately budgeted Piku (2015), Te3n (2016), and Pink. Bachchan acted in middle-of-the-road films like Saat Hindusthani (1969), his debut film directed by the iconic K.A. Abbas, Parwana (1971), Anand (1971), Reshma Aur Shera (1971), Guddi (1972), Piya Ka Ghar (1972) and Bombay to Goa (1972), before he acted in Zanjeer; and played the troubled hero, who is not able to cope with his wife’s stardom, as a singer in Abhimaan (1975), before the release of Deewar. Most of the films released before Deewar were moderately budgeted films, where the focus was on the narrative that emphasised all the characters rather than the heroism of the main protagonist. In fact, in Parwana, Bachchan plays a negative character. One could, therefore, argue that the trajectory of the middle-of-the-road cinema has been integral to Bachchan’s oeuvre, extending well beyond his early career or his breakthrough film Zanjeer. Even after the spectacular success of Sholay, when his stardom was well entrenched, and he was perhaps the most sought-after star, he had acted in relatively low-budget films like Mili (1975) and Alaap (1977), apart from Chupke

162  Swarnavel Eswaran Chupke, while also acting in typical mainstream films like Faraar (1975), Hera Pheri (1976) and Amar Akbar, Anthony (1977), among others. In this context, this chapter studies in detail Bachchan’s persona trajectory till the film Pink and argues for the indie spirit of the film as providing the space for the convergence of the earlier personas of Bachchan as moulded by the middle-of-the road and mainstream cinema. This is exemplified by the films directed by Bachchan’s frequent collaborator, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, in particular Mili, and as devised/formulated by mainstream Hindi cinema— the angry young man/action hero who, driven by his imperatives of vendetta or vigilantism, takes the law into his hands, as emblematised by Bachchan’s role in Deewar. However, the angry old man is different from the angry young man, as he does not take the law but only the law-book into his hands: the somewhat mellowed but angry old man, when compared to the raw and gritty childhood trauma victim, Vijay of Deewar, tries to fight for justice by adhering to the law and remaining true to its spirit. To understand the transformation of the outlaw Vijay into the lawyer Deepak Sehgal in Pink (Figures 9.1 and 9.2), who would fight the system from within, I would like to explore Bachchan’s trajectory as a star/actor to shed light on his metamorphosis into an angry old man in Pink, raising several questions. Who were his major collaborators? What were the films that contributed to and undermined the overdetermination of his image as an angry young man? If the Emergency1 was the reason for the angry young man to emerge, I would also interrogate the socio-cultural backdrop for the venting of his anger within the system in contemporary times of Hindu right-wing politics in India. While engaging with contemporary Indian cinema, the context of

Figure 9.1  Angry young man Vijay in Deewar.

Zanjeer to Pink  163

Figure 9.2  Angry old man Sehgal in Pink.

the transition to multiplexes from single-screen theatres is unavoidable, as it has impacted contemporary Indian film production and reception in significant ways. This chapter will, therefore, focus on these significant developments to study Bachchan’s avatar as an angry old man, particularly in Pink, and, because of space constraints, to a much lesser extent in films like Piku, wherein he is more of a whining old man who is constantly seeking a vent for his frustrations. Pink is significant among the recent crop of Bachchan films for banking on the subtext of anger, which is intrinsic to his star image. After Amar Akbar Anthony in 1977, he acted mostly as an action hero, in insipid films which mostly retooled his anger into indistinct vigilantism in a drive for over the top action sequences, Inquilab (1984), arguably, being its apotheosis wherein during the climax Bachchan guns down many members of parliament. Nonetheless, from 1977 till the end of the last century or up until the release of Mohabbatein in 2000, wherein Bachchan transitioned to an older man, playing second fiddle to the protagonist played by Shah Rukh Khan, for 23 years he had beaten the pulp out of his on-screen opponents. Most of the lacklustre action films of the period were predicated on the Bachchan persona’s predictable and stereotypical anger. One could argue that these films were lapped up by the audiences due to the impact of the angry young man archetype of the 1970s, which addressed their socio-cultural anxieties in profound and poignant ways, particularly in Zanjeer and Deewar. There were, of course, exceptions like Ramesh Sippy’s Shakthi (1982), written by Salim-Javed—the writers credited with creating the angry young man image for Bachchan, not only through Zanjeer and Deewar but entrenching it with Sholay, Trishul (1978) and Kaala Paththar (1979). Manmohan Desai, like a virtuoso

164  Swarnavel Eswaran composer, played directorial variations on the same theme, of lost and found siblings who reunite in the end, that he successfully explored in Amar Akbar Anthony, and on a much bigger scale in his films like Naseeb (1981) and Desh Premee (1982). The other frequent collaborator of the Bachchan factory, Prakash Mehra, made Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (1978) and Laawaris (1981). Among others, there were Alaap and Jurmana (1979) from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee staple. Nonetheless, the later films of these iconic directors cannot be compared, regarding their critical and commercial success to their canonical films with Bachchan in the 1970s. Therefore, the retooling of anger, as the forte of the Bachchan persona, has not only been foundational to his long and successful career as a star but also enduring in its appeal to contemporary audiences, particularly when he has transformed from a star to a character actor. Reception of his recent films is comprised mostly of the younger generation in terms of the demography frequenting the theatres and Pink’s target audiences in the multiplexes. Therefore, this chapter will engage with Pink’s narrative to foreground the paradoxical pull of liberalisation and misogyny/conservatism in the film’s context of young men and women.

Bachchan’s Persona: Significant Mainstream Collaborations Bachchan’s rise to stardom is attributed by most scholars and critics to the success of his films like Zanjeer and Deewar wherein he played the angry young man (Virdi, 2003: 107). Nonetheless, Mehra and Desai were chiefly responsible for Bachchan’s wider appeal as a star. Susmita Dasgupta, the Bachchan specialist, notes: Prakash Mehra was the director who midwifed the angry young image of Amitabh Bachchan in 1974 in Zanjeer. He then invented Amitabh’s comic role in Hera Pheri two years later in 1976. But it seems that from Hera Pheri, Manmohan Desai took over Amitabh Bachchan when he cast the star in Amar Akbar Anthony, discovering in him the capability of side-splitting comedy. Salim Javed’s angry hero, a sterling discovery of the Hindi cinema and as the hero of Zanjeer and Deewar, Trishul and Kaala Paththar, Amitabh would have scaled heights of Hindi cinema, but perhaps never been the megastar he was without Manmohan Desai. (2018: 48) However, in terms of Bachchan’s major collaborators, the 1980s and the 1990s saw the actor in many different avatars. For instance, Prakash Mehra made films like Namak Halal (1982) and Sharaabi (1984) wherein the elements of comedy and melodrama, were privileged over anger; Yash Chopra also made a film like Kabhie Kabhie (1977), two years after Deewar, and continued his investment in romantic musicals, through Silsila (1987), a genre the director was most associated with and excelled in. It is also pertinent to note that none of the above films were written by the writer duo

Zanjeer to Pink  165 Salim and Javed, whose credits include films like Zanjeer, Deewar, Sholay, Trishul, Kaala Paththar and Shakthi, all of them with Amitabh essaying the main role. Although Zanjeer was written by Salim and Javed, its director Prakash Mehra wrote the story of his later Bachchan starrers like Namak Halal and Sharaabi, wherein Kadar Khan is credited with the dialogues, and Lakshmikant Sharma is credited with the screenplay of Sharaabi. Mehra was an accomplished lyricist as well. Similarly, the sensitive and romantic Sagar Sarhadi is credited as the writer along with others in both Kabhie Kabhie and Sisila. Kadar Khan was consistently associated with Manmohan Desai as the dialogue writer, while K.K. Shukla, who was known for writing in English, and Prayag Raj were credited with the screenplay of most of the Desai-Bachchan blockbusters along with others, for instance, Jeevanprabha M. Desai, Manmohan Desai’s wife, for Coolie (1983). Both Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai, credited with expanding the reach and increasing the box-office value of the Bachchan films after Zanjeer, Deewar and Sholay, have worked with Salim-Javed in films without Bachchan in the lead. Manmohan Desai’s Chacha Bhathija (1977) with Dharmendra and Randhir Kapoor, and Prakash Mehra’s Haath Ki Safai (1974) with Randhir Kapoor and Vinod Khanna (apart from the iconic Zanjeer), which did not have anything to do with the ‘angry young man’ discourse, were written by them. Salim-Javed could thus be posited as the auteurs who specifically created the angry young man persona of/for Amitabh Bachchan. However, they split in 1981, i.e., eight years after Zanjeer, when Bachchan’s stardom was on a meteoric rise. Nonetheless, Bachchan himself has acknowledged the invaluable contribution of the writers in moulding his dark and intense persona as an angry young man: Both [Salim’s and Javed’s] individual careers saw a fair degree of success in the 1980s, which is considered to be the most derivative of all the decades of Hindi cinema. This led to considerable speculation about an alternate time in which Salim—Javed did not split. One of the proponents of this line of speculation has been Amitabh Bachchan, who has been known to wonder if his career would have seen a different trajectory had the split not happened. Bachchan openly admitted the vacuum in his career due to the split: “It’s a shame that they parted ways, they were truly unbeatable. Quite often, the media would conjecture—what will happen to Amitabh Bachchan without Salim—Javed? Really, once they separated I couldn’t ever get that kind of intensity again, that power was missing”. (Chaudhuri, 2015a) If Bachchan mentions Deewar’s script as the best screenplay ever written (PTI, 2017), Javed Akhtar cites it ‘as one of the most perfect screenplays’ (Awaasthi, 2017). Yash Chopra claims the screenplay to be better than that

166  Swarnavel Eswaran of Sholay: ‘As far as the script is concerned, Deewar is better than Sholay. . . . That was the one script and screenplay where you didn’t have to delete anything after making, it was such a perfect script’ (Chaudhuri, 2015b). Nevertheless, it is to the credit of Manmohan Desai that he could appropriate the dark histrionics of the angry but sombre young man and make it accessible to a larger family audience, which was inevitable to enlarge the scope of reception and gain from the augmentation in the cultural capital of a star who was well on his way to superstardom. Desai juxtaposed action with comedy in melodramas centred on the lost and found theme, as exemplified by his landmark film with the eponymous siblings Amar Akbar Anthony. However, the combination of action and comedy was not new to the Bachchan oeuvre. In Bachchan’s early career before Zanjeer, he had acted in Bombay to Goa (dir. S. Ramanathan, 1972), a low-budget road movie which was a remake of the Tamil film Madras to Pondicherry (dirs. Thirumalai and Mahalingam, 1966). Sunny Singh in her monograph on Bachchan observes: Bachchan also saw glimmers of box-office success with Mehmood’s Bombay to Goa (1972), a low-budget action-comedy caper where he danced, fooled around, and threw a few punches. With his infectious enthusiasm and boundless energy, the film’s Ravi is the forerunner to the actor’s iconic 1977 role of Anthony Gonsalves. (2018: 28) Bombay to Goa had an ensemble cast with multiple narratives centred on comedy and action that revolved around the hero Ravi Kumar’s (Amitabh Bachchan) efforts to rescue Malti (Aruna Irani), the aspiring actress who has run away from her home after witnessing a murder by a hired killer. During the journey on the bus from Bombay to Goa amidst characters from diverse backgrounds, Mala falls in love with her saviour, Ravi Kumar. Bombay to Goa was moderately successful at the box-office, and Bachchan’s ability to effortlessly play a typical Hindi film hero with songs and fights got noticed. In fact, Javed Akhtar had watched Bombay to Goa before Bachchan was signed on for Zanjeer. This low-budget road movie was a landmark in Bachchan’s career as he played the hero of an action/adventure-comedy film for the first time—a genre most associated with his Manmohan Desai collaborations. Prior to Bombay to Goa, Bachchan had acted in Saat Hindustani (1969) and Parwana (1971), which, according to Dasgupta, kickstarted Bachchan’s career through his portrayal of a negative role as an offender “consumed by his passions” (Dasgupta, 2018: 57–58), Anand (1971), Pyar Ki Kahani (1971), Reshma Aur Shera (1971) and Sanjog (1972). In the above list, he played the hero in Pyar Ki Kahani and Sanjog, and both were melodramas and remakes of Tamil films. The director of Bombay to Goa, S. Ramanathan, would later direct Bachchan in Mahaan (1983) and produce Gangaa Jumnaa Sarawathi (1988), Manmohan Desai’s last film as director.

Zanjeer to Pink  167

Amitabh Bachchan: The Hrishikesh Mukherjee Collaboration Bachchan’s connection to Bengal is not limited to his illustrious wife and one of the great actresses of Hindi cinema, Jaya Bhaduri, alone. As he has often said in his interviews, he regards director Hrishikesh Mukherjee as his godfather (IANS [Indo-Asian News Service], 2015). Bachchan acted in major roles in eight of Mukherjee’s films: Anand (1971), Namak Haraam (1973), Abhimaan (1973), Chupke Chupke (1975), Mili (1975), Alaap (1977), Jurmana (1979) and Bemisaal (1982). Besides he has done a cameo in Guddi (1971) and lent his voice as the narrator in Bawarchi (1972). Indian cinema scholars like Jyotika Verdi, Vijay Mishra, Ranjani Mazumdar and Priya Joshi have engaged with the Bachchan persona and analysed it in detail in the context of the socio-political backdrop of the Emergency, as a lingering trace of the mythos from the Hindu epics, particularly the heroes of the Mahabharata, the painful symptom of the disruptions to the linear and utopian nationalist discourse, upheavals of the 1970s, and the reframing of the Oedipus complex plot (Virdi, 2003; Mishra, 2002; Mazumdar, 2007; Joshi, 2015). This is just a small sample of the huge corpus of scholars who have interrogated Deewar as the foundational text of Hindi cinema which signals a move away from the romantic flirtation with Nehruvian socialism that lasted almost three decades from 1947 onwards. For instance, Vinay Lal explores the tattoo and the signature to engage with the extreme movement/juxtaposition between the slums and the skyscrapers in Deewar to argue for the simmering discontent of the times, emblematising the eternal fight between good and evil (2012); Rosie Thomas explicates how ‘the Vijay persona, and Deewar, did much to sweep away the cult of the soft romantic hero, and . . . paved the way for more radical challenges of traditional authority’ (1995: 177). If Mehboob Khan’s magnum opus Mother India (1957) propelled Hindi cinema’s complex but fervent engagement with nationalism (Chatterjee, 2002: 49), Deewar undermined it in two ways. The script favoured the outlaw by focalising on the sentiments of the anti-hero who although contained in the end in order to achieve narrative closure and reaffirm the status quo, reflected the angst of the 1970s stemming from the collapse of the utopian dream of combining socialist egalitarianism with democratic ideals. Deewar, also, inverted the stereotypical patriarchal take on the ‘hooker’ figure, framed as a cunning vamp in most Hindi films, by bringing her to the centrestage and allowing her to romance the (anti)hero and aspire for marriage, though like the femme fatale in film noir, she was conquered in the end by the villain who shoots her down. Deewar’s text, which successfully borrows and juxtaposes elements from two of Hindi cinema’s canonical films, Mother India and Ganga Jumna (1961), seems to anticipate the Emergency: Deewar was released on 24 January 1975, five months before the Emergency, which was enforced by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 25 June 1975. Deewar, therefore, could

168  Swarnavel Eswaran be argued to be a text that prefigured the Emergency, rather than reflecting the forces of oppression/suppression of free speech that was in play during the Emergency (Chaudhuri, 2015b). Mili, released on 20 June 1975, just five days before the Emergency came into force, could also be argued to presage the darker times of the dismantling of the scaffolding of basic civil rights on which democracy and its institutions rest. The film critic Vijay Lokpally foregrounds Mili’s desire to live amidst a dreadful scenario: Amitabh, in the role of Shekhar, a young son devastated by the loss of the mother, shot by his father, gives an exemplary performance even though Jaya is the one present in almost every frame. It is her movie as Mili, the effervescent, at times intrusive but simple girl in a Bombay housing society, the most popular soul in the neighborhood. Shekhar seeks peace and anonymity from his distressed past, drowning his evenings in star gazing. Sadly for him, the past keeps confronting him. As he moves to a new flat adjoining a terrace, Shekhar runs into this boisterous group led by Mili, a caring and affectionate didi to every kid in the building. She loves life and lives it with bubbling energy, quite reminiscent of Rajesh Khanna’s ‘Anand’, an epitome of exuberance. In a similarity, both Anand and Mili, waiting for the dreadful moment, plead ‘I want to live’ when death draws closer. (Lokpally, 2014) Mili suffers from a terminal illness, pernicious anaemia, and finally, the film ends with Shekhar and Mili leaving for Switzerland to find a cure. It is significant that Shekar is without his mother in Mili. The mother (India) figure, who was the paradigm for the nationalist/dharmic discourse in Mother India and Deewar, has been done away with through a womaniser father, who has killed the mother. As Mili tries to fill the large shoes of the iconic Indian mother, as emblematised by Nargis in Mother India and Nirupa Roy in Deewar, she is enervated by a rare disease which did not have a cure at that point of time. It is significant that Mili and Sekhar leave the country to find a possible cure at the end. To the extent that ebullient Mili’s vivaciousness can light up the depressed alcoholic Shekhar’s life, she is able to fill in the void of the mother’s absence in Shekhar’s life. The narrative too alludes to this. When Mili mentions his mother, the introverted Shekhar is moved and shows her his mother’s photograph as well as the letter she wrote to him. Nonetheless, the mother figure in the mid-1970s is rendered incapable of carrying the entire burden of reforming/sacrificing her son/lover for the sake of society/nation, as she herself is devitalised and seeks nurture or a cure. The cure too is indicated only as a possibility abroad. Mili thus could be argued to prefigure the times of the Emergency when, during the period from June 1975 to March 1977, human rights and personal freedom were often invoked in the context of the stride democracy had made in the West. The absent mother in the film symbolises the rupture in the nationalist

Zanjeer to Pink  169 discourse of the times, wherein the family was assumed to be the microcosm of the nation. Besides the above assertions, the absence of the symbolic figure of the father/law enabled the innocent Birju (Mother India) and the industrious Vijay (Deewar) to become outlaws—mainly to avenge their mother by settling scores with the villains in the village/society. In the case of Shekhar, the absent mother and father figures render him without the anchor of family, and hence, expendable. This lack points to the crisis at the core of his personality which is revealed through the symptoms of depression and alcoholism. Thus, in Mili, the 1970s are marked by the absence not just of the law but also the utopian drive to secure the idea of and reaffirm the status quo of a just family/community/nation. This disavows popular Hindi cinema’s imperatives of painting a coherent picture of the family/nation by working through the ruptures of feudalism (Mother India), urbanisation, the concomitant entrenchment of the class divide and the increasing failure of the state machinery to contain the transgressors/outlaws (Deewar). Furthermore, the ailing figure of Mili who suffers from a terminal disease undermines the idea of a weak nation that could be nurtured back to health through the plot device of deus ex machina towards the end of the film. Rather the subject-citizen Shekhar, who is recovering from the darkness of the past, is unable to face the reality of the counsellor Mili, his contact with the community/nation, the emblem of hope for the future, being in a crisis without the possibility of any immediate cure or easy solution. Thus, if we think of films as not created in a void and representative of the cultural unconscious of their times of production, the anxiety surrounding the socio-political fabric of the country is represented in Deewar as well as Mili. Madhava Prasad explicates ‘the aesthetic of mobilization’ in the mainstream Bachchan films, which focused on ‘the citizen side of the entity’, and ‘involved a frame of reading that included the perspective of the nationstate’. He also details the way it differed from the affiliations of the elites with the ‘middle-class cinema’ of Mukherjee, which addressed ‘the subject, the individual in society, faced with the struggle for existence, the locus of desires, fears and hopes’ (Prasad, 1998: 162): While the power derived from elite affiliations served to legitimate the persona of the middle class, the personality derived from the subaltern roles was the basis for a new mode of address, which spoke to the proletariat and other marginal sections and mobilized the spectator behind the star. (1998: 141) Nonetheless, the boundaries between the elite and the middle-class is porous and increasingly blurred, particularly in contemporary times, as is the ‘perspective of the nation-state’ in films across the board—for instance, Mili or Gulzar’s Mere Apne (1971). Jai Arjun Singh details how deeply Mukherjee

170  Swarnavel Eswaran was affected by the Emergency and elucidates the seriousness of his films like Arjun Pandit (1976), Kotwaal Saheb (1977), Naukri and Alaap, made from 1975–78. In this context, focusing on the ‘dictatorship theme’ in the Mukherjee ouvre, he foregrounds ‘the domineering father [Om Prakash] who is referred to as “Hitler” ’ in Alaap (2016) and notes how it resonates with the autocratic Bavani Shankar [Utpal Dutt] character in Gol Maal (1979). According to Sathish Poduval, ‘Namak Haraam stages the most explicit discussion on class politics [even if] the fundamental political questions of its time [are contained] within the ambit of personal conflicts between the key characters’ (2012: 42) Hrishikesh Mukherjee has even ‘claimed that this was Bachchan’s “first angry man role when he didn’t pick up an AK-47 and fire at the villains” ’ [quoted in Poduval, 2012: 42). However, Deewar as a typical mainstream film reached a wider audience and its angst could resonate with most Indians in the 1970s, as quotidian life was markedly affected by the oppression of the State (Tarlo, 2003: 8–16). Mili, was more in the mode of a middle-of-the-road cinema, which unlike the arthouse films funded by the Film Finance Corporation (FFC) and exemplified by the films of Mani Kaul and Kumar Shahani, had songs and a melodramatic framework for the love story of Mili and Shekhar. This approach could engage the urban middle-class audience in the cities by catering to their demands regarding sobriety and the voyeuristic gaze blending into social issues, thereby appealing to and assuaging their moral conscience. Unlike the sad ending pertaining to the death of Vijay in Deewar, Mili has a relatively feel-good closure through the hope it offers that she might find a cure abroad for her disease. Mukherjee’s interview reveals why he generally preferred a happy ending as he gives his insight on the box-office failure of his mentor Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin (1953) which ended on a sad note (Wild, 2017). Mili, however, is a gender reversal of Mukherjee’s earlier film Anand which did end with the death of the eponymous character, played by the then superstar Rajesh Khanna. This instance aside, most of Mukherjee’s films had a feel-good ending, thus marking them as more aligned with the mainstream cinema’s drive to leave the audiences feeling lighter as they left the cinema halls. Yet these films are different in the sense that they were not hero-oriented, like Zanjeer or Deewar. Mukherjee’s films like Mili and Abhimaan, wherein Bachchan acted with Jaya Bhaduri, his partner in real life, could be argued to be centred on the heroine rather than the hero. Similarly, Alaap had an equal significance for the heroine played by Rekha. Bachchan played a secondary role to Rajesh Khanna in Namak Haraam and Anand, which was an ensemble film (Arjun Singh, 2016). In Jurmana and Bemisal too, the screen space was shared by the characters involved in the love triangle—Bachchan, Rakhee and Vinod Mehra. Poduval has convincingly argued for the staging of civility and desire in the middle-class cinema of the 1970s, and the significance of the enduring charisma and charm of ‘the affable young man’ whom he counterpoises to ‘the angry young man’, through the binaries of the Amol Palekar and the Amitabh

Zanjeer to Pink  171 Bachchan personas, particularly in the films of Mukherjee and Basu Chatterji (Poduval, 2012: 37–50). In Mukherjee’s films, one could claim that the affable and the angry young man are juxtaposed; for instance, Abhimaan and Namak Haraam. The other significant element in Mukherjee’s films was the importance given to the domestic sphere and the ‘indoors’—in real locations or on sets that privileged realism and were constructed on moderate budgets, such as the office, hospital and apartment space in Anand and Mili. These spatial depictions were unlike the grand exteriors or spectacular sets designed for the Bachchan extravaganzas in the mainstream movies. Mukherjee’s middleof-the-road films needed a realistic backdrop to engage with the dreams and desires of middle-class people in their socio-cultural milieu. Songs were often used to focus on interiority rather than an escape to a space outside; for instance, the song, ‘Badi Sooni Sooni Hai’, the theme song in Mili (Composer. S.D. Burman; Lyricist. Majrooh Sultanpuri; Singer. Kishore Kumar), which is repeated twice, addresses the loneliness and helplessness of the desolate outsider: Badi sooni sooni hai, zindagi yeh zindagi main khud se hoon yahaan, ajnabi ajnabi This life is so bleak and barren that I feel I’m a stranger to it kabhi mein na soya, kahin mujh se khoyaa sukh meraa aise pataa naam likh kar, kahin yun hi rakh kar bhooley koyi jaise ajab dukh bhari hai yeh, bebasi yeh bebasi I haven’t slept for long Lost somewhere is my joy, like the letter duly addressed that has been misplaced and forgotten Unusually gloomy is this helplessness, this hopelessness. (Lyrics. Majrooh Sultanpuri; Trans. author’s) Mukherjee’s economies of space and production design, characterisations and dialogues reflected the influence of his mentor Bimal Roy. Mukherjee edited most of Bimal Roy’s films. In fact, Mukherjee’s Majhli Didi (1967)

172  Swarnavel Eswaran and Abhimaan (1973) were written by the celebrated screenwriter Nabendu Ghosh, who was a longtime collaborator of Roy and had written for films like Parineeta (1953), Biraj Bahu (1954), Devdas (1955), Sujata (1959) and Bandini (1963). Bimal Dutta who collaborated as a writer in Mili, was also associated with the Bimal Roy school and had worked with Mukherjee from Anupama (1966) onwards in many of his films. Even more important is the fact that Mukherjee had collaborated with the iconic director Ritwik Ghatak, who had written the script of Bimal Roy’s Madhumati (1958), as a writer a year before in Musafir (1957). Shoma Chatterji in her detailed analysis of Roy’s influences and authorship, in her book Bimal Roy: An Outsider Within (2017), argues that his cinematic sensibilities were inculcated when he worked in New Theatres film studio, particularly as a cinematographer for the legendary P.C. Barua. Without being didactic, Roy’s films were invested in addressing social issues. As the title of her book indicates, Chatterji also foregrounds the significance of displacement and the subjectivity of the outsider in his films, as Roy himself had been displaced from Bangladesh when he migrated to Bengal and later to Bombay: His stylistic figurations partly stem from the social and political environment that shaped him, when he grew up in Dacca, shifted to Calcutta, joined New Theatres and looked at the world outside through the lens of his camera and also with his insightful eyes. . . . All these elements came together when he arrived in Bombay to make Hindi films, having little knowledge or command over the language. (Chatterji, 2017: 40) Like his mentor, Mukherjee also had migrated to Bombay and its Hindi film industry from Bengal and New Theatres. Here it is pertinent to note that Mukherjee’s films like Chupke Chupke and Gol Maal revolve around the purity/contamination of languages in the context of outsiders, who often speak Hindi in an accented way or in a dated or literal form. However, unlike the garrulous characters in those films, Mili engages with a laconic Shekhar, who comes from outside and initially feels out of place in the milieu of Mili, who is an extrovert and his binary opposite, not unlike the characters played by Dilip Kumar and Vyjantimala in Devdas. Most of Mukherjee’s films have a subtext of anxiety regarding the outsider/Other, starting from his debut film Musafir which was episodic in dealing with the predicament of three couples/families who come to live in a house as tenants at different points of time. One could see this Othering shift from the alcoholic Shekhar, with psychological baggage regarding his murderer father, to Mili when she suffers from a terminal disease and is unable to put on the mask of her usual buoyant self. The social issue of alienation or craving for inclusion and acceptance in the crowded milieu of an apartment and larger metropolis was one of Mukherjee’s major authorial themes. He was invested in juxtaposing the immediacy of death, loss and departure with

Zanjeer to Pink  173 the palpable yet deceiving effervescence of city life, stability and success, as exemplified by his films Musafir, Namak Haraam, Abhimaan, Anand, Mili and Naukri, to name a few. Thus, it makes sense when Lokpally (2014) observes that ‘both Anand and Mili, waiting for the dreadful moment, plead “I want to live” when death draws closer’. One could see the traces of Akira Kurosawa’s Ikiru (1952) and Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Thara (1960) in both Anand and Mili, in the vivaciousness of the characters who are suffering from a terminal disease. These powerful narratives notwithstanding, Bachchan considers Abhimaan to be his best film: On the 44th anniversary of the film, he tweeted: ‘Abhimaan . . . 44 years . . . !! so many memories linked to this and the music . . . simply the very best ever !! still’ (Shah, 2017). He confesses that he did not voluntarily work towards building a certain image, unlike arguably the biggest Indian star of the last century, MGR from Tamil Nadu (Pandian, 1992: 101). Bachchan also credits Hrishida, as Mukherjee is fondly and respectfully referred to, as providing him with the best of opportunities: I’ve never worked for an image . . . much before Zanjeer came on the scene and established my so-called image, I had acted in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s films. I continued working with Hrishida even as I worked with Salim/Javed, Prakash Mehra and Manmohan Desai. Hrishida is like a father figure to me . . . He had a style of filmmaking inimitably his—never compromise on quality; or the story. He never pandered to base instincts. Instead, he chose to chart a path—neither too artistic nor too commercial—all his own. [M]ost of the interesting characters that I ever essayed have been in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films—be it Anand, Mili, Chupke Chupke, Bemisal, Namak Haraam or Jurmana—they have all been exceptionally well-etched. (Khubchandani, 2000) Overall, Mukherjee’s middle-of-the-road cinema, which was ‘neither too artistic nor too commercial’, and refused to ‘pander to base instincts’ (Khubchandani, 2000), could be traced to the legacy of the indie spirit of his mentor Bimal Roy. Mukherjee worked within the Bombay industry system of financiers, distributors and stars but carved his niche by collaborating with writers like Nabendu Ghosh and Bimal Dutta, and lyricists like Gulzar, another iconic writer/director from the Bimal Roy school. One could, therefore argue that Mukherjee, along with writers Salim and Javed, is the conduit to the recent avatar of Amitabh as an angry old man, since his contemporary persona seems to be a juxtaposition of the different streams discussed above.

21st-Century Bachchan: Confluence of the Streams From 2000 onwards, with Mohabbatein which was directed by Aditya Chopra after his iconic DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhaiyan Le Jayenge, 1995), Amitabh

174  Swarnavel Eswaran started appearing consistently as a character artist who was not any more the young hero chasing the heroine though lavish locales during songs. As late as 1999, in films like Lal Baadsha and Suryavansham, wherein he played double roles, he was romancing much younger heroines like Manisha Koirala, Shilpa Shetty, and Soundarya. He played a colonel in Kohram (1999) with Jayapradha as his heroine. But all these films fared poorly at the box-office. In Mohabbatein, he was cast as a strict disciplinarian headmaster Narayan Shankar who clashes with the younger music teacher Shah Rukh Khan as he encourages students in their affairs of the heart. Exploring the Bachchan character as the ‘focal point of the text’s fetishisation of feudal authoritarianism’, Meheli Sen (2011: 151) convincingly argues for Mohabbatein as the film that ‘inaugurated the cleverly veiled thematics of surrender, collusion and compliance vis-a-vis the renewed investment in the patriarch and the stardom of Bachchan’, Sen draws our attention to post-1990 Bollywood: Embodied by Bollywood’s new fathers—but also its new sons and lovers— the patriarchal consensus reinvents itself in the decade through new guises and manners that are not necessarily immediately recognizable as such. And this is the juncture in which the liberalization-Hindutva dyad gains its salience. Mohabbatein is a deeply conservative film but appears not to be; our identification with Aryan makes us complicit in an ideological nexus that is far subtler and thus more effective, than an alliance with Shankar’s more open chauvinism would entail . . . Mohabbatein was also the first film that was able to capitalize on the phallic potential inhabiting the Amitabh Bachchan star text. Hereafter, Bachchan would embody the phallus in countless films, many of which would create box office history both within the subcontinent and in diasporic hubs worldwide. Bachchan would soon become the contemporary moment’s most emblematic Father. (2011: 155–6) The liberalisation—Hindutva nexus certainly runs through Bachchan’s mainstream films of the last two decades, as exemplified by the Sarkar trilogy, directed by Ram Gopal Verma. In Sarkar (2005), Sarkar Raj (2008) and Sarkar 3 (2007), Bachchan plays Subhash Nagre, the Hindu Godfather with his transnationally mobile family and gang members. But a parallel strain that is independent in its spirit could be argued to be the reason for his critical and commercial success in his new avatar as an older hero/character actor who seems to play his age. Three of his four National Awards as the Best Actor, apart from Agneepath (1990) have come during this phase, due to this parallel mode: Black (2005), Paa (2009) and Piku (2015). Bachchan’s character of Vijay Deenanath Chauhan in Agneepath prefigures the traces of the Hindu right-wing leader Bal Thackeray’s image, for instance, the rudraksha (Hindu rosary/prayer beads) and the tilak (the forehead mark), the saffron scarf, etc., as they come to haunt the Bachchan persona in some of his

Zanjeer to Pink  175 mainstream films. If the Sarkar trilogy is in that mould, Verma’s Nishabd (2007) was made as an indie film. It deals with an older man, Vijay’s affair with a teenage girl Jia (Jia Khan)—a friend of his daughter, Ritu (Shraddha Arya), on a holiday visit to Vijay’s home in Kerala. Not only was it shot on a limited budget within 20 days in Kerala, but the focus was on the narrative and the characters. The actors were not only from Bombay but from the south (Revathi and Nassar) and abroad (Jia Khan). The sensuality was not relegated to the background in showcasing a love affair to address social issues; unlike the middle-of-the-road cinema of Mukherjee, wherein middleclass values were reaffirmed. Instead, the accent was on experimenting with and pushing the limits of an unusual affair in a traditional family located in a conservative society. If Verma’s Nishabd was at one end of the spectrum of a contemporary indie film, then Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Black (2005) could be argued to occupy the other end, in terms of budget and production values: Bhansali’s ornate visual style imbues Black. The narrative of the film engages with the relationship between a physically challenged girl, the blind, deaf Michelle McNally (Rani Mukherji) and her teacher Debraj Sahai (Bachchan)—an eccentric alcoholic old man. After persevering through several tribulations, as Michelle starts recovering Debraj gradually loses his memory due to Alzheimer’s. Though the theme recalls that of Mili, Black is different as it tries to paint the rich interior world of its protagonists’ aspiration to overcome their challenges through its elaborate production design, where realism is disavowed. The focus is on fictive realism where through a carefully constructed plotline, the blackness/darkness surrounding physical challenges and its yearning for light/hope in the form of a teacher/companion is evoked through a nuanced and eventful relationship between its protagonists. In keeping with its indie sensibility, Black also had a narrow release before expanding its exhibition outlets. It also set a record by winning 11 Filmfare awards (Bhanushali, 2018). The other important film in the old man-young woman narrative of this phase of Bachchan is Cheeni Kum (2007) wherein he plays Buddhadev Gupta, a domineering and self-centered cook in his sixties, who falls in love with the poised and resolute Nina Verma, who is in her thirties when she frequents his restaurant in London. Buddhadev struggles, but finally convinces Nina’s traditional and Gandhian father Om Prakash (Paresh Rawal) to accept their relationship, thereby enabling a feel-good ending to the film. Taran Adarsh, industry and trade analyst, states: On the whole, [Cheeni Kum] is absorbing in parts. A lackluster first half gets a boost with a much energetic second half and that elevates the film to the watchable level. At the box-office, [it] is targeted at the multiplexes mainly. Clever promos and feel-good vibes should ensure a positive run at the multiplexes. (Adarsh, 2007)

176  Swarnavel Eswaran Director R. Balki could be read as the inheritor of the legacy of Mukherjee and his middle-of-the-road film aesthetics, as exemplified by his films with Bachchan, Cheeni Kum, Paa (2009) and Shamitabh (2015). Comedy/satire and drama are central to Balki’s narratives, and they recall Mukherjee’s films like Chupke Chupke and Gol Maal (1979). Certain social issues like tradition versus modernity and women’s rights regarding abortion are addressed with a feel-good ending in Cheeni Kum and Paa, respectively. Shamitabh, however, recalls Abhimaan, in its clash between two egos in the context of success and fame—the conflict in Abhimaan between a husband and wife who are singers is replaced by the competition between image/actor and his (dubbed) voice in Shamitabh. Keeping with contemporary times, the scale of a Balki film is much bigger, as the middle- of-the-road/middle-class audiences are now to be found in multiplexes as Adarsh observes. With liberalisation and globalisation, the service sector, associated mostly with the educated middle-class has gained ground along with an enhanced middle-class ability to spend on leisure and entertainment. This trend has also enabled reinvention of the earlier middle-of-the-road cinema aesthetics for relatively affluent younger audiences, particularly in the cities. Ashvin Devasundaram astutely observes the new trend in Hindi cinema, in the context of contemporary new independent films like Peepli Live (2010), Dhobi Ghat (2010), The Lunchbox (2013) and Ship of Theseus (2013), wherein the indies are a hybrid or ‘motley mix’ of the earlier trends in the Indian film industry: the art cinema movement of the New Indian Cinema in the 1970s, the Parallel or the middle-class cinema of the 1970s and 80s and popular Hindi cinema, or Bollywood. He also engages with a subversive and provocative indie like Gandu (2010), which dared to push the limits and take on the conservative Indian censor board (Devasundaram, 2016). If Gandu is on one side of the indie spectrum, Bachchan’s recent reincarnation as the father figure posits his indie films on the other side of the spectrum, just adjacent to the boundary line of the middle-of-the-road cinema of yesteryears. Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhuri, comes in the wake of films like Piku and Te3n, and could be located as an exemplar of the growing indie trend. Piku too is a remarkable film in the Bachchan oeuvre because of his portrayal of a sulking hypochondriac, the 70-year-old Bashkor Banerjee, who will not let his daughter, Piku Banerjee, effectively played by Deepika Padukone, have her own autonomous life. It addresses a problem endemic to the geriatric world, constipation, but combines it with the insecurity of old age, the fear of loneliness and the anxiety of being single amidst a sea of people. The narrative also juxtaposes elements such as hypocrisy surrounding premarital sex among middle-class people, the Bengali obsession with homoeopathy, and the road movie aesthetic of cataloguing spaces along with fragments from a spectrum of emotions, particularly in a growing relationship, in this case between Piku and Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan)—a taxi service owner, who becomes the driver on the road trip. Nonetheless, Piku too is dominantly in the comedy/drama genre of the Mukherjee staple.

Zanjeer to Pink  177 But the scale is bigger, and its focus on the protagonist’s constipation rather than the social issue of getting a daughter married marks it as different. Indie films are often defined by the producers—individual producers or smaller creative studios, for instance, N.C. Sippy or Manmohan Shetty’s Adlabs or Rajshri Productions in the context of Indian middle cinema, and distributors who might be big or small depending on critical acclaim or commercial possibilities. For instance, Fox Star Studios distributed the Tamil film, Kaakka Muttai (Crow’s Egg, dir. M. Manikandan, 2014), which had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. Piku too was distributed by Yash Raj Films, which is a reputed production/distribution house. Unlike an arthouse movie like Gurvinder Singh’s Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for a Blind Horse, 2011) which was produced by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) that is notorious for not focusing on the distribution of its films, Mukherjee’s middle-of-the-road cinema and films like Shoojit Sircar’s Piku have financial stakes for its (small scale) producers who have to get back their investment. The exploring of unusual or unfamiliar relationships in the backdrop of social issues is common to both the earlier middle ground films made by Mukherjee and the later Bachchan films by younger directors. But one of the ways we can distinguish them and categorise a film like Piku or Pink as an indie film, in the particular context of the Bachchan trajectory, is the difference in terms of making their target audience—the upwardly mobile middle-class urbanites, uncomfortable. A Mukherjee or a Gulzar film, from the Bimal Roy school, was much more romantic and focused on humour through language or miscommunication to posit the drama surrounding relationships and social issues. Bimal Roy’s films were considered gritty for his times, particularly in their handling of social issues; for instance, films like Sujata (1959), which engages with the love affair of a Dalit woman—Sujata (Nutan)—with a Brahmin man—Adheer (Sunil Dutt), Bandini which revolves around the life and times of an imprisoned woman (Kalyani) convicted of murder, and even a romantic tragedy like Devdas. Roy’s neorealism and melodrama-driven Do Bigha Zamin (1953) is underpinned by its socialist imperatives but could be argued to be a parallel independent form of cinema to that of Mehboob Khan’s spectacular and epic scale films like Mother India which also had its own egalitarian objectives. Unlike Mukherjee’s films, Bimal Roy’s films like Do Bigha Zamin, through their starkness, do not primarily cater to the middle-class ethos or comfort zones. They are not delimited, constrained or subtler in their voicing of social issues and the class divide, even if the focus is on a melodramatic narrative. Pink, in particular, validates my claims regarding the departure of indie cinema from the middle-of-the-road cinema in the Bachchan oeuvre, by posing questions that poke at the hypocrisy of its target audience. Pink, primarily a nocturnal film, excellently photographed by Abhik Mukhopadhyay, begins with the portrayal of three young women on a night out in Delhi, who subsequently have a horrible time at the hands of the young men whose

178  Swarnavel Eswaran invitation to dinner at a hotel resort the girls trustingly accept. To their dismay, they realise that there is no space for young modern Indian women to socialise due to the dominant mindset of men which is still patriarchal and regressive in contemporary times of pervasive conservative politics. This is despite the (apparent) upward mobility of women and the promise of independence and the freedom to choose in modern cosmopolitan India. Even if, as critics have pointed out, Pink relies on an old man to fight for women’s causes, the spirit of troubling the conscience of its audiences is by no means constrained within the narrative. The embedded spectator, represented by the urban male youth in the film text, is a schizoid one—he is the upwardly mobile rich and powerful young man who wants to have fun but shirks his social responsibility and victimises a woman. His act of breaking with his conservative background and tradition by banding together with acquaintances in a quest for casual sex is a duplicitous deviance against conservative social norms. If the embedded spectator is a young woman, then she is split between the freedom an urban space offers to be independent and explore her desire/sexuality and her confinement in that very space through the arms of patriarchy that are always already in place to molest her privately and publicly. Thus, there is a distinct departure from the way protagonists like Mili or Uma (Abhimaan), or for that matter the character Kusum who goes by the name Guddi in the eponymous film (Jaya Bhaduri, dir. Mukherjee 1971) were conceived. Mili and Guddi are chirpy and ebullient, and later turn serious and sedate before the films’ closure, when the possibility of their returning to their normal selves is suggested. In Abhimaan, Uma is more level-headed than her moody husband Subir (Bachchan) who is overcome by jealousy due to his wife’s rising popularity as a singer. His envy leads to their separation, but later they unite when Uma has a miscarriage, which brings Subir towards reconciliation. In the end, they sing a song together to mark their reunion, and it signifies the classical melodramatic drive, of punctuating the closure with a family photograph, underpinning most Mukherjee films. In Pink, however, such a possibility is foreclosed. The attempt is not to provide convenient redemption for the three young women, but to allow them the space to reveal who they are and how they would like to be treated. In this way, Pink questions rather than reaffirms the status quo. In relation to plot trajectory, the narrative of Pink revolves around the lives and times of Minal (Taapsee Pannu) Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea (Andrea Tariang) in Delhi. As working women, they share an apartment, and their world turns upside down when Minal is accused and charged with the attempted murder of Rajveer Singh (Angad Bedi), the nephew of a powerful politician. As mentioned earlier, Minal and her friends willingly accompany Rajveer and his friends when he invites them for dinner at a resort hotel after a rock concert. A drunk Rajveer tries to force himself upon an unwilling Minal, who in self-defence hits Rajveer’s head with a glass bottle, injuring his eye in the process. Thereafter, all hell breaks loose for the young women. They are

Zanjeer to Pink  179 harassed, stalked, physically abused, and humiliated. Minal is molested in a moving car, and her complaints and pleas for justice are disregarded. Their landlord is threatened and physically attacked when he refuses to throw his helpless female tenants out. When Minal is imprisoned, their only ray of hope is the reclusive lawyer Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan), who suffers from mood swings and bipolar disorder and lives across from their apartment, taking care of his sick wife. Rajveer’s lawyer Prashant Mehar (Piyush Mishra) appropriates the confession of the women—that they went to a rock concert and were willing to have a drink with men, in order to argue for their easy virtue and loose ‘moral character’. He also tries to prove with the help of false witnesses that the girls were trying to extract money for their ‘services’ from the rich clients they had targeted. However, Deepak Sehgal as the lawyer who is back from his voluntary retirement starts his defence proceedings in a slow and laconic way but builds momentum through his meticulous observations of the contradictions in the statements of Rajveer and his friends. At the height of his piercing interrogation, Sehgal refers to Rajveer’s sister having a drink. He gestures to a photograph to argue that women willingly drinking in public spheres are normal and this is not indicative of questionable moral character. This unleashes the conservative misogynist in Rajveer. He justifies his action of molesting and trying to rape Minal by declaring to Sehgal and the court that she got what she deserved. Sehgal responds by saying Minal had strongly objected to his obnoxious proposal and behaviour by clearly saying ‘No’, and a ‘No’ is a ‘No’. In his concluding monologue, Sehgal draws attention to women’s rights and sheds light on their right to say enough is enough, by refusing the demands and solicitation of (even) a husband or client. The liberalisation-Hindutva dyad, as pointed out by Sen, can be noticed in the hotel resort sequence and the patriarchal/feudal violence that is inflicted inside that space for what is perceived by a traditional/conservative mindset as social transgression. This includes the willingness of women to have dinner and drinks offered by apparently decent men in the presence of other seemingly educated friends, which is taken as a sign of weakness of character. According to Rajveer, when a woman ventures outside the domestic sphere and exercises her freewill in the choice of mundane things like dinner and drink, her character becomes susceptible and she should ‘get what she deserves’. Rajveer, as the nephew of the ruling party politician, is able to control the police and manipulate the witnesses, apart from the police woman who files the charges. His conservatism, driven by patriarchy and political connections, reveals itself in his misogyny and violence against free women, as he insists on Minal personally apologising to him after the injury to his eye, not even once reflecting on or repenting for his impulsive and inhumane behaviour when he was drunk. Besides, the sermon by Rajveer’s lawyer on the loose character and morals of the three young women, this discourse underscores Rajveer’s lawyer team’s strategy of ‘upholding’ traditional family values of honour and chastity. However, this ploy backfires as

180  Swarnavel Eswaran Rajveer explodes in anger when Sehgal points to the photographic evidence of the liquor in Rajveer’s sister’s hand, thereby exposing his moral double standards. Furthermore, any doubt regarding the virulent intensity of team Rajveer’s vehement Hindutva agenda is dissipated when they ruthlessly target and interrogate Falak about her affair with a married (Muslim) man, and cast aspersions on Andrea’s character, because she is an outsider from the northeast of India. After she is unduly targeted and badgered, Falak reveals details of her brother’s medical condition and her need for money, and admits that she did spend time with Rajveer and his friends for the cash incentive, although later when the angry Minal and Andrea berate her we come to know that this is not true. But Pink does not alter Falak’s admission in the court. This is one of the ways Pink as an indie film perturbs the conscience of its multiplex audience with (hypocritical) middle-class morals regarding women’s sexuality and desire. The construction of Delhi through fragmented spaces, particularly at night, and the claustrophobic apartment and courtroom recall the Mukherjee aesthetics of the middle-of-the-road cinema, particularly in the sharing of screen space between the film’s ensemble—Minal, Falak, Andrea and Sehgal. But in making its claim for the freedom of women and their active consent regarding their sexual desires, the film is driven by the new Indian indie spirit to push the boundaries of representation. Moreover, the budgetary constraints, associated with the middle-of-the-road approach, have also been disavowed by shooting with multiple cameras during the long court scenes to achieve and invoke spontaneity (Chintamani, 2017). Pink is a tailor-made film for the multiplex audiences in many ways, as many young viewers will identify with the premise of working women in a metropolis staying independent and living separately from their families residing in the same city. The film’s spectators can also identify with the anxiety and horror surrounding the issue of molestation and rape, particularly in a moving car in a big Indian metropolis. Sehgal’s anti-pollution mask also recalls Delhi or Bangalore and the car culture in these cities, where breathing clean air has become a luxury in these times of globalisation. The angry young man of Deewar, thus, has now grown old and the Oedipus-like characters of both Vijay in Deewar and Sehgal in Pink, are left without mother (in the former), and wife (in the latter)—who passes away just before the end in Pink. The angry old man in Pink tries to seek justice not for himself and his trauma as his young counterpart does in Deewar, but for his affected ‘Electras’ in the shape of the three women, although the timbre of his baritone voice and seething anger at the sight of injustice is still alive and kicking. Therefore, with Pink, the paths layered for Amitabh Bachchan by Salim-Javed and Hrishikesh Mukherjee come together.

Note 1. The Emergency in India, which undermined the democratic values of civil liberties and suspended free elections, was in effect from 25 June 1975 until 21 March 1977. See for details, Suguna Sridhar (2013), ‘Wilderness of Voices:

Zanjeer to Pink  181 Freedom of Expression in India’: ‘Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of Emergency under Article 352, granting herself the power to rule by decree. For the purpose of national security, elections were suspended and civil liberties diminished. During the 21 months of Emergency, the elasticity of maintaining order and security accommodated forced sterilisations, unlawful detentions, drastic industrialisation, and violence against dissenters’.

References Adarsh, Taran. (2007). ‘Critic Review: Cheeni Kum Review by Taran Adarsh’, Bollywoodhungama.com. Available at: www.bollywoodhungama.com/movie/cheenikum/critic-review/ [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Arjun Singh, Jai. (2016). The World of Hrishikesh Mukherjee: The Filmmaker Everyone Loves. Haryana, India: Penguin. Awaasthi, Kavita. (2017). ‘Deewaar Was the Perfect Script: Amitabh Bachchan on 42 Years of the Cult Film’, Hindustantimes.com. Available at: www.hindustan times.com/bollywood/deewaar-was-the-perfect-script-amitabh-bachchan-on42-years-of-the-cult-film/story-x2hy87zQ0ebVlsVMV59U2I.html [Accessed 14 May 2018]. Bhanushali, Vinod. (2018). Personal Interview, Chennai. August 2018. Chatterjee, Gayatri. (2002). Mother India. London: British Film Institute. Chatterji, Shoma A. (2017). Bimal Roy: An Outsider Within. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Chaudhuri, Diptakriti. (2015a). ‘When Javed told Salim, ‘I Was Thinking that maybe We Should Work Separately’’, Scroll.in. Available at: https://scroll.in/article/765306/when-javed-told-salim-i-was-thinking-that-maybe-we-should-workseparately [Accessed 14 May 2018]. Chaudhuri, Diptakriti. (2015b). Written by Salim-Javed: The Story of Hindi Cinema’s Greatest Screenwriters. New Delhi: Penguin Books. Kindle Edition. Chintamani, Gautam. (2017). Pink: The Inside Story. New Delhi: Harper Collins. Kindle Edition. Dasgupta, Susmita. (2018). Amitabh Bachchan: Reflections on a Star Image. New Delhi: Bloomsbury. Devasundaram, Ashvin Immanuel. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York and London: Routledge. IANS (Indo-Asian News Service). (2015). ‘Hrishikesh Mukherjee Was Godfather to Us: Amitabh Bachchan’, Indianexpress.com. Available at: http://indianexpress. com/article/entertainment/bollywood/hrishkesh-mukherjee-was-godfather-to-usamitabh-bachchan/ [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Joshi, Priya. (2015). Bollywood as Public Fantasy. New York: Columbia University Press. Khubchandani, Lata. (2000). ‘He Led . . . We Followed’, Rediff.com. Available at: http://m.rediff.com/movies/2000/sep/12amit.htm [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Lal, Vinay. (2012). Deewar: The Footpath, the City and the Angry Young Man. New Delhi: Harper Collins. Lokpally, Vijay. (2014). ‘Blast from the Past: Mili (1975)’, Hindu.com. Available at: www.thehindu.com/features/cinema/mili1975/article6173846.ece [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Mazumdar, Ranjani. (2007). Bombay Cinema: An Archive of the City. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

182  Swarnavel Eswaran Mishra, Vijay. (2002). Bollywood Cinema: Temples of Desire. New York and London: Routledge. Pandian, M. S. S. (1992). The Image Trap: M.G. Ramachandran in Film and Politics. New Delhi: Sage Publications. Poduval, Sathish. (2012). ‘The Affable Young Man: Civility, Desire and the Making of a Middle-Class Cinema in the 1970’, South Asian Popular Culture, 10(1): 37–50. Prasad, Madhava M. (1998). Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. PTI (Press Trust of India). (2017). ‘Amitabh Bachchan: ‘Deewar’ Had the Best Screenplay Ever’, Timesofindia.Indiatimes.com. Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/hindi/bollywood/news/amitabh-bachchandeewar-had-the-best-screenplay-ever/articleshow/56732759.cms [Accessed 14 May 2018]. Sen, Meheli. (2011). ‘It’s All About Loving Your Parents’, in Bhattacharya Mehta, Rini and Pandharipande, Rajeshwari V. (eds.), Bollywood and Globalization: Indian Popular Cinema, Nation, and Diaspora. London and New York: Anthem Press. Shah, Aashna. (2017). ‘44 Years After Abhimaan, Amitabh Bachchan Reveals He Doesn’t Know Who Owns Rights’, Ndtv.com. Available at: www.ndtv.com/ entertainment/44-years-after-abhimaan-amitabh-bachchan-reveals-he-doesntknow-who-owns-rights-1729953 [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Singh, Sunny. (2018). Amitabh Bachchan. London: Palgrave (BFI). Sridhar, Suguna. (2013). ‘Wilderness of Voices: Freedom of Expression in India’, Southasiajournal.net. Available at: http://southasiajournal.net/wilderness-ofvoices-freedom-of-expression-in-india/ [Accessed 15 May 2018]. Tarlo, Emma. (2003). Unsettling Memories: Narratives of the Emergency in Delhi. Los Angeles: University of California Press. Thomas, Rosie. (1995). ‘Melodrama and the Negotiation of Morality in Mainstream Hindi Film’, in Breckenridge, Carol A. (ed.), Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in a South Asian World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 157–182. Virdi, Jyotika. (2003). The Cinematic ImagiNation: Indian Popular Films as Social History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. Wildfilmsindia (Wilderness Films India Ltd). (2017). ‘Film Director Hrishikesh Mukherjee Speaks About Bimal Roy’, Youtube.com. Available at: www.youtube. com/watch?v=ZVEctDgyJ6A [Accessed 15 May 2018].

10 Rapping in Double Time Gandu’s Subversive Time of Liberation Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram

This chapter undertakes a close reading of the film Gandu (2010), as an illustrative example of the new Indian Indies’ mélange and hybridity of formal and stylistic influences. By framing Gandu as a postmodern film, particularly in relation to its fragmented construction, the chapter aims to identify the multiple discourses the film either espouses or signifies. Addressing the overarching question of the Indies’ emergence from an interstitial space, an examination of form, style and content in this film subsequently extends to its overt and latent references to extant discourses in contemporary Indian society and culture. Gandu presents subversive characters and portrays transgressive themes, such as social exclusion, drug abuse, anarchistic hedonism, breakdown of conventional family structures and the explicit expression of sexual freedom. All these elements have inflected the film’s turbulent immersion into the wider sphere of debate surrounding the state’s regulation, censorship and moral policing of cinema in India. From a theoretical standpoint, this case study argues that Gandu exemplifies a performative text of resistance signifying a ‘time of liberation’ through contestation of the national pedagogical mythical time (Bhabha, 1994: 51). This is in concordance with Homi Bhabha’s construction of nation in double time (1994: 208).

Synopsis Gandu (Asshole, 2010) charts the directionless existence of its eponymous protagonist, ‘Gandu’ (Anubrata Basu), a lower-middle-class teenager in urban Kolkata, capital city of the Indian state of West Bengal. Gandu lives with his single mother (Kamalika Banerjee), who sustains the household by providing sexual favours to Das Babu (Shilajit Majumdar), louche owner of the local Internet café in exchange for his financial largesse. Caught in the middle of this arrangement, Gandu compensates for his fractured domestic situation by paying obeisance at the local shrine to Kali (the goddess of death), buying lottery tickets at the local shop and seeking solace in drug-addled fantasies of becoming a rap star. Gandu’s disillusionment with life stems from his mother’s affair with Das Babu, his adolescent sexual frustration and imprecations suffered at the hands of his peers, who ostracise him as a misfit and

184  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram outcast, repeatedly ridiculing his name, Gandu (asshole). Although this disparaging title has been imposed on Gandu, he has also accepted it as his identity, resigned to the marginal status connoted by this name. All these factors precipitate Gandu’s descent into a drug-induced alternative reality, replete with hallucinogenic delusions and an idée fixe of performing with the British-Asian band Asian Dub Foundation. Gandu finds it increasingly difficult to grapple with his growing ennui and sexual frustration. In the midst of his turmoil, Gandu befriends Ricksha (Joyraj Bhattacharya), a slum-dweller who pulls cycle-rickshaws for a living. The new friends, joined by the mutuality of their social marginality, embark on a psychotropic road trip that rapidly spirals them into a disorientated labyrinth of time and space. The obfuscation of distinctions between fantasy and reality leads to the eventual disintegration of Gandu’s sanity.

Postmodern Freestyle and Freeplay Gandu diverges from the normative content and conventional storytelling grammar associated with mainstream Indian cinema. This is largely attributable to the film’s complex interweaving of cinematic genres. Global influences, particularly of European and Japanese art cinema, are perceptible in Gandu, gesturing towards the self-affirmed investment of director Q (Qaushiq Mukherjee) in transglobal cinema. In an interview, Q cites French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard as his personal filmmaking bellwether, also expressing his appreciation for the work of Japanese experimental director Takashi Miike (Q, personal communication, 2013). In this sense, Gandu’s amorphous mix of form and style problematises a reductionist Bollywood/Parallel Indian cinema classification and points towards a postmodern pastiche of styles. Ewa Mazierska and Laura Rascaroli (2003: 10) mention the characteristics of postmodern film seen in the work of modernist filmmakers like Godard—‘radical self-reflexivity . . . an unorthodox approach to narration and its parameters in space and time; and a polemical attitude towards modern capitalism and its features’. This interrogation of capitalism includes themes of media domination, political indifference, the loss of freedom and verisimilitude (ibid.). Gandu exhibits ‘radical self-reflexivity’ juxtaposed with a fragmented, experimental and non-linear narrative approach amongst the other above-mentioned characteristics of postmodern texts. From the outset, the film sets out to defamiliarise, disorientate and challenge normative structures and conventions, both socio-political (through its portrayal of themes and issues) and cinematic (through its experimentation with non-linear time and space). The film’s exposition is dedicated to an evaluation of the perceived meaning of the word gandu, which serves as the film’s title. Split-screen images simultaneously depict responses to a vox populi involving a range of people expressing their understanding of the term gandu (Figure 10.1).

Rapping in Double Time  185

Figure 10.1  The vox populi.

The keywords—stupid, fucker, loser, moron—that appear as on-screen subtitles, are synchronised with each respondent’s utterance during the vox populi. They reflect the arbitrariness of the signifier—gandu. The multiple articulations stemming from the respondents’ subjective denotations of the word gandu are transposable to the larger fragmentation that undergirds the film’s form, style and content. This babel of public voices expressing diverse perceptions instantiates Gandu’s multiplicity, its compositional multilayering and the film’s destabilisation and fracturing of meaning. The vox populi sequence foreshadows the subsequent disjunctures that seem endemic in the film’s narrative, expressed through the constant arbitrary rupture of linearity and a subversion of the desire for cohesive closure. The film’s fragmented morphology appears to be in direct resonance with the postmodern condition, which problematises notions of unity, a stable centre or logos of meaning, instead highlighting chaos and disaggregation (Harvey, 1990: 44). Within a poststructural paradigm, the creation of meaning analogous to the construction of identity is multifaceted and subjective. Therefore, the cacophony of voices at the outset of the film—enunciating diffuse perceptions in relation to the solitary signifier, gandu—sets the stage for the film’s dismantling of unity. In essence, the documentary-style vox populi functions as cinematic shorthand; it is a precursor to the film’s deconstructive, decentring of meaning, which is never located and fixed, but destabilised and perpetually deferred (Derrida, 1976: xxii, 69). The absence of unitary meaning or stable identity affixable to the word gandu is important, because this signifier doubles as the film’s title and main character’s name. The freeplay of meaning (Derrida, 2001: 344, 355, 365) demonstrated in the vox populi also points towards eponymous protagonist

186  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Gandu’s volatile persona. The narrative subsequently reveals Gandu’s ‘divided self’, his tempestuous splintering between antinomies of recreation (drugs) and reality (fractured familial situation). Gandu is unveiled not only as the object of a fractured self, but also of a socio-economic reality that denies him a locus, a sense of identity, even on the nomenclatural level of a conventional, socially acceptable name. The aforementioned subtitles and audio-visual clues in the film’s vox populi scene elucidates the disparaging connotations of the auditory signifier gandu. In a later scene, Gandu is pilloried by his peers, who in the process of their bullying vilification repeatedly re-invoke the multiple pejorative social connotations of the word gandu that were revealed earlier in the vox populi. Gandu’s lack of social acceptance and a stable identity, characterised by the arbitrary and derogatory connotations of his name, ‘Gandu’ (the narrative never reveals his actual name), indicate at an elemental level the displacement of this film’s primary character to a marginalised space. The film’s opening sequence, which reveals the multiple deprecatory meanings contained in the term gandu, leads the film’s audience to form an association between the word (and its implications) and the physical embodiment of gandu—the young person seen seated at a table in the scene immediately after the vox populi sequence. Expressing this concept another way: the word gandu expounded in the vox populi introduces the character Gandu we see in the next shot. Therefore, Gandu has always already been dispatched to the margins right at the start of the film. This is accomplished through an associative process where the verbal signifier ‘Gandu’ is conjugated with the first visible filmic character that becomes the signifier’s logical ‘signified’. This process is an example of syntagmatic connotation in cinema, where the significance of a shot and its meaning are contingent on ‘the shot [being] compared with actual shots that precede or follow it’ (Monaco, 2009: 181). James Monaco (2009: 182) ascribes a similar connotative ability to individual words strung together that then find meaning in those that precede or follow. The above cinematic transition from the vox populi scene to the shot of Gandu involves a connotative interaction between signifier word and paradigmatic filmic shot. It is the word or signifier gandu and its relation to the signified—the corporeal Gandu, who appears in the scene subsequent to the evocation of the word—that eventually constructs meaning in the mind of the viewer. The connotative property of the ‘sign’ thus created by the combination of signifier and signified assists the viewer in imagining the character Gandu in the film’s narrative as a pariah outsider. It does this by bridging the gap between interiority and exteriority, linking the young man Gandu in the frame and the signifier gandu in the vox populi (public sphere) by invoking in the viewer the idea of ‘Gandu-ness’. The sign is not restricted to cinematic meaning creation in the film’s diegetic world; Gandu’s world within the confines of the film’s finite frame, but has broader, discursive symbolic evocations. To a large extent, the sign of ‘Gandu-ness’

Rapping in Double Time  187 created in the film signposts underlying ideological Indian discourses relating to alterity, subalternity and peripheralisation in the lived experience of modern Indian society. In the context of this film, the sign creates the idea of a generic ‘Ganduness’ relating to the social exclusion or othering of individuals, sometimes on the basis of a single word or signifier. A broader example is the word ‘Dalit’, which now (catachrestically in the Spivak sense)1 undifferentiatingly subsumes a ‘lower caste’ minority community previously referred to as ‘untouchables’ (also see Chapter 14 in this volume). Q mentions his intention to normalise the socially taboo word gandu by using it as the film’s signifier, ironically stating, ‘we have successfully baptised a Shudra [“untouchable”; lowest caste] word and made it if not a Brahmin [highest caste] at least a Kshatriya [caste directly below Brahmin] word. It is an upper-caste word now!’ (Q, personal communication, 2013). This harkens back to Q’s idiosyncratic taxonomy of the Indies (Devasundaram, 2016: 85). Q also reveals that his deployment of the word gandu stems from his perception that ‘a linguistic shift is critical to social change’ (Q, personal communication, 2013). In the film, Gandu’s friend Ricksha shares a similar predicament. He is dehumanised and defined by the tool of his trade; he is equated through his name with the object that provides his livelihood, the cycle rickshaw. Therefore, the two friends share a state of namelessness, although their marginalisation occurs according to different Indian contexts of socio-economic and class stratification. In other words, Ricksha is a subaltern slum-dweller at the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder, whereas Gandu’s alienation stems more from socio-cultural exclusion. The marginality of the film’s characters discussed above is to some degree shared by the film itself, in its self-professed positioning outside mainstream cinematic modes (ibid.). In this context, Gandu’s subversive discourse from the margins of Indian cinema could be viewed through the aforementioned lens of Bhabha’s mythical pedagogical time of nation and the performative time of liberation. Gandu could be regarded as espousing an alternative, transgressive filmic discourse, not solely because of its graphic depictions of sex and drug abuse, as well as a screenplay punctuated with profanity. Gandu distorts and disrupts the unified, mythical time of the nation by its subversion of the status quo—the traditional Indian ‘archetype’ often proliferated by Bollywood films. In this regard, the film has two young, anti-social drug addicts as its central characters, at once elementally antithetical to Bollywood’s privileging of the muscular, handsome hero. Gandu and Ricksha are devoid of any aspirational qualities and seen as social malcontents. This is diametrically opposite to Bollywood’s ubiquitous, neoliberal, soft power narrative of upwardly mobile, nouveau riche, globe-trotting, young Indian achievers. Gandu also destabilises the homogenising national narrative of traditional Indian ‘morals and values’ by introducing a fragmented, hybridised, culturally ‘alien’ paradigmatic into the linear syntagmatic pedagogy of the nation.

188  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Gandu’s rupturing of conventional Indian cinematic norms and tropes includes the film’s heterodox strategies of revealing narrative information as well as its fracturing of time, space and linearity. These devices include often desultory ‘utterances’ in several subsequent vox populi and most conspicuously through Gandu’s frequent staccato outbursts of rap lyrics. The film’s director, Q, appropriates rap music, an essentially American musical genre, and redeploys it in Gandu as a mechanism for the film’s nihilistic protagonist to express his angst. Rap music is not autochthonous or typical in an Indian context, as emphasised by Gandu’s isolated and solitary yet passionate pursuit of this music genre. In one sequence, Ricksha, frustrated with Gandu’s constant obsessive expositions on rap music, turns to Gandu in consternation, asking him what he means by ‘rap’. Gandu’s reply is accompanied by subtitles: ‘Rap = Words’. Similar to the use of the vox populi device throughout the film to demonstrate the multiple meanings and arbitrariness of words such as gandu, rap and pornography, the film self-referentially deploys rap music to illustrate its own displacement of unified meaning. In Gandu, the stylistic codes of the rap music genre are appropriated and subverted through an infusion of stylised content that addresses the immediacy of Gandu’s local Indian context. The rap song sequences are therefore predominantly in the Bengali language and accompanied by English subtitles. The genre of rap music itself undergoes hybrid ‘adulteration’ in Gandu by the inception of Bengali lyrics, Indian beats, rhythms and intertextual allusions to specifically Bengali themes. This could be perceived as a double deterritorialisation of geographically or culturally specific art forms through hybridity. On the one hand, Gandu’s hybridisation of an endogenously AfricanAmerican music form by interspersion of local Bengali contexts deterritorialises it from its particular American associations. On the obverse side of this hybridising process, Gandu’s expletive-ridden Bengali-English rap deracinates notions of ‘pure’ Bengali culture. This is particularly relevant in the context of West Bengal’s enduring tradition of indigenous folk music and cultural sanctification of ‘Rabindra-sangeeth’ (music composed by Bengali Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore). In essence, it is fair to state that Gandu’s subversive rap music emanates from an in-between third space. In its Indian context, it enacts a deterritorialisation of norms of authenticity or notions of pure, inviolate ‘Indianness’. Gandu’s hybrid rap music reterritorialises this space with a more global musical mix, simultaneously rooted in its local Bengali context and coalescing with global influences. In this regard, the interpolation of this miscegenated form of rap into the film could be viewed as an enactment of the ‘glocal’the synthesis of local and global, lending credence to the theme of hybridity observed not only in Gandu, but also in the larger new wave of Indian Indies. An excerpt of lyrics from one of the rap sequences in Gandu illustrates the specificity of context and the music’s function in character formation and narrative development. After being harangued and abused by his peers,

Rapping in Double Time  189 Gandu vents his frustration: You make me feel like a worm You call me an asshole Ambition is hopeless my future is dark You get angry and I go hungry I am invisible in the dark corner of your room They tell me YOUR life is worth more than mine But one day I will haunt you like a ghost You will be a balloon and I will be a safety pin Gandu’s spewing forth of these visceral sentiments through the medium of rap not only provides narrative clues to his condition, but also serves as a platform to emphasise the dissentious, non-conformist performative ethos of the film. Gandu’s subversive and profane use of artifice, in this instance a musical form that is ordinarily ‘alien’ or ‘foreign’ to the traditional Indian national narrative, exemplifies this film text’s disjunctive effect on the enduring grand narrative of the monolithic nation discussed in earlier sections. In a broader cinematic context, Bollywood has been epitomised as the purveyor of traditional, albeit populist, modern Indian film culture, especially through its signature song and dance sequences. These musical interludes generally follow a specific format in their narrative function, commonly to celebrate weddings, courtship rituals, indicate dreams and fantasies (Gopal and Sen, 2008: 252) or serve as elegies. Gandu disorientates and transgresses the linear continuity of such normative traditional practices by adopting a provocative anti-establishment stance. This is characterised by the trenchant, obscenity-ridden, vituperative self-reflexivity of Gandu’s lexical arsenal expressed during his furious bursts of rap. These vitriolic, explicit and sometimes nihilistic lyrics subvert the pedagogical national narrative that Bollywood has conventionally endorsed through its post-globalisation mix of ‘traditional Indian values’ and sexualised item numbers. As demonstrated earlier, the explicit and often confrontational lyrics in Gandu’s rap songs extend a distinctively unrestrained and defiant direct address. Gandu seems to spew these lyrics as a cathartic release for his adolescent sexual repression in the film. The prominence of the provocative and the profane in Gandu’s rap songs is exhibited in its overt and Rabelaisian references to masturbation and sex in songs such as Horihor Nara Nara (‘Shake it Hard’). Both Gandu and Ricksha perform this song to a rapturously receptive live audience—all part of Gandu’s delusional drug-addled dream. Explicit expositions of this sort are unprecedented in mainstream Indian cinema. Gandu’s liberal use of Bengali and English expletives is an enlarged manifestation of a more general phenomenon. The emergence of the New Wave of Indie cinema since 2010 has concomitantly accompanied the magnified use of screenplay expletives, particularly ‘home-grown’ vernacular swear words. These are redolent in the dialogues of independent

190  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram films such as Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) and Delhi Belly (2011). Echoing these Indies in this regard, Gandu’s explicit content is another facet that distinguishes the film from its more circumspect Bollywood counterparts. Q’s description of Gandu as a ‘rap musical’ revitalises the thesis of the new Indies as a hybrid resultant of multiple global influences in addition to their Indian Bollywood and Parallel cinema predecessors. For example, in interviews with the media, Q positions Gandu as an ‘anti-Bollywood’ film (D’Silva, 2011). He vocally affirmed his counter-mainstream approach on a live prime-time television debate show entitled We the People (Dhingra, 2011). Although Q positions his film in opposition to Bollywood, it must be mentioned that the musical component is common to both Bollywood films and Gandu, although Gandu uses music as a subversive rather than a celebratory device. In addition, Gandu selectively invokes tropes of Bollywood musical escapism and lampoons them. A scene in the film depicting one of Gandu’s drug-induced fantasies parodies a Bollywood-esque song-sequence. It features a seductress, reminiscent of an ‘item girl’ (Devasundaram, 2016: 43), draped in a diaphanous sari, her sensual gyrations archetypal of the mannered theatricality of Bollywood ‘heroines’. This dream sequence appears to be a self-reflexive, postmodern ‘send-up’ of the Bollywood prototype of the sensuous singing and dancing vamp. The parody also reveals the sustained signification strategies deployed in Bollywood’s item numbers that have over time become normalised and reinscribed as identifiable ‘mythic’, culturally specific signifiers in Indian collective viewing practices. Rap music in Gandu is another divergence from Bollywood song sequences, such as the ubiquitous item number, which are desultory, spectacle-based, stand-alone set pieces, unrelated to the main storyline. Gandu’s set-list of rap songs are integral to the film’s plot and character development, charting a misanthropic youth’s delusions of rap-music stardom. In this regard, Gandu’s narrative is signposted by a series of impromptu rap-music videos. These ‘mini music videos’ function as a portal to Gandu’s psycho-social instabilities and are indexical of his volatile fragmented self. As the rap songs are predominantly vocalised by Gandu himself, this musical conduit offers him the only agency to express himself in the otherwise bleak terrain of his marginalised existence. Gandu’s guttural rap outbursts disclose narrative information accentuated by simultaneous visual renderings of on-screen lyrics. This resembles the music video format and provides the audience with an expository insight into the sub-textual layers of Gandu’s precarious drug-fuelled lifestyle and unfulfilled sexual desires. Inclusion of the music video configuration in the multidimensional morphology (that includes documentary-style vox populi) of Gandu’s form and style underscores the film’s postmodern composition. Gandu’s postmodern intertextuality in terms of its experimentation with short-film formats, such as the music video, attests to director Q’s antecedents as an ad filmmaker and musician. This in turn underpins the multiple

Rapping in Double Time  191 influences and filmmaking backgrounds informing the constellation of new forms of independent Indian cinema—itself a polymorphous form. Gandu’s incorporation of the music video aesthetic permeates into the film’s title credits that appear recursively and span the spectrum of the film’s narrative. These recurring ‘title credits’ involve rapid jump cuts; jerky, handheld camera work; split screens; the appearance of lurid on-screen lyrics (including the earlier example) and live ‘performances to camera’ by the title character, Gandu. These are all ubiquitous devices borrowed from the modern music video. As mentioned above, the ‘title sequence’ reappears at several non-linear points in the film, reiterating the film’s postmodern fragmentation and its dismantling of linearity. The first appearance of the title credits occurs as unexpectedly as subsequent manifestations. Following the film’s vox populi prologue, the establishment of an ostensibly ‘normal’ narrative commences with Gandu seen eating at a table in the threadbare environs of his flat as his sullen mother performs her kitchen duties. A moustached man enters unannounced, his shifty appearance and demeanour enhanced by the dark glasses concealing his eyes. He is the aforementioned Das Babu, sleazy owner of the local Internet parlour. The subsequent scene reveals Gandu’s mother and Das Babu having sex. Gandu proceeds to crawl into their room unnoticed, purloining money from the man’s wallet, and slithering back out, but not before craning his head to bed-level and sneaking a curious peek at the copulating couple. The flow of narrative information up to this point impels the film’s spectators to anticipate a logical and sequential continuum of this theme. It sets up audience expectation to extrapolate a continuity editing cutaway to perhaps a shot of Gandu exiting the flat, spilling out onto the street, maybe to spend the money he has surreptitiously extricated from Das Babu’s wallet. Instead, the filmmaker chooses to interrupt linear progression at this point by inserting the first instance of rap ‘music video’ title credits. This abrupt disconnect or disjuncture effected by the intrusion of the ‘music video’ title sequence shatters the brief illusion of linearity that the narrative has constructed up to this point. The intruding sequence is a bricolage of multiple split screens containing filmmaking credits, visuals of Gandu rapping, subtitled lyrics, all simultaneously occupying screen space. This jarring dissonance of audience expectation is foregrounded by Gandu’s rapping excoriation at having witnessed his mother and Das Babu in flagrante delicto. He vents his expletive-ridden angst in the eponymous title track, ‘Gandu’, indicting his domestic plight in general and his mother in particular: In a dark corner of your room I lurk You feel love I feel like puking Your sins burn you, you sit up Petrified of losing your youth Some fucker will run away with it

192  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram The title song, ‘Gandu’, bears the traits of several musical styles—rap, punk rock and funk. This unexpected injection of a split screen, ‘punk-rap’ video at the film’s outset is symptomatic of postmodern filmic devices and recalls Quentin Tarantino’s consistent use of pastiche and bricolage. Gandu’s sudden defamiliarising enforcement of what appears to be an incongruous stylistic device is ‘out of time’ with anticipated linearity. This process is repeated throughout the film’s screen duration. Against the backdrop of Bollywood’s meta-hegemony (Devasundaram, 2016) and the normalisation of its linear, often formulaic, filmic codes in Indian culture, Gandu’s non-chronological, transgressive title sequence, with its use of lyrically explicit rap music and its nihilist protagonist, reiterates the film’s subversive, disjunctive articulation of cultural difference. Gandu’s decentring of normative mythical time and the codified conventions perpetuated by Bollywood, locates this film as a performative text. This in turn invokes Bhabha’s temporal theme relating to the ‘time of liberation’, or alternative narratives arising from the interstitial space between the pedagogy and performativity of the nation. The film’s preliminary statement of its alternative credentials is explicit in the ‘music video’ title sequence, containing modern urban inflections of contemporary Indian hybrid youth subculture.

Ghosts of Youth Subculture: Between Postcolonial and Postmodern Gandu’s subversion of the pedagogical national narrative could be framed through the thesis that the film imagines a hitherto unrealised indigenous national youth subculture or counter-culture. Postcolonial Indian society, particularly in the 1950s and 60s, largely adhered to the directives of statesanctioned ‘traditions’ and ‘values’ and its preoccupation with the moulding of a cohesive new nation (Majumdar, 2012: 179). The liberated nation did not witness the formation of alternative urban youth subcultures along the lines of the ‘mods and rockers’ in the 1950s or the punks and skinheads in the 1980s in Britain. Such idiosyncratic movements would have been regarded as a Western ‘incursion’ into Indian culture and largely viewed with suspicion as alien cultural artefacts up until the onset of India’s globalisation in the 1990s and the advent of satellite television in the country (Banaji, 2013: 33, 37). There were several Indian-global cultural exchanges in the 1960s and 70s, largely through the matrix of the hippie counter-culture movement, typified by Ravi Shankar’s musical collaborations with the Beatles. However, the influence of this cultural movement on mass youth culture in India was either negligible or restricted to denizens of the urban bourgeoisie dabbling in the fashion, hairstyles and motorcycles of the day. When the American ‘flower-power’ generation’s Indian manifestations were culturally represented in commercial Hindi films, such as Hare Rama Hare Krishna (1971),

Rapping in Double Time  193 portrayals were invariably stereotypical or positioned in opposition to the traditional and religious dictates of Indian culture. Against this historiographical context, Gandu’s contemporary imagining of a rebellious youth immersed in non-indigenous rap and punk-rock culture provides a snapshot of post-liberalisation India. To a significant degree, Gandu is an adolescent urban by-product of India’s globalisation-induced contradictions, fractures and hybridity. He also characterises urban India’s increased access to global cultural media in the nation’s post-liberalisation era. Gandu’s obsession with the radical British-Asian band Asian Dub Foundation is shorthand for contemporary India’s heightened access to global cultural production. Symptoms of Gandu’s immersion in Western forms of music (rap, punk, rock and funk), albeit through his hybrid, glocal mode of expression in Bengali, can be related to the South Indian city Bangalore’s emergence as India’s ‘pub city’ and ‘rock capital’. This city’s post-liberalisation engagement with rock and heavy metal music (Saldanha, 2002: 340) is underpinned by its rising reputation as a lucrative performance venue for Western artists. Bangalore is now a recurring site on the touring itineraries of global acts such as Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and the Rolling Stones. Recent media articles have charted the growth of the city’s ‘rock music subculture’. The popularity of Western rock and heavy metal music in Indian urban centres such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi has contributed to a rising number of young middle-class votaries. However, these are still disaggregated groups that can be classified less as subcultures and more as hybrid cultural artefacts of globalisation that are situated within India’s overarching, ongoing process of neoliberalisation. This fragmentation in terms of disparate (sub)cultural formations exists largely because transitional formative hybrid subcultures in India are suspended in a liminal space between the dominant narrative of Indian traditionalism and the indiscriminate effects of globalisation (Saldanha, 2002: 346). The latter factor operates through the corporatising strategies of neoliberal frameworks and contributes to India’s already discrepant distribution of economic and cultural capital. It could be argued that this new version of subculture, exemplified by Bangalore’s ‘rock culture’, is largely sustained by neoliberal branding in India’s larger subsuming thrust towards globalisation. This branding involves a process of monetising and market expansion and—in the specific context of ‘exported’ subcultures—the commodification of purportedly alternative or non-conformist Western genres of music. These include rock and heavy metal (as they existed in the 1980s), themselves largely image-based franchises that have, since the escalation of globalisation, tapped into new Asian markets. This renewed, rebranded franchise includes band merchandise— T-shirts, posters, memorabilia—proliferated through aggressive marketing strategies and corporate-sponsored rock concerts. This branding of music subcultures is consistent with Slavoj Zizek’s assertion of ‘mass-media symbols’ enticing consumers to identify with the image created by the franchise

194  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram (Zizek, 1989: 96). This contention could be contextualised through Gandu in terms of the rock/rap ‘brand’ arousing the ‘idea’ or the image of a subculture and Gandu’s identification with it. However, there are no real, tangible means for him to connect with or feel a deeper and wider sense of belonging, identity or ‘authenticity’. Gandu, immersed in this imagined ideological connection with rap/punk subculture (his dreams of fame alongside Asian Dub Foundation), experiences a disconnection and falls into anomie when he cannot connect or relate in reality with his domestic and wider social milieu. This line of reasoning draws on Benedict Anderson’s (2006) concepts of ‘imagined communities’ and ‘imagined nation’ that describe how an intangible sense of kinship and ‘sameness’ is ideologically normalised without any real tangible commonality or faceto-face interaction between individuals. Partha Chatterjee (2004: 4) refers to this imagined sense of national unity as the empty homogeneous time of nation. Gandu does not fit into this unifying frame and hence retreats into a realm of solipsism and escapism. Gandu’s solitude and social stigmatisation largely arises from his obsession with rap music and his consequent creation of an imaginary realm of rap culture. This is an individual pursuit confined to the four corners of his room and the recesses of his imagination. This self-constructed musical ‘barrier’ insulates him from his mother, peers and even his friend Ricksha, who cannot fathom Gandu’s veneration of this alien form of music. Gandu’s solipsistic, self-indulgent, imaginary ‘subculture’ could be related to the current neoliberalism-inflected, music-oriented Indian urban youth subcultures in metropolises such as Bangalore. It could be argued that a collective or shared sense of commonality is paradoxically problematised by image-based signifiers. In other words, the simulacra manufactured by modern mass subcultures in the form of merchandising objects are essentially ‘signifiers that do not refer to a signified’ (Zizek, 1989: 97). Zizek uses Coca-Cola as an example of such signifiers that point to nothing in particular. Coke’s slogan, ‘Coca-Cola—it’s the real thing!’, is arbitrary because, as Zizek asserts, ‘it’ could refer to ‘excrement’ or ‘undrinkable mud’ (Zizek, 1989: 96). Gandu’s reference to an imagined or virtual ‘Indian’ rap culture is undergirded by the real example of the earlier-mentioned Bangalore rock subculture. This underlines modern hybrid Indian metropolitan formations’ reliance on arbitrary neoliberal signifiers, similar to Zizek’s Coke analogy. These signifiers include image-based branding, apparel and the MTV music video affiliations of modern rap/hip-hop subcultures. The object or cause of desire, the ‘unattainable something’ that forms Gandu’s unachievable wish for direct interaction with Asian Dub Foundation is contingent on his fulfilment of a market economy diktat—the sine qua non of getting signed to a lucrative record deal. This disjuncture between signifier and signified, virtuality and reality, causes him to retreat into an imaginary individual space and resort to drug-induced wish-fulfilment.

Rapping in Double Time  195 Through a cinematic lens, Gandu experiments with the ideological possibilities of rap/punk rock as a radical medium to articulate both the film and its protagonist’s anti-system sensibilities. To a large extent, these musical expositions represent the historically ‘absent’ Indian urban youth subculture and its current ‘ghostly’ reappearance in the form of Gandu; floating in a liminal space between tradition and modernity. Gandu’s ideological entrenchment, reflected in his unquestioning ‘belief’ in rap music, is conjoined with a material motive. This is indicated in Gandu’s drug-enforced delusions, where he sees as his apotheosis the act of getting signed to a record deal with Asian Dub Foundation, a globally recognised band. The adjunct to this desire for fame and fortune is Gandu’s desire to win the lottery ‘jackpot’. At the culmination of his hallucination, which is suffused with wishfulfilment, Gandu’s tripartite desires are achieved—sexual appeasement, lottery triumph and a record deal with Asian Dub Foundation. The inference from the above proposition is that the teenage Gandu himself embodies a liminal space, a spatial passageway suspended between ‘religious’ zeal for rap music and a neoliberal reality. He appears to be a microcosmic manifestation of contemporary India’s negotiation between the domains of cultural past and modern materiality. However, Gandu is separated from the majority Indian narrative by dint of his own ‘in-betweenness’ which is transgressive, mutant, hybrid and disjointed. Therefore, his anarchic rap music is extrinsic, inconsistent or ‘out of time’ with the traditional Indian religio-cultural national metanarrative. Consolidating the above points, Gandu faces exclusion because of his musical proclivities, his socio-economic state and his broken home. The schism between Gandu and society widens due to the lack of recognition and affirmation of any creative or musical talents he may possess; apart from the amusement value he holds for the young female cashier at Das Babu’s Internet café, who begs him to perform his ‘human beatbox’ routine. Gandu faces an absence of identification or connection with a larger demographic. He communes with his own constructions of an imaginary rap subculture in the confines of his mind. These contentions relating to Gandu’s angst-ridden alienation in contemporary India, as mentioned earlier, invokes the absence of endogenous, urban youth subcultures in India’s post-independence history. This absence consequently indicates the paucity of independent conduits or forums for adolescent Indians to express alternative or dissenting perspectives. A case in point is the banning of a YouTube video of a live comedy ‘roast’ show by young Indian stand-up comedy collective All India Bakchod (‘All India Bullshit/Bollocks’ [AIB]), followed by the filing of a police complaint against them (‘AIB Roasted’, 2015). This in turn gestures towards the homogenising mythic national narrative scripted by statist interventions after independence, particularly in the domain of culture. This absence in the nation’s past also implicates the current meta-hegemonic configuration of state-endorsed soft power that legitimises Bollywood’s current conjoined ‘traditional’ and

196  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram neoliberal cultural master narrative. India’s variegated cultural diversity notwithstanding, ‘the rigid confines of Indian classical music and escapist Bollywood make no provision for rebellion or any form of personal expression’ (‘Cheap Alcohol’, 2014). The film’s imagining of Gandu as a non-conformist youth whose rebellion is animated by a hybrid non-indigenous musical mix of rap and punk music with confrontational and explicit lyrics is therefore an inflection of alternativeness or ‘internal otherness’. Gandu’s subversive anti-establishment imagery sub-textually evokes both national past and present. In essence, the film’s discourse encapsulates the absence of alternative urban youth subcultures in India’s postcolonial past. The film’s disaffected protagonist, Gandu, signifies this absence in the nation’s present. This representation of absence contests the linearity of traditional Indian culture and society. The location of Gandu as a rebellious rapper and a personification of historically absent urban youth subculture evokes ‘ghosts’ of other elided or unrealised narratives in the scripting of nation. These disavowed ghosts haunt the interstitial spaces: liminal conduits in the nation’s purportedly linear development chronology. These spaces represent the transitory and suspended in-between states that contain ‘absences’ in the nation’s stages of ‘becoming’ and include the preclusion of indigenous urban youth subcultures from postcolonial past to present. These are the shadowlines bordering breaks in the linearity of postcolonial Indian historiography. Q describes this caesura in the flow of nation, rupturing India’s transition from postcolonial to postmodern: We have bypassed the modern era. We have jumped straight from colonial traditionalism straight into postmodernism . . . but that makes it very interesting as an artist to live here and work in this complex environment. (Q, personal communication, 2013) Q’s observation folds into Bhabha’s perspective that the current desultory and discrepant levels of global development are due to the incomplete process of decolonisation that was impeded by the Cold War (Bienal de São Paulo, 2012). This could be one of the factors that caused postcolonial nations like India to leap across the chasm from (post)colonialism to postmodernity.

Subversive Spectacle Ravi Vasudevan (2011) asserts that Bollywood films’ narrative structure consists of a disorganised version of Classical Hollywood—style continuity editing, heavily reliant on spectacle and ‘cultural codes of looking of a more archaic sort’ (Vasudevan, 2011: 100). In Gandu’s postmodern address, the cultural code of ‘looking’ is transgressive and confrontational, in opposition

Rapping in Double Time  197 to Vasudevan’s aforementioned observation of Bollywood’s antiquated, conventional codes. This emphasises Gandu’s resonance with the modern ‘time of liberation’ rather than the ‘mythic’ time of tradition that Bollywood ideologically sustains in its narratives. Bollywood’s emphasis on grand scale spectacle is often animated through saturated colour palettes, song and dance interludes that suggest sexuality, desire and libidinal pleasures. However, these films toe the boundary of Indian ‘morals’ and ‘values’, in relation to overt depictions of sex. Bollywood’s restraint, which is nevertheless interspersed with sexually suggestive imagery and lubricious codes, is largely due to its obligation to the traditional national narrative and commensurate with its role as purveyor of ‘wholesome family entertainment’. In an antithetical divergence from the Bollywood norm, Gandu provokes the primordial pleasure of looking by inducing, privileging and celebrating the voyeuristic gaze. The pleasure of looking is a recurrent idiom in the film’s narrative, from Gandu’s ‘sneak-peek’ at his mother and Das Babu having sex at the start of the film, to Gandu’s scopophilic pursuit of a woman who is an habituée of the Internet café. This woman is herself implicated in looking at her boyfriend through the computer screen interface. These representations of filmic voyeurism are transformed into a mise-en-abyme situation by the complicity of the cinematic audience enjoying the pleasure of a subversive, on-screen spectacle. In other words, the audience is watching on-screen individuals, such as Gandu and the woman in the café, who are themselves involved in the pleasure of looking. My personal reading of the discomfiture and premature departure of some viewers at cinema screenings of Gandu, is that this hasty retreat is symptomatic of the guilty pleasures imagined and elicited by the film’s explicit visuals. This reflects filmmaker Q’s strategy to present an unflinching, aestheticised suffusion of sex traversing the length of the film’s narrative. These overt expositions include scenes showing Gandu creeping in on his mother, who is locked in noisy shower sex with Das Babu, Gandu masturbating and the extended full-frontal sequence of Gandu having sex with a prostitute. Q’s authorial intent, gleaned from his interviews with the media, suggests his pre-meditated flinging down of the gauntlet against expurgation by regulatory powers such as the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC)—commonly regarded as the Indian Censor Board. His motivation in adopting an explicit, anarchistic, ‘guerilla’ approach to Gandu attests to the influences of radical, experimental and underground filmmakers such as Gaspar Noe, Harmony Korine and Filipino director Khavn De La Cruz (Q, personal communication, 2013). In effect, Gandu, performs a subversion of the enduring national notion of spectacle epitomised by Bollywood musicals. It could be stated that Q’s approach to Gandu attempts to combine elements of the sacred and profane in a unified space, in what he considers a frontal assault on archaic codes of supposedly inviolate Indian morals and

198  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram ideals (ibid.). Again, this subversive intent could be viewed as a double contestation of both the national pedagogical metanarrative and its dominant cinematic proponent, Bollywood. The co-existence of the sacred and profane in Gandu invokes one of the sacrosanct totems of the Indian national narrative, often reinforced by Bollywood’s meta-hegemony—the Mother figure. Cinema’s system of signs is trichotomised by Peter Wollen (1972) into three semiotic modes—iconic (signifier represents signified by similarity), indexical (measures a quality not by likeness but by intrinsic association) and symbolic (arbitrary sign, signifier has no direct or indexical relationship to signified) (Wollen, 1972: 142). Bollywood representations invoke the iconic religious associations of the revered Mother figure, who is indexical of lifecreation and symbolic of the nation—Mother India. The Mother in Bollywood films is enduringly portrayed as the fountainhead of wisdom, sanctifier of ideals, and the arbiter of moral rectitude. The paragon of virtue, she is constructed as a metaphor for ‘Mother Ganga’ or the sacred Indian river Ganges. From postcolonial times and in films such as Mother India (1957), India’s popular cinematic tradition has unswervingly perpetuated the narrative of the intemerate Mother as symbolic of the nascent nation. This concept of meta-hegemony broached in my monograph on new independent Indian cinema (2016) demonstrates how the baton of this postcolonial Indian national narrative was cinematically passed on to post-globalisation Bollywood. Gandu contravenes all three codes: iconic, indexical and symbolic in its portrayal of Gandu’s mother as indexical of failure; she is unable to embody a stable, inspiring figurehead. In this regard, Gandu’s conception of a flawed, fallen, morally compromised demi-monde Mother figure appears to fulminate against an essentialised Indian cinematic fetishisation of the Mother figure. As a corollary, the representation of Gandu’s mother could be perceived as an iconoclastic contestation of the postcolonial national master narrative of an inviolable Mother India. The film also contains explicit Freudian sexual tropes involving Gandu’s mother. Gandu’s adolescent sexual frustration is heightened by his voyeuristic observation of the young woman in the internet parlour. The frustration stemming from Gandu’s repressed sexuality is exacerbated by his domestic situation—the repeated exposure to his mother’s uninhibited sexual intercourse with Das Babu. The ‘absent father’ and oedipal feelings towards his mother propel Gandu’s sacrilegious foray into the ‘sanctum sanctorum’ of one of popular Indian cinema’s most mythologised symbols. The sacred space of the Mother is violated in the scene where Gandu indulges his habit of crawling into his mother’s bedroom and stealing from Das Babu’s wallet as the couple is engaged in sex. Gandu is suddenly spotted by his mother and their gazes meet. Mortified, she continues the coital act, drawing Das Babu closer to her to prevent disclosure of Gandu’s indiscretions, as well as to shield her own shame and trauma at locking eyes with her son. Gandu himself retreats to his room and breaks down in tears, devastated by the

Rapping in Double Time  199 guilt-ridden gaze. The reverberations of this incident persist in Gandu’s subconscious mind. In a later scene, Gandu performs the ‘unthinkable’ and ‘profane’ act of imagining sex with his mother. This is visualised when the prostitute with whom he is having sex in his hallucinogenic fantasy suddenly transforms into the superimposed image of his mother. Gandu instantly recoils and disengages on realising that his mother has encroached on his sexual fantasies. This scene extricates deeper psychological ramifications relating to the sexual repression and unfulfilled internalised libidinal drives that precipitate Gandu’s actions. The invocation of Gandu’s oedipal desires are reminiscent of a triune Hamlet configuration—weak and vacillating mother, absent biological father and incompatible ‘surrogate’ replacement—Das Babu. These factors contribute to Gandu’s ‘divided self’. This fracture reflects Gandu’s inner turmoil, his struggle between sacred traditional and postmodern profane. He is suspended in a limbo between an alienating ‘real’ world and an alluring chimerical fantasy realm. The binaries that are prominent in sculpting Gandu’s psychological profile invariably collide, resulting in his mental fragmentation. The resultant shards embed themselves in the disorientated imaginings of both the film’s mercurial central character and the defamiliarising instability of the film’s narrative itself. The Hamlet trope invoked here, extends to Gandu’s eventual descent into insanity and selfdestruction—drug-overdose acting as the postmodern substitute for poison as the cause of death of the ‘hero’. The collision between dialectics mentioned above is suggestive of the encounter between Gandu’s self with (M)other. It also highlights larger postglobalisation Indian socio-cultural ruptures, including inter-generational differences, the clash between gaps and disjunctures in India’s non-linear postcolonial jettisoning of modernity and the nation’s indiscriminate leap into the current consumer driven hyperreality of postmodern society (Q, personal communication, 2013). Q admits that his film intentionally grapples with the notion of fractured identities, particularly sexual identity, asserting that ‘every human being is fragmented and is many individuals. It’s again social control that forces a structured, mono-dimensional personality on an individual’ (Ahmed, 2012). Q argues that the growing demographic of young people in India and the pressures of social structures makes this theme especially relevant. These dilemmas and anxieties are echoed by New York South Asian Film Festival programme director Galen Rosenthal, commenting in relation to the festival’s screening of Gandu ‘Half the population of India is under-25. This is India’s baby-boomer generation. They’re really trying to break free of the cultural yoke they were living under’ (Dollar, 2010). The Wall Street Journal, whilst heralding the arrival of a ‘new wave’ of independent Indian cinema observes these films’ ‘burning need to express themes of immediate social relevance’ (ibid.). This interpretation is pertinent to Gandu’s filmic representation of sexual repression and cultural anomie, themes that interrogate the

200  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram national narrative. On a broader level, this affirms the perception that the new wave Indies share a common character by discursively engaging with India’s contemporary zeitgeist as ‘state of the nation’ films. Ruptures with the mythical national metanarrative are never comprehensive, as demonstrated by India’s current arbitration between tradition and materiality (Chatterjee, 1993: 5). The homogenising and monolithic propensity of the national narrative invests it with a resilient resistance to contestation. The character, Gandu, embodies a site of intersection and mediation between the sacred and profane. Despite his anomie, and disillusionment with his station and circumstance in life, he is nevertheless interwoven with the traditional Indian fabric of religiosity. This is evident in his offerings and obeisance at the local shrine to Kali, the matriarchal Hindu goddess of death. The film repeatedly invokes Kali as a symbolic leitmotif. She is represented in the Hindu tradition as having several avatars; not solely as the goddess of death but also as the custodian of time and change. Gandu’s nemesis—a simulacrum of the goddess Kali, appears to him with her blackened countenance and extended tongue, every time he has a drug-induced hallucination, almost like a malevolent personification of mythical time. Gandu’s Janus-faced devotions typify his divided self. He worships Kali, the benevolent dowager, during his diurnal moments of sobriety, and experiences the more macabre visitations by Kali, the harbinger of death, during his dark hallucinations. Sumita Chakravarty (1993: 6) sees goddess Kali as evoking an ‘in-between stage dividing day from night, the human from the sub- and superhuman realms, the socially marginal . . . from the well-to-do’. Gandu’s own ambivalence (profane rapper and conscientious devotee), therefore, reflects the encounter between mythical time and the ‘time of liberation’, between tradition and modernity. It is worth considering whether, ‘the masquerade of the goddess Kali as Mother India’ (Chakravarty, 1993: 121) represented in Gandu, functions as a counter­representation of the socially acceptable mythologised feminine personification of the nation, such as Radha in the iconic film, Mother India (1957). Gandu’s friend Ricksha on the other hand, supplicates to a custom-built shrine dedicated to a more unconventional icon—martial arts guru Bruce Lee. The ardent devotee Ricksha genuflects, offers flowers, and burns incense, all the while chanting ‘Om Lee’ (a parody of the Hindu word Om [‘God’]). He punctuates his venerations with ritual immersions in the river whilst chanting the martial artist’s name in the hybrid incantation—‘Om Lee’. Ricksha’s stylised idolisation is an ironic, intertextual postmodern device to evoke wry humour, counterpoising Gandu’s more serious religious devotion. In this context, it is interesting that the imperative omnipresence of religion in India inflects the narrative of even this irreverent, carnivalesque postmodern filmic text. The points discussed so far also stress the process of negotiation between the binaries embodied by Gandu and Ricksha, raising the question of whether Ricksha is Gandu’s alter ego—an imagined other of his split-self.

Rapping in Double Time  201

Film Style, Political Spectres and Self-Reflexive Subversion The aesthetic choice of filming Gandu predominantly in monochrome with momentary suffusions of colour to delineate Gandu’s fantasy sex scene, indicates Gandu non-mainstream filmic attributes. Black and white is a departure from contemporary Bollywood films that usually embrace a variegated and sometimes garish colour palette. Mixed monochrome and colour is also used in Kaushik Ganguli’s Apur Panchali (2014), an independent Bengali film tracing the journey of Subir Banerjee, the little boy who played Apu in Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali (1955). Along with Gandu’s use of chiaroscuro, it is interesting to consider whether the ‘ghosts’ of Ray and postcolonial Bengali art cinema aesthetic techniques can be glimpsed in Gandu’s minimalist mise-en-scène, framing and composition, particularly its shots of the iconic Howrah bridge in Kolkata. The bridge has been invoked in earlier postcolonial art cinema (Hood, 2009: 21–23) including Bimal Roy’s Do Bigha Zamin (‘Two Acres of Land’, 1953) and Satyajit Ray’s Parash Pathar (‘The Philosopher’s Stone’, 1958). Interestingly, Q states that he makes a conscious effort to avoid any influence from Ray, whom he considers to have exercised an almost obsessive over-indulgence in representations of poverty (Q, personal communication, 2013). In general, Q’s approach to Gandu appears to resonate more with the new Indies’ mitigation of India’s erstwhile ‘high and low’ Bollywood/Ray cinema schism by hybridising several indigenous and global styles. Any fleetingly identifiable artefacts of postcolonial Indian art cinema are contemporised by Q’s stylised subversive postmodern approach. Gandu therefore bears inflections of current transglobal influences: alternative and experimental filmmakers such as the aforementioned Gaspar Noe, Takashi Miike and Khavn de la Cruz (Q, personal communication, 2013). In terms of modes of production as well as strategies of film form and style, Gandu shares several common features with the new wave of Indies. Q highlights the presence of non-professional actors in his film, remarking that several characters, such as the lottery storeowner, were bona fide members of the public (Q, personal communication, 2013). This is akin to several villagers featuring as actors in Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live (2010) in addition to the film’s lead, Omkar Das Manikpuri, the son of a daily-wage labourer. Q asserts that the inclusion of real world participants or contributors accentuated the film’s engagement with ‘reality’ (ibid.). The element of spontaneity was a cornerstone in the construction of the film. Q reveals that the film was shot without artificial lighting, devoid of a pre-meditated script, using improvisation and a constant dialogic process between filmmaker and actors (Q, personal communication, 2013). He states ‘we were breaking all the conventions of shooting patterns. The film was made with a crew of eight people, a high-definition digital SLR (the Canon EOS 7D) and no script’ (Kamath, 2010). The budgetary sparseness informing the assembling of this film emphasises its divergence from elaborate, big-budget Bollywood

202  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram creations. The freeplay in terms of meaning creation, through a spontaneous approach to the film’s narrative and its decoupage in the editing room reinforces Gandu’s postmodern construction.

Politics and the Subaltern in Gandu In order to gain a deeper understanding of the self-reflexive postmodern socio-political strategies of representation in Gandu, it is necessary to provide a brief overview of the historical, cinematic and political contexts informing the state of West Bengal, where Gandu is located. The Indian state of West Bengal has maintained a distinctive socio-political idiom since colonial times. The election of a Marxist state government after independence was perceived as a divergence from the norms envisaged by the seat of power and policy—India’s capital New Delhi. Pranab Chatterjee (2010: 19) observes the Bengali middle-class ‘pride in being Marxist and opposing the centre’. However, the state has been beset with political instability after independence, including the imposition of ‘President’s rule’. The Marxist Left Front government established in 1977 continued for nearly 35 years (Chatterjee (2010: 20) stresses the popularity and importance of Bengali art and film in the early 20th century and argues that these art forms were later marginalised by the growth of Bollywood, which eventually became the centre of film production in India. He mentions Satyajit Ray’s influential filmic representations of Bengal’s rural condition as a result of the above ambivalent modernisation, or the attempt to represent the marginalised in a transforming cinematic culture. Similarities with Ray’s representations could be located in Gandu’s subversive representation of urban ambivalence in the contemporary transforming terrain of Indian cinema. Whilst Ray’s films were potent neo-realist statements on the predicament of the subaltern classes, several other Bengali filmmakers such as Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen adapted narratives from Marx, Brecht, Trotsky, Gogol and Hegel to the localised Indian context of impoverished farmers, marginalisation, displacement and migration following the partitioning of India (Das Gupta, 1991: 48). These Bengali filmmakers, the pioneers of early Indian ‘Parallel cinema’, emerged from the Marxist tradition of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (Hood, 2009: 5, 112) established in 1943 to reinvigorate rural Indian self-reflexive folk art. They turned to film in order to gain a larger audience, adapting the techniques of French Nouvelle Vague realist filmmakers such as Godard, and Truffaut and Soviet formalists like Eisenstein and Pudovkin (Ganguly, 2010: 24). Themes of poverty, disillusionment and marginalisation starkly represented in early postcolonial Bengali art filmmakers’ oeuvre are not always visually overt in Gandu. However, these elements are subtly interspersed into the film’s visual environment at key plot-points to accentuate the alienation afflicting the film’s peripheralised characters—Gandu and his rickshaw-puller

Rapping in Double Time  203 friend, Ricksha. This is highlighted in the scene where Gandu is invited by Ricksha to the latter’s squalid surroundings he calls home. In the rickshaw-puller’s slum habitat, pigs and humans live cheek-by-jowl and islands of excrement surround Ricksha’s dilapidated dwelling place. Gandu with his lower middle-class background cannot fathom how Ricksha lives in such impoverished conditions. This sequence effectively transports the viewer from Gandu’s rundown but relatively habitable neighbourhood into Ricksha’s subaltern domain of the urban slum—the fringes of India’s socio-economic reality. This sequence provides a cross-sectional visual index of India’s social divide and the marginal existence of subaltern classes in India. Gandu’s portrayal of everyday encounters across socio-economic shadowlines— the spaces in-between India’s multidimensional demographic is accentuated when Gandu and Ricksha are first introduced to each other through an accidental collision. As Gandu emerges round a blind corner, he clatters straight into Ricksha’s onrushing cycle rickshaw. This collision between lower middle-class Gandu and the eponymous rickshaw-pulling subaltern occurs against the canvas of the erstwhile ruling Communist Party of India (CPI Marxist) hammer and sickle insignia etched on a wall and clearly visible in the frame’s background. This scene is followed by a surreal shot of Ricksha and Gandu locked in supine embrace, almost like Siamese twins. This turns out to be a dream from which Gandu stirs in an agitated state. The implicit symbolism in Gandu’s disturbing phantasm revives earlier consideration of whether Ricksha is indeed a figment of Gandu’s delusions—his alter ego. Foregrounding the peregrinations of the two teenagers around the Howrah area of Kolkata, the film simultaneously visualises the backdrop of complex layers and gradations in modern Indian society. These are depicted in various spaces and places including aesthetically framed images of Howrah Bridge, Das Babu’s internet café, the sinuous lanes of Gandu’s lowermiddle-class locality, which is then starkly contrasted with Ricksha’s slum. The film’s selection of shots therefore provides background context. It also highlights similarities and differences in Gandu (ostracism) and Ricksha’s (impoverishment) shared ‘outsider’ status on the fringes of their common social space. Gandu is often depicted framed by windows and doors, symbolic of the restrictive circumstances constraining the fulfilment of his dreams. This trope of tight framing portrays Gandu as being trapped in an unsympathetic milieu, one that smothers his aspirations of escape from an unremitting socio-economic reality. The alienation and confinement experienced by Gandu also confronts his mother. Although she appears to revel in the pleasures of sex, cigarettes and alcohol within the frontiers of her home, she is nevertheless constrained by the reality of her total dependence on Das Babu for sustenance. In one scene, she lambasts Gandu for being a failure and not making monetary contributions to the upkeep of the house. In the process of castigating Gandu, she reminds him that Das Babu, as their benefactor,

204  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram pays for everything, including the roof over their heads. These themes of social fragmentation and anomie are interpolated with political overtones that resonate with the filmmaker’s sensibilities. Q reveals that for himself and the film’s co-writers, ‘this was always a political film’ (Q, personal communication, 2013), in terms of its intention to articulate dissatisfaction and dissent against socio-political systems and practices that the film’s creators consider governing factors for social exclusion. Q’s socio-political interventions in Gandu’s narrative are emphasised in several scenes through an almost subliminal motif. This is in the form of a background diegetic voiceover, ostensibly a political speech, apparently emanating from a tannoy and first appearing in a scene when Gandu proceeds to light a marijuana joint in his darkened room. He proceeds to have a coughing fit almost as if in reaction to the political diatribe. The everdroning speech resurfaces in the background of other scenes, as Gandu’s mother pops a morning after pill, and as Gandu leans out of a window whilst smoking only to be caught out by his mother. The ‘voice’ also frames the backdrop of an intense argument between mother and son, during which Gandu threatens to commit suicide and his anguished mother threatens to kill him before he can commit the act. Following these scenes, the sinister, implacable political drone is rendered visible through the conversion of speech to writing in the form of scrolling subtitles onscreen. This occurs in the scene where Gandu’s mother serves him food, whilst in the background the sonorous voice keeps up its incessant rhetoric. On this occasion, rapid scrolling subtitles traverse the screen accompanying the amplifying voice, simultaneous with Gandu and his mother’s conversation, entailing a double narrative as well as multiple points of possible viewer focus (Figure 10.2). In the babel of voices, the viewer is able to perform a découpage of the enigmatic political speech via the subtitles. It turns out to be a leftist call to fight systems of oppression and bring revolutionary changes to the political system. In an interview, Q reveals his deliberate intention to superimpose the political speech ‘on all the window scenes’ commenting on the speech’s growing intensity as ‘it gets louder and louder, and at the end it just takes over’ (Q, personal communication, 2013). It could be argued that there are sub-textual implications in Q’s strategy of repetitively cueing the acousmatic auditory motif of the speech to coincide with the film’s cloistered characters—mother and son, and their gravitation towards the liminal space symbolised by windows. Gandu seems trapped within his environs; literally and figuratively caged behind the window grilles. There is a separation between the interiority of his existence, circumscribed by the restrictive contours of his home, and the exteriority of an outside world that shuns him. This chasm is emphasised by the ominous, extraneous political monotone working in consort with the physical divider of the window. These elements seem to emphasise Gandu’s separation from the ‘real’ world. It could be argued that the

Rapping in Double Time  205

Figure 10.2  Scrolling subtitles.

interjection of political symbolism in the above scenes is connotative of the enduring metanarrative typified by the state of West Bengal’s communist political legacy, and the ‘ghosts’ of its failure to materialise or reify the social equity envisioned and prescribed by its Marxist ideological underpinnings. The apparently casual almost anodyne inclusion of the ‘political voice’ in Gandu could be indicative of the disjunctures endemic in the lives of the state’s marginalised objects, Gandu, his mother and Ricksha, at the microlevel. The ‘voice’ illustrates larger fractures in terms of the inefficacy of the political apparatus whose ideological credo theoretically espouses equitable distribution of wealth, social welfare and justice for all, and yet fails to crystallise these ideals, thereby contributing to the continued alterity and alienation of some of the state’s marginal citizens. This is rendered all the more pertinent in light of the growing popular discontent in West Bengal with the current leader Mamata Banerjee and her ruling Trinamool Congress who replaced the protracted rule of the Left Front. The ruthless suppression of popular dissent is instantiated in the Trinamool Congress colluding with local police in launching an assault on peacefully demonstrating students from Kolkata’s Jadavpur University (Basu and Ghosh, 2014). The turbulent vicissitudes in West Bengal’s political trajectory frame Gandu’s enunciation of rebellion and its representation of the fragments of failed and failing political systems, past and present. Q attributes Gandu’s nihilistic discourse to the collective rationale of the film’s creative team. He asserts ‘it was about giving it back. We are just standing against everything. We don’t know what the answer is—we are

206  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram “Gandus” we don’t accept this shit’ (Q, personal communication, 2013). Q also reveals that the film’s political ‘call to arms’—the speech leitmotif— was based on the actual rhetoric of a left-radical speaker (ibid.). To some extent, Q’s above-mentioned authorial expression of epistemological nihilism informs the film’s framing of Gandu and Ricksha as perpetually aleatory fragments, wandering in an aporetic state of chaotic undecidability. Importantly, the mostly inconspicuous deployment of the political speech in Gandu is analogous to similar devices implanted in other Indies to evoke the marginal micro-narratives of the nation’s past and present (Devasundaram, 2016: 109–123). These inflections interspersed in the films’ main narratives serve to conjure the latent, embedded phantoms of past sociopolitical narratives of resistance, grassroots movements, marginalised individuals and social groups that have been elided, disavowed or effaced, and haunt the present (also see Chapter 14 in this volume). Some of the devices in new Indies include the ghostly vision of the ‘disappeared’ brother in Harud’s Kashmir, the migrant Muslim girl Yasmin’s video diaries in Dhobi Ghat (2010), and Fernandes’s dead wife’s recorded VHS tapes of pre-satellite television era Doordarshan (India’s state television channel) comedies in The Lunchbox (2013). Gandu joins these Indies in conjuring some of the absent narratives in India’s historiographical timeline. In the process, the film also addresses its specific local Kolkata/West Bengal context.

Falling Into Mise-en-Abyme: Postmodern Self-Reflexivity One of the key self-referential postmodern moments in the film is when Gandu and Ricksha leave the city behind and embark on a surreal drugdistorted journey. The camera tracks their road trip along desolate terrain, as the disorientating psychotropic effects of the low-grade heroin they have imbibed finally plunges them into a blackout. They wake beneath the sprawling foliage and gnarled branches of a banyan tree. Appraising their new environs, the two boys spot an elderly man seated a few feet away from the imposing tree, declaiming verses of Bengali poetry. The man appears to be clairvoyantly cognisant of the preternatural circumstances surrounding the boys’ soon to be revealed assignation at the big banyan tree. Offering them a morning cup of tea, the Oracle-esque man calmly informs the lads that a well-known filmmaker Q is en route to see them in relation to a film he is shooting, called Gandu. This introduction of the absurd and surreal into the narrative intensifies when Ricksha, also apparently clued-in to the entire subterfuge informs Gandu he is the eponymous subject of Q’s film. The bewildered Gandu is flummoxed by the revelation that he is a pawn, an unwitting and malleable patsy in the grand scheme of things. As Gandu and Ricksha, similar to Samuel Beckett’s Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting for Godot, bicker about the grotesqueness of the situation, a white car

Rapping in Double Time  207 appears in the distance in long shot, slowly moving towards the frame. The car stops and a figure in sunglasses steps out. The man raises his arm, which is attached to a camcorder and begins to film the boys from a distance. We, the audience, suddenly become aware through an editing cut that we can now see Gandu and Ricksha’s point of view (from behind them) as they bemusedly return the gaze of the silent figure filming them. So, in essence, we are watching Q filming Gandu and Ricksha through his camcorder whilst at the same time being able to watch the two boys looking back at Q. This contrivance is revealed when the screen splits to unveil the invisible source providing the ‘Gandu and Ricksha POV [point of view]’: a cameraman stationed behind them. It is now possible to reorientate the earlier constellation of how we viewed this sequence of events. The first shot (Figure 10.3) originates from behind the boys and facilitates spectator perception of Gandu and Ricksha in the foreground and Q in the background of frame. The next frame (Figure 10.4) dispenses with the boys so we see only Q, filming over the distended door of his car. The overall artifice is revealed in the subsequent reverse shot from the filmmaker’s camcorder point of view. Q’s reverse POV, which appears in the left-half ‘letter-box’ panel of a split screen (Figure 10.5) reveals the source that enabled us to gaze at Q from the two boys’ perspective—the camera operator standing directly behind the duo. As if to dismantle the elaborate conceit or surreal illusion created in this scene, the left-half ‘letter-box’ panel of the split screen is balanced by the appearance of a right-half ‘letter-box’ frame, creating a diptych (Figure 10.6). This right-hand panel completes the cycle and reverts to the original POV from the ‘hidden’ camera stationed behind Gandu and

Figure 10.3  Gandu’s and Ricksha’s POV.

208  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram

Figure 10.4  View of Q filming.

Figure 10.5  Second camera revealed.

Ricksha. There are several intricate threads to unravel in the deconstruction of this scene, including the film’s recurrent strategies of defamiliarising viewer expectation and destabilising meaning. In this regard, it is worth investigating the technical modalities implemented whilst filming this singular sequence and examining the multiple layers of meaning it contains. Firstly, this filmic sequence is another example of cinematic mise-enabyme—an infinite loop generated using the notion of a film within a film. The audience is engaged in watching through the metaphorical ‘lens’ of

Rapping in Double Time  209

Figure 10.6  Mise-en-abyme diptych.

the cinema screen, Gandu and Ricksha in the foreground, who are in turn watching Q in the distance, as he himself is engaged in ‘watching’ the two boys through the LCD screen of his camcorder. In the first instance, the audience picks up the POV of the cameraman standing behind Gandu and Ricksha, whose camera lens in turn captures Q in the background. The focus of Q’s reverse shot is on Gandu and Ricksha, but in the process also includes the camera operator positioned behind the boys. Therefore, Q’s gaze is directed into and received by the cameraman’s lens. The assistant cameraman filming from behind Gandu and Ricksha and thereby providing the cinema spectator with Gandu and Ricksha’s POV appears to complete the loop by looking back through his camera lens at Q and his camcorder in the distance. However, the loop does not terminate upon returning to Q. Instead, it is infinite because it returns to us, the audience, as we ultimately look back at Q. This entails an unending cyclical chain, owing to the proposition that Gandu has been made aware he is being watched by the world, that he is the object of both the filmmaker and hence the filmmaker’s audience’s gaze. This abstract theme could be understood utilising two analogies. The first is Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas, where the painter is portrayed on canvas as engaged in the act of painting Spain’s King Philip IV and Queen Mariana, who we can see vaguely reflected in a distant mirror (Figure 10.7). A mise-en-abyme is generated by Velázquez staring out at the Royals, who return his gaze and whose presence is affirmed by their reflection in the painting’s background, which is perceptible to us. The monarchs return Velázquez’s gaze and also figuratively return our gaze through the interface of the mirror.

210  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram

Figure 10.7  Las Meninas, by Diego Velázquez, Prado Museum. Source: Google Earth.

In a filmic example, Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (1998) depicts a scene where Jim Carrey’s character Truman Burbank realises he is the object of a universal gaze and that his life is being perennially broadcast as daily entertainment across the globe. When enlightened to this deception, Truman looks directly out at the hidden camera filming his life. By so doing, he also stares back at his ‘creator’ in the film, television producer Christof (Ed Harris), and at us, the audience, complicit in the voyeuristic gaze. Gandu’s similar employment of the self-reflexive device of mise-en-abyme is another postmodern marker alongside earlier-mentioned pastiche and

Rapping in Double Time  211 bricolage integrated into the formal and stylistic attributes of the film. Gandu’s use of mise-en-abyme could be related to the poststructural proposition of aporia. This theme was invoked at the early stages of this chapter, whilst demonstrating the arbitrariness of the signifier gandu in the vox populi sequence. Derrida’s notion of aporia involves the perpetual deferral of meaning into an endless ‘reflexivity without depth or bottom’ (Royle, 2003: 92), an ‘unending experience of the undecidable’ (ibid.) where any unitary stable fixed logos of meaning is rendered impossible. A similar theme could be identified in the mise-en-abyme of Gandu’s complex defamiliarising sequence, where the film audience watches film characters being filmed by the film’s creator. Arguably, this sequence provides an insight into the wayless pointlessness or sheer randomness of Gandu’s existence. At a deeper level, this scene demonstrates the arbitrariness of the very act of cinematic viewing, as a practice that entails an unfathomable, indiscriminate infinitude of meanings that cannot be fixed into one single unassailable or irrefutable reading. In the context of this study’s postcolonial theoretical focus on marginalised narratives, the sequence where Gandu confronts his own objectification is an important instantiation of Gandu’s articulation of self. The scene has a pivotal transition point, when Gandu squarely faces the camera, confronts the controlling and manipulating agent, in this instance Q and the wider society (the film’s audience) that Q represents. Gandu’s reaction is an example of Althusser’s concept of interpellation, where the ordinary individual walking on the street is hailed by an authority figure (in Althusser’s metaphor this is a policeman) shouting out ‘Hey, you there!’ (Althusser, 1971: 173–74). By turning around to acknowledge the police officer’s hail, the individual at once becomes both an object as well as a subject. He becomes the subordinate object, malleable to the directives of the authoritative voice, and at the same instant, becomes a subject of discursive strategies of the state’s subjectification of society. In the above sequence, Gandu, who has thus far been the object of vilification and derision, both at home and in his immediate social space, appears to have been pushed to breaking point. He turns his questioning gaze not only to the abstract ‘source’ of his condition and his general objectification, but also turns to figuratively face the ‘exploitation’ and ‘subjugation’ by his invisible ‘creator’, the ‘author’—Q. By raising his camcorder to film Gandu, Q has initiated the process of interpellating or hailing Gandu— ‘Hey, you there!’ By turning to face the interrogating eye of Q’s camcorder, Gandu affirms his identity and by that token confirms his objectification. An abstract parallel could be drawn with playwright Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author, where the characters from an author’s drama script, corporeally materialise into the world and demand their author’s recognition by asking him to cast them as actors in the play. The writing of India’s modern urban narrative of progress and neoliberal enterprise arguably peripheralises several actors from the master narrative

212  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram of its construction. It writes and moves on. Gandu and Ricksha are examples of societal detritus left in the wake of majority narratives. Ricksha falls into this category as a subaltern slum-dweller—always-already at the socioeconomic margins. Gandu, an urban outcaste is displaced to the periphery of social discourse due to his antecedents in the form of his familial circumstances as well as his failure to deal with his situation and extricate himself from a state of despair. When Ricksha reveals to Gandu that he is the object of Q’s filmmaking project, Gandu bursts out with an angry riposte. This follows his possible realisation that even his unconventional name and hence his identity—Gandu—is the construction of an external authority, and therefore even this titular source of daily debasement is not his own. This entails his enslavement at a primordial level. Gandu’s verbal expostulation and visual confrontation following the realisation of his appropriated identity, constitutes his most distinctive act of resistance in the film’s narrative. Overall, it is interesting to note that Gandu, the lower-middle-class subject, can vocalise his resistance through rap music, whilst Ricksha, the bona fide subaltern, cannot speak and remains silent.

Note This chapter appeared in its original form in India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid (Routledge, 2016). 1. Gayatri Spivak’s use of the term catachresis is summed up by Tani Barlow: ‘I understand catachresis to be the occulted (i.e., concealed, hidden from view, condensed, made difficult to read) evidence of normalizing strategies’ (Barlow, 2004: 32).

References Ahmed, S. (2012). The Fuschia Tree. Available at: www.thefuschiatree.com. Available at: www.thefuschiatree.com/259/Q-On-Questioning-Answers/fullview [Accessed 19 November 2014]. ‘AIB Roasted: Democracy Cannot Survive If We Ban Humour and Comedy’. (2015). India Times.15 February. Available at: www.indiatimes.com/news/india/ abroasted-democracy-cannot-survive-if-we-ban-humour-and-comedy-230010. html [Accessed 04 September 2015]. Althusser, L. (1971). ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses’, in Althusser, L. (ed.). Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays. New York: Monthly Review Press, pp. 127–188. Anderson, B. (2006). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (3rd ed). New York: Verso. Banaji, S. (2013). ‘A Tale of Three Worlds or More’, in Henseler, C. (ed.), Generation X Goes Global. New York: Routledge. Barlow, T. (2004). The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Basu, S., and Ghosh, D. (2014). ‘To Break Jadavpur University VC Gherao, Police Molest Students’, The Times of India. 14 September. Available at: http:// timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/To-break-Jadavpur-University-VC-gherao-policemolest-students/articleshow/42743274.cms [Accessed 28 September 2014].

Rapping in Double Time  213 Bhabha, H. (1994). The Location of Culture. Oxon: Routledge. Bienal de São Paulo. (2012). Interview with Homi Bhabha. [video] Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym2dPYqIvmA [Accessed 02 January 2013]. Chakravarty, S. (1993). National Identity in Indian Cinema 1947–1987. Austin: University of Texas Press. Chatterjee, P. (1993). The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Chatterjee, P. (2004). The Politics of the Governed. New York: Columbia University Press. Chatterjee, P. (2010). A History of Ambivalent Modernisation in Bangladesh and West Bengal. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. ‘Cheap Alcohol, an IT Crowd and Low Taxes: How Metal Got a Hold in Bangalore’. (2014). The Guardian. 7 April. Available at: www.theguardian.com/ music/ musicblog/2014/apr/07/heavy-metal-bangalore-india-iron-maiden [Accessed 27 September 2014]. Das Gupta, C. (1991). The Painted Face: Studies in India’s Popular Cinema. New Delhi: Roli Books. Derrida, J. (1976). Of Grammatology. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. Derrida, J. (2001). Writing and Difference. London: Routledge. Devasundaram, A. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Dhingra, R. (Producer) (2011). We the People: Love Sex and Cinema (television broadcast). 13 November 2011. New Delhi Television Ltd (NDTV). Dollar, S. (2010). ‘Kids Take Over the School’, Wall Street Journal. Available at: www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303467004575574493202168 2624493202168262.html [Accessed 19 November 2014]. D’Silva, E. (2011). ‘Is Q India’s most Dangerous Filmmaker?’ CNN Travel. Available at: http://travel.cnn.com/mumbai/life/q-indias-most-dangerous-film maker-161252 [Accessed 19 November 2014]. Ganguly, K. (2010). Cinema, Emergence, and the Films of Satyajit Ray. Berkeley: University of California Press. Gopal, S., and Sen, B. (2008). ‘Inside and Out: Song and Dance in Bollywood Cinema’, in Dudrah, R. and Desai, J. (eds.), The Bollywood Reader. Maidenhead, Berkshire, UK: McGraw-Hill. Harvey, D. (1990). The Condition of Postmodernity. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers. Hood, W. J. (2009). The Essential Mystery: Major Filmmakers of Indian Art Cinema. New Delhi: Orient Longman. Kamath, S. (2010). ‘A Telling Tale’. The Hindu. 1 January. Available at: http:// www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/a-telling-tale/article1021623.ece [Accessed 19 November 2014]. Majumdar, N. (2012). ‘Importing Neoliberalism, Exporting Cinema’, in Giovacchini, S. and Sklar, R. (eds.), Global Neorealism. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. Mazierska, E., and Rascaroli, L. (2003). From Moscow to Madrid: European Cities, Postmodern Cinema. London: I.B. Taurus. Monaco, J. (2009). How to Read a Film. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. Q, personal communication. (2013). Interviewed by Ashvin Devasundaram [in person], Mumbai, 27 July 2013.

214  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Royle, N. (2003). Jacques Derrida. London: Routledge. Saldanha, A. (2002). ‘Music, Space, Identity: Geographies of Youth Culture in Bangalore’, Cultural Studies, 16(3): 337–350. Vasudevan, R. (2011). The Melodramatic Public. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Wollen, P. (1972). Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Zizek, S. (1989). The Sublime Object of Ideology. London: Verso.

11 Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity Quizzing Marathi Cinema Aarti Wani

More than a decade after Shwas (Sawant, 2004) ushered in the ‘independent’ cinema movement in Maharashtra (Wani, 2013), Sairat (Manjule, 2016), hit the screens breaking all records of blockbuster success in recent times. In a matter of weeks, the popularity of the film made it the highest grossing Marathi film ever, and plans for remakes in Punjabi and South Indian languages were announced. Although, unequivocally a big budget commercial venture, Sairat (wild or wildness) is not the usual popular film. In fact, bringing together, thematic, aesthetic and financial energies and resources from mainstream as well as independent cinema practices in Maharashtra, its engagement with the popular ‘romance trope’ has elements of unconventional meta-cinematic reflexivity. My intention here is to unravel the weave of its linkages with the various cinematic conventions to argue that the film’s knowing investment in the popular form coupled with a radical imagination of feminine agency allows the emergence of a newer politics of the popular. I will do so by reading the film’s relation to the ecology of the contemporary popular, to the broader trends in Marathi cinema and to contemporary independent cinema practices. Sairat narrates a story of the passionate, but, ultimately, doomed romance of college going youngsters, Archana Patil aka Archi (Rinku Rajguru), a powerful ‘uppercaste’ landlord politician’s daughter and Parshant Kale aka Parshya (Akash Thosar), a ‘lower caste’ fisherman’s son. The romance unfolds in Bittergaon, a village in Yawatmal district in Maharashtra. Archi and Parshya are classmates in the first year of college and despite the differences of caste, social standing and wealth, fall in love with each other. When their love is discovered, Archi’s father and brother, with the help of their henchmen and extended family of uncles, try to violently separate them. However, Archi’s impetuous courage and presence of mind save the lovers who escape to Hyderabad. After many difficulties and struggles in an alien place with little money, they soon find their feet with the help of Suman Akka (Chhaya Kadam), a single mother running an idli/dosa counter, who protects them and offers them a home in the slum she lives in. Despite an initial period of adjusting to an alien atmosphere and life of poverty, the many responsibilities of adulthood and the consequent misunderstandings

216  Aarti Wani and fights, love triumphs and soon Archi and Parshya get married, find jobs, and become parents to a son. However, Archi’s phone calls to her mother discloses their location to the rest of her patriarchal family, and the couple is brutally murdered by her brother and uncles in the film’s gruesome end. A ‘classic love story’, Sairat, cashes in on one of the most popular themes in Indian cinema (Sahani, 2016). Star-crossed love is a subset of the broader category of romantic love films, and such films have often been big mainstream hits. Regional cinemas too, including in the Marathi language have drawn on the trope of romance, although probably not as spectacularly and consistently as Hindi cinema. Indeed, as Manjule himself observes, as far as Marathi cinema is concerned, classic romances are rarely seen on Marathi screens (ibid.). Hence, when Manjule, sensationally mounted Archi and Parshya’s passionate romance in Sairat, he was breaking new ground in more ways than one. Sairat is the first Marathi film to be released with English subtitles in some of the major cities across the country, and the first to be released overseas in the United Arab Emirates and South Korea. In Maharashtra it created a storm and stories circulated of youngsters jumping onto the stage to dance to its wildly popular songs and music. Some cinemas were compelled to hold extra shows at 3 am.1 The film is said to have grossed Rs. 110 crores (around 12 million GBP), which, if nothing in comparison to Bollywood blockbusters, or South Indian films for that matter, is unprecedented for Marathi cinema. The film’s success appears almost scripted. In an interview with Ravish Kumar (2016) on Prime Time, Manjule said that having made Fandry on a similar theme, he now wanted to make a film that people actually went to see in theatres.2 Manjule started his film career with the independent feature Fandry about a Dalit boy, Jabya’s, impossible crush on his uppercaste classmate. Though Fandry had received critical acclaim, it had bypassed popular audiences. A narrative of star-crossed love, Sairat too, is a searing indictment of caste inequality and oppression. Interestingly, by mobilising a popular form, Manjule was able to garner a national audience for a film that included features of Marathi independent cinema.

The Marathi Indie The evolution of the independent cinema in India across national, regional and linguistic markets and spaces is by now a critical common sense. If terms like ‘hatke’ or off-beat are popularly used, scholars have weighed in on the technological, spatial, financial and aesthetic contours of the phenomenon (Devasundaram, 2016; Wani, 2013; Mazumdar, 2010). While some features commonly seen in many indie films are—smaller budgets, first time actors, directors from outside established filmy families, themes and stories different than those popularised by mainstream ‘formula’ films, realism and/or hybrid form, increasingly, major studios and big stars are also becoming involved in this ever-mutating phenomenon. Among regional

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  217 cinemas, Marathi cinema is commonly understood to have been at the forefront of the indie movement. The first decade of this century saw the beginnings of Marathi independent cinema. It is notable that in the years prior to this moment, the Marathi film industry had been experiencing a longish fallow period. Through the 80s and the 90s up to the first few years of the new century, mainstream film production saw a sharp decline, even as a few off-beat films did make it to the screen.3 Indeed, since the very beginning of cinema in Maharashtra, the trajectory of the Marathi film industry has been uneven due to its peculiar geo-economic overlap with the Hindi film industry stationed at Bombay (now Mumbai), the state’s capital. The relatively bigger budgets and higher production values of Hindi films, the glamour of its stars and Maharashtrian spectators’ easy grasp of Hindi proved disadvantageous for Marathi cinema, which, as a result, was compelled to negotiate between ‘nationalist concerns and regional representations’ (Ingle, 2017). Over the years, and increasingly since the eighties, even as the popularity of Marathi films declined steadily, the handful that did get theatrical releases were by and large comedies, supernatural or horror films and domestic dramas. Since the beginning of the new century, however, the new realities of capital and markets feeding the indie movement, also gave a fillip to mainstream Marathi cinema, gradually putting the flagging Marathi industry back on radar. In this evolving scenario, some filmmakers are making both kinds of film; moving with ease between the thematically unusual indie and the more mainstream formulaic Marathi as well as Hindi film. Manjule started his film career with the Marathi indie circuit. As mentioned earlier, before Sairat, he had debuted with the independent feature Fandry. Elsewhere, I have located the emergence of Marathi independent cinema within the matrix of the larger techno-cultural transformations underway in the Marathi public sphere in the wake of neoliberal globalisation (Wani, 2013). Intriguingly, the filmmakers themselves look at their work as an opportunity for self-expression. Evidently, in the times of global capital inflows, when multi-national corporations and big studios enter and shape Marathi cinematic tastes and markets, a crop of filmmakers have been able to claim a personal creative and expressive space. For instance, in an interview with the filmmaker-writer duo, Umesh Kulkarni and Girish Kulkarni, the former says, ‘Our stories come from within us and it’s always a new exploration of our own selves. We make stories that come from our lives’ (Savanal, 2015). Distinguishing their practice from their predecessors, Kulkarni further adds that there are a lot of young filmmakers who are addressing their own individuality through their films. Earlier there were only two kinds of films. Either they were commercial like those of Ashok Saraf and Laxmikant Berde or they used to be based on social issues. (ibid.)

218  Aarti Wani Similar sentiments are expressed by some of the other filmmakers as well.4 With reference to Fandry, Manjule too maintains that his childhood experiences of belonging to the ‘lower’ Vadar caste were pivotal to the making of the film. Along with critical acclaim at home, Fandry also gained global visibility on the international festival circuit. On the one hand, Fandry can be said to belong to a group of films within the region’s indie movement that are thematically centred on a child or children. I have earlier explored the unconventional narrative and visual measures mobilised by these childcentric films to engage with the newer realities of a rapidly transforming everyday; the figure of the child becoming the matrix of desire, sexual and/ or in relation to the region’s landscape in the wake of neoliberal changes in the cultural economy of the region (Wani, 2016a). To be sure, Fandry’s international visibility distinguishes it from the other films of this childcentric trend/genre. What explains Fandry’s crossover appeal for a wider national and international audience? Speaking of Jabya’s experiential universe in Fandry, Manjule states that the caste reality depicted in the film describes his own childhood and adolescence in a village in Maharashtra. He elaborates that although Jabya is not strictly young Nagraj, since, his personal trajectory was different due to his father’s determination to educate him, his father and indeed his whole extended family of the Vadar caste, were like Jabya’s family of the Kikadi caste, forced in the hierarchically organised village economy to undertake degrading ‘unclean’ labour of catching pigs (Kumar, 2016). If like other indie films, Manjule’s film too draws on his own experience and is equally a form of self-expression, it nevertheless stages a powerful critique of one of most enduring fault lines in India’s social fabric, viz. caste hierarchy and oppression. Its realist framework coupled with lyrical cinematography masterfully rendering little Jabya’s struggles, struggles that have global resonance in terms of its concerns with human rights and justice, probably accounts for its appreciation in the international festival circuit.5

Sairat’s Two Modes In a certain sense, Sairat can be said to take off where Fandry ends. If Fandry’s is the narrative of Jabya’s unspoken love in a world divided by caste hierarchies, Sairat’s Archi and Parshya bravely overcome all obstacles and unite, only, to be tragically murdered in a brutal honour killing at the end of the film. Both films are framed by the realities of caste in Maharashtra, and both films explore the affective universe of love in a caste-ridden society. Not surprisingly, Sairat too is supposed to be Manjule’s own story, in that it draws on his youthful encounter with romantic love. However, here the similarities end. In contrast to Fandry’s low key realist aesthetic, Sairat is a spectacular romantic drama that twines two distinct aesthetic and performative modes. The first half of the film, tracing the start and

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  219 blooming of Archi -Parshya romance is in the popular, larger than life, melodramatic mode complete with songs and dance. The second half, after their thrilling escape to Hyderabad is framed by realism akin to the realist trend visible in contemporary indie cinema. However, Sairat’s audacious formal strategy is not confined to welding two cinematic modes across a narrative split, but extends to reflexively folding its popular big budget aesthetic and industrial values into a fluid gender imaginary. In terms of the theme of star-crossed love, production values and big budget, Sairat is fashioned on the lines of Bollywood films, while, in terms of its weaving its love story with social issues, it has antecedents in Marathi cinema as well. Historically, romantic love has had limited presence in Marathi cinema and the few films on the subject tended to be about married love, thus, tied to the concerns of family and domesticity. At the same time, a few mainstream and indie films stand out for knitting their narratives of romance with concerns of social difference and otherness, and these, I suggest, are likely forerunners to Sairat. For instance, an early film like V Shantaram’s Manoos (1939) is an outrider in this trend. With the effervescent romance of a police constable, Ganpat (Shahu Modak) with a prostitute, Maina (Shanta Hublikar), Manoos drew attention to questions of social morality, innocence and corruptibility, even as its narrative resolution separating the lovers, conceded to the middle-class values it seemed to question. Manoos made on the cusp of the forties, long before the advent of the Parallel cinema movement, can be seen as a harbinger of the rare Marathi off-beat film’s thematic engagement with romance as transgressive of society’s norms and values. In the nineties, Mukta (1994), directed by Jabbar Patel, explored the triumphs and difficulties of love across caste barriers. It is, however, Jogwa (Patil, 2009) that truly ventured into uncharted territory in its staging of romance between lovers, who are both cultural outcasts. A contemporary indie, Jogwa, exploring the traditional space of religious ritual and cult practices, forays into the fringe world of the devotees of goddess Yellamma; a cult still seen in parts of Karnataka and Maharashtra, the devotees of the goddess effectively impose sexual slavery on some of its members. Young girls and boys are forced to become jogtin and jogta respectively, and are thence barred from regular marriage and family life and must earn their living by asking for grain from door to door. In a peculiar twist of societal norms, boys offered to the goddess are denied their masculinity, by being forced to drape a sari the rest of their lives and like their female counterparts are essentially expected to be sexually available to men. Jogwa mobilises a realist- melodramatic lens to engage the site of the cult practice through the love story of Suli (Mukta Barve) and Tayyapa (Upendra Limaye), two youngsters forced into the service of the goddess. Through melodramatic excess that locates family, community and tradition in opposition to individual aspirations and desire, Suli and Tayyapa are both configured as victims of a condition beyond their understanding and control. Further, by investing the sari clad Tayyapa’s body with meaning,

220  Aarti Wani Jogwa makes the male body the site of its critique of patriarchy’s manipulative mechanisms. Clearly, on the one hand, Sairat can be said to belong to this ‘genre’ of films in Marathi that have foregrounded the obstacles in the path of love in a patriarchal society deeply divided along the lines of caste, class and gender. More generally, in our social context, where romantic love is ‘absent as quotidian experience from the lives of a majority of Indians’, essentially because its practice is discouraged and often brutally opposed, sometimes even with honour killings (Wani, 2016b :3), filmic love stories can be read as fantasies of various kinds—of modernity, of escape and transcendence, of devotion and sacrifice, etc. At the same time, as is the case with the examples discussed above, films have narrativised the actual obstacles to love within the framework of realism. Films like Devdas (Roy 1955) and Sujata (Roy 1959) are examples of realist melodramas in Hindi, highlighting the social barriers encountered by lovers in hierarchically organised community life of the citizens. Interestingly, however, Hindi cinema has also rendered the travails of love in the larger than life format, deploying the theme of star-crossed love, with melodrama, spectacle, thrills, action, imprisonment and death; Mughal-E-Azam (Asif 1960), Bobby (Kapoor 1973), Ek Duje ke Liye (Balchander 1981), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (Khan 1988) being some examples. With a love story embedded in the tissue of caste, how does Sairat negotiate the popular? Manjule, it appears, has an uneasy relationship with Bollywood. Stating that ‘Bollywood subverted the real to create stereotypes and myths’, he speaks of his fascination for Bollywood as well as a sense of personal disconnect- ‘I have watched a lot of Bollywood but never felt it showed me on screen’ (Joshi, 2016). In another interview he speaks of Bollywood stereotypes that gave him a sense of inadequacy—‘I could only picture myself as the villain in Bollywood. Only villains had names like mine. . . . Not only was I from a lower caste, I was also dark and not conventionally “good looking” ’ (Sharma, 2016). However, Manjule also acknowledges the power of Hindi cinema to anaesthetise and provide an escape. Not surprisingly, Sairat harnesses the pleasures of the popular, even as its casting, characterisation and performance undermine dominant representational conventions. Further, by containing the popular form to the first half of the film it disturbs and unsettles habitual expectations of closure. Sairat’s most important concession to the popular form is the songs. Needless to say, one of the foremost reasons for the film’s extraordinary popularity has been its music. It is the first Indian film to have its music recorded at the Sony Scoring Stage at Hollywood.6 With a soundtrack that includes Western classical pieces, woven into Marathi lyrics in a rural dialect, the film’s music is an example of the self-reflexive, hybrid aesthetic of the film that welds the popular with the alternative, the ‘real’ with the fantasy. Scholarly discussions of the narrative and affective role and place of songs in Hindi cinema as interruptions, parallel pleasures and melodramatic

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  221 excess have assumed their fantastical unreality (Gopalan, 2002; Vasudevan, 1989; Morcom, 2007). Naturally, parallel or indie cinema committed to realism have by and large steered clear of songs in the form they long had in mainstream films; actors/characters lip synching to playback numbers. In recent years, some mainstream as well as hatke/indie films have started including songs as background score rather than lip-synched. Even as this new format becomes the norm, the emotive and expressive function of songs; giving voice to feelings, thoughts, experiences that cannot be communicated via rational discourse remains unchanged. Elsewhere, drawing on Richard Dyer’s (1992) understanding of the utopian in entertainment, I argued that songs in films allowed ‘the experience of exuberance, movement, intensity and expression as fantasies of liberation from the largely constrained and constricting social atmosphere and intercourse’ (2016b: 82). Speaking of the inclusion of songs in the film, Manjule too articulates his understanding of their utopic charge, when he says that songs are valued by audiences, since there is no song in their lives (Kumar, 2016). Songs are a part of the narrative, visual and sonic architecture of the first half of the film. Bringing together clever lyrics, folksy tunes, Western classical musical pieces and orchestral sounds, the songs, accompanied by breath-taking visuals, expansive landscapes, dizzying camera movements, slow-motion photography and performance of desire produce the affective universe of Archi and Parshya’s romance. What is singular about the Bollywood aesthetic mobilised in the first half of Sairat is that this language of excess is intertwined with realistic characterisation and location. The film renders its characters—the lead pair as well as others and the ordinary, dusty and constrained small-town texture of the world they inhabit— the college, the homes, the language and the dialect and the contrasting landscape of poverty and wealth in realistic detail. Unlike the heroes and heroines of Hindi cinema, Archi and Parshya are regular teenagers studying in a small-town college. Continuing his indie cinema practice of casting non-actors, as he did for Fandry, Manjule is said to have searched far and wide in rural Maharashtra to find the faces and body types he wanted for the lead pair. Explicating the juxtaposition of realist detailing of character and location with the visual and sonic excess of songs, Manjule says that it renders extraordinary the love of the ordinary couple, Archi and Parshya (Kumar, 2016).

Gender Play Significantly, if in their realistic ordinariness, Archi and Parshya are figured unlike the stars—the heroes and heroines of popular cinema, in terms of their gendered performativity, they challenge as they destabilise gender categories established by the Marathi cinematic universe. Marathi cinema, like most other popular cinemas—Hindi, Hollywood—has been hero driven and thus, necessarily invested in masculinity. From the very beginning of cinema

222  Aarti Wani in Maharashtra, images of men as heroes of narratives unfolding in public and/or private realms have entertained audiences, thereby allowing a mediated, performative playing out of the rituals and anxieties of masculinity in an unequal, patriarchal culture. In effect, the role of the female opposite, though not insubstantial was secondary to that of the hero—as his love interest, as the reward at the end of his heroic trajectory, or as the victim or damsel in distress to be rescued.7 It was only in domestic dramas that female characters assumed centrestage in narratives of familial strife and reform. The ‘new’ or independent cinema movement early in the century, disappointingly, did little to change this. Thus, even as Marathi indies’ innovative themes steering clear of romance, domestic melodramas or comedies are lauded, it needs to be noted that it continued, indeed, intensified its investment in masculinity. Films like Dombivali Fast (Kamat, 2005), Valu (Kulkarni, 2008), Gabhricha Paus (Manwar, 2009), Natrang (Jadhav, 2010), Balgandharva (Jadhav, 2011) and Kaul (Keluskar, 2016) explored masculinity in ways that expanded the thematic horizon of Marathi cinema into the public sphere beyond the private realm of home and love.8 Concerned with male identity and performance in the context of work and labour, including creative labour, these films narrativised the male protagonists’ aspirational or destructive trajectory beyond the domestic sphere into the realm of the social and in relation and/or conflict with other masculinities. Suffice to say, female characters play marginal roles in these films. Although, Manjule’s Fandry too, along with the rest of the child-centric films, is equally a part of this masculinist drive, to the extent the film is a love story, unlike other indies, it not only revisits romance, but can also be said to carry the seeds of Sairat’s unusual narrative and affective strategies.9 According to Manjule, ‘Sairat is Archi’s story. The hero, Parshya, is secondary’ (Joshi, 2016). Indeed, the film effects an overturning of gender norms, including standards of beauty, established by popular cinema. Between the two, Parshya is the more conventionally ‘good looking’, while Archi, though not unattractive is big boned and relatively ordinary.10 Not surprisingly, the film carries through its reversal of the binary—beautiful passive heroine/ strong active hero in the narrative and performative economy of the film. After Parshya impresses Archi with his looks, intelligence and wooing, Archi takes over and drives the narrative of their romance. Unlike other heroines, it is she who rides the motorcycle or drives the tractor. Sassy and bold, taking initiative in planning and executing their rendezvous and first to say ‘I love you’, her performance of desire is transgressive of norms of female propriety. Conversely, Parshya’s gentle good looks and powerlessness accrues to him a feminine vulnerability. Even later, after their affair is discovered and violently opposed, it is Archi, who runs away from home with money and jewellery, fiercely defends Parshya and his friends in the police station when her father tries to get them arrested under a false charge of her gang rape, and on an impulse, fires a bullet at a family member to rescue Parshya, when he and his friends are being brutally attacked, to finally escape with him.

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  223 One of the most striking images in the film is of the dark silhouettes of fleeing youngsters; a ragtag bunch, against the backdrop of the horizon on fire. In fact, the image, part of a series that track their attempt to escape, framing wide expanses of sky or water and winging birds with an urgent soundtrack suggestive of thrill and danger, exemplifies the film’s harnessing of popular cinema’s spectacular visual and sonic regime to subversive ends. To be sure, the film’s gender bending is grounded in the reality of the lead pair’s social location it constructs. Archi’s confidence and arrogance are aspects of her position in the village, she is, after all, the daughter of the wealthiest and most powerful man in Bittergaon, while, Parshya’s education and good looks, taking him as far as Archi’s heart, account for nothing in the omnipresence of caste patriarchy in the village. At the same time, there is no gainsaying that Sairat’s understanding of reality fuels a utopianism that would imagine another world. In Archi is evident an imagination that seeks to counter ‘this world created by men, ruined by men’ with women who will ‘build the world or mess it up’ (Joshi, 2016). The lovers’ heroic escape could appropriately be the happy-end of a film celebrating romance. In Sairat, it only ends the Bollywood aesthetic of the first half. Once in Hyderabad, Archi and Parshya’s struggles—their attempt to find lodgings, food, the roaming on the streets and finding shelter in bus stands, their helplessness when attacked at night by goons, and the gradual building of their lives from scratch with the help of the good Samaritan Akka, is rendered in realistic detail without the Bollywood gloss. As the framework of realism, associated with contemporary indie or the Parallel cinema of yesteryears, reveals the detritus of the big city—its crowds, slums and traffic, and the quotidian labour of staying alive, what seems to be siphoned off from the screen along with the songs and the visual magic of the first half, is romance itself. Nevertheless, Archi and Parshya’s love is resilient and is shown to bring them everyday joy and contentment even as they are sucked into the anonymous work force of the vast modern city. Here too, Archi emerges the stronger in love. Although initially, having been born to wealth, she finds life in the slum disgusting and intolerable, she soon adjusts to these reduced circumstances. Indeed, it is Parshya, whose ‘hidden male’ surfaces momentarily in jealous rage at one narrative point, soon overcome by the realisation of his need and dependence on Archi. After this, the template of their life together unfolds as that of a young gender equal couple comfortably making the new city their home, until, of course, feudal patriarchy comes knocking, once again.

Politics of the Popular? Beyond equations of success, Sairat’s braiding of the two aesthetic modes, splitting the narrative diegesis, generates a productive tension. Undoubtedly, the film’s strategic use of the popular form succeeded in drawing the audience, which then, hooked to Archi and Parshya, was forced to confront

224  Aarti Wani ‘the reality’ of love in a caste-ridden world. However, the pressure the two filmic modes, the popular and the indie, exercise on each other is aporic, raising questions about the relation and role of cinematic forms, melodramatic or realistic, to the socio-cultural life worlds of the audiences they seek to entertain. Is the popular too farfetched, its dreams inaccessible to the ordinary? Is realism too burdened with reality, offering no hope?11 In the film, Archi and Parshya, having narratively inhabited the popular form have dared to claim the ‘dream of love’. When their murderers come walking to the couple’s unsuspecting door, they are ghosts from the past, stepping out of the melodramatic, gun wielding frame of the first half of the film, appearing harmless in their casualness, like long lost family desirous of reconciliation. The two worlds—the feudal village and the modern city, fantasy and fact, are not that separate, after all? I would like to aver that it is to skirt the tangle of the two modes that the film takes recourse to symbolism in the very last scene. Archi and Parshya’s baby boy, who is with a neighbour when the visitors arrive, returns to their two-room house and toddles into the kitchen, to discover, along with the audience, his parents’ dead bodies. Even as the camera moves from the boy’s tearfully crumbling face to the sordid murder- the mutilated bodies of his parents on the tiny kitchen floor, sound evacuates the screen. With a completely silent soundtrack that also mutes the boy’s uncomprehending cries, the camera follows him out of the house and steadies on the red marks on the ground before going dark, marks made by the boy’s naked feet soaked in his parents’ blood. I suggest that Sairat’s braid of popular and indie modes affords the emergence of a new politics of the popular. More than anything else, by reinventing romance and the feminine agency central to its transgressive force, the film queries Marathi cinema’s limited and skewed traction with femininity. Through Archi, the film, not only questions the secondary roles and oppressive standards of beauty enforced by Marathi cinema, but in fact opens a conversation regarding cinema’s transformative possibilities. According to Manjule, ‘of all battles—Hindus versus Muslims, Dalit versus upper castes. . . . Gender is the bigger battle’. Is Sairat the director’s first creative blow to ‘this male- dominated world’? (Joshi, 2016). Moinak Biswas is not optimistic about popular cinema post neoliberal economic changes in the last decade of the 20th century. Drawing attention to its refashioning in the aftermath of the decline of the parallel cinema movement and with that the parallel-mainstream divide as well as the 1990s market reforms and the subsequent corporatisation of film finance, exhibition modes, etc., he says that there is a ‘tendency of the market forms to assimilate styles, techniques and themes of the minority alternative films’ (2014). Opining that this cinema is no more ‘popular’ in the sense of the 50s and 60s popular; the people or the heterogeneous masses having been dispersed, he further warns that the assimilation of the ‘social content’ into the popular form in fact produces a cinema of consensus, thus leaving a void in the imagination of the political. As far as the political is concerned, while

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  225 dismissing the popular, Biswas pins his hopes on the resurgence of an alternative cinema practice, which will draw on the not yet assimilated aspects of the new wave, such as, ‘non-dramatic contemplative narration’ (2014: 26). Biswas’ insights, while illuminating certain contemporary trends and pointing to future possibilities, leave the popular and its audiences out in cold. However, my reading of Manjule’s critical engagement with entertainment, knitting popular and indie modes, embodied in Sairat’s gender reflexive harnessing of the pleasures of the popular, while questioning its distance from the quotidian reality of love in caste society, allows a cautious rethinking of the popular as also a probable site for politics.

Notes 1. It is the measure of the film’s popularity that a Sairat insignia has spawned the youth market for backpacks, tee-shirts, two-wheelers etc., cafés and stalls are being renamed after the film, but also a group of students have started a network called Sairat Marriage Group to support inter-caste and inter-religious marriages and to help runaway couples, www.thebetterindia.com/57175/ sairat-inspires-group-protect-runaway-married-couples/ 2. Prime Time is NDTV Hindi’s evening news show hosted by Ravish Kumar. After Sairat’s success Manjule was constantly interviewed on Marathi television channels. But being hosted on the national channel is probably a first for a Marathi film director. 3. For instance, only two Marathi films were released in theatres in 1997. Some of the off-beat films released during these decades are—Jait re Jait (Patel, 1977), 22 June 1897 (Patwardhan & Patwardhan, 1979), Akriet (Palekar, 1981), Umbartha (Patel, 1982), Mukta (Patel, 1994), Doghi (Bhave & Suktankar, 1995) Bangarwadi (Palekar, 1995), Limited Manuski (Patwardhan & Patwardhan, 1995), Dhaysparva (Palekar, 2001) and Dahavi Fa (Bhave & Sukhtankar 2002). 4. For instance, Ravi Jadhav, who made an indie like Natrang (2010) and earlier worked in advertisement, says ‘Films gave me a bigger canvas to express myself, but advertising taught me a few important things—for instance, every scene in my film is like a complete ad’ (Ramnath, 2016). 5. Amongst indie films, if some like Fandry reach a global audience, others remain relevant only to the Marathi public sphere because of their localised themes and contexts. Similarly, Court (Tamhane, 2015), a Kafkaesque critique of the Indian judicial system undergirded by caste prejudice, which premiered at the 71st Venice International Festival, is an example of a film that could speak to a national as well as international audience. The fact that the in recent years the Indian caste system has become an international issue because of its controversial cognizance by the UN, is probably also the reason why films that artistically draw attention to caste are able to resonate with an international audience. 6. Ajay-Atul, the film’s music director team are said to have recorded the symphonies with an orchestra of 66 musicians as 45 string section, six-piece woodwinds, 13 pieces of brass including a six-piece horn section and one harp. It was conducted by the renowned Mark Graham (TNN, 2017) 7. The tamasha film, a genre based on folk performative traditions is an exception to this, since the tamasgirin, a female performer central to the tamasha, was narratively pivotal to the films. 8. Jogwa, discussed earlier is a likely exception to this indie norm. 9. It is essential to note that even though a few of the child-centric films do have girl characters, these narratives too are predominantly centred on the male child.

226  Aarti Wani 10. Manjule has discussed the film’s casting in various interviews, arguing that he doesn’t believe in zero-figure ideals of femininity popularised by media. He also says that it should be fine if the boy is prettier than the girl, because this is not unusual in real life, which is not bound by imaginary norms of beauty (Waghmare, April 2016). 11. In this respect the Hindi independent, Masaan (Ghaywan, 2015), exploring two parallel love stories set in Banaras, is a comparable example of realism’s difficulty with romance. On one hand, the film’s narrative, performative and musical ecology produces a sense of romantic love’s precarity, particularly in small-town India. On the other, however, it narratively sidesteps actual opposition from caste patriarchal family, by taking recourse to accidental/ sudden death. Thus, although the film intimately and heartachingly details the lived reality of Banaras—its old-world charm and beauty and its myriad constraints; moral policing, caste barriers, lack of opportunities as well as the transformative potential of new internet technology, in what seems to me, bad faith, love itself is not even allowed a fighting chance. This is because the lovers, one from each pair, absurdly die even before love actually blooms, let alone meet their adversaries as they otherwise would.

References Biswas, M. (2014). ‘For a Political Cinema to Come’, Economic & Political Weekly, XLIX(33), 16 August. Devasundaram, A. I. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Dyer, R. (1992). Only Entertainment. London and New York: Routledge. Gopalan, L. (2002). Cinema of Interruptions: Action Genres in Contemporary Indian Cinema. London: BFI Publishing. Ingle, H. (2017), ‘Marathi Cinema: Notes Towards a Liminal History’, Asian Cinema 28(2): 199–218. Joshi, N. (2016), ‘I want a Break from this Male-Dominated World’—Nagraj Manjule’, The Hindu. Available at: www.thehindu.com/opinion/interview/iwant-a-break-from-this-maledominated-world/article8566426.ece [Accessed 04 January 2016]. Kumar, R. (2016). ‘Media Is Talking about Beef & Mutton? Debate on ‘Sairat’ Movie’, Prime Time. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgvLPSZJH9o&t=1935s Mazumdar, R. (2010). ‘Friction, Collision and the Grotesque: The Dystopic Fragments of Bombay Cinema’, in Prakash, Gyan (ed.), Noir Urbanisms. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, pp. 150–186. Morcom, A. (2007). Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema, SOAS Musicology Series, Aldershot, England: Ashgate. Ramnath, N. (2016). ‘After Wooing Marathi Audiences, Ravi Jadhav Plays a New Tune with ‘Banjo’’, Scroll.in. Available at: https://thereel.scroll.in/816964/afterwooing-marathi-audiences-ravi-jadhav-plays-a-new-tune-with-banjo [Accessed 18 October 2017]. Sahani, A. (2016). ‘Discrimination Exists Everywhere in India: Nagraj Manjule’, The Indian Express. Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/ regional/discrimination-exists-everywhere-in-india-nagraj-manjule/ [Accessed 08 January 2018]. Savanal, A. (2015), ‘Umesh & Girish Kulkarni On Highway, Their Creative Collaboration & The Resurgence of Marathi Cinema!’, Jamura. Available at: www.

Sairat’s Transgressive Femininity  227 jamuura.com/blog/umesh-girish-kulkarni-on-their-films-new-age-marathi-cinema/ [Accessed 19 December 2017]. Sharma, K. (2016). ‘Only Movie Villains have Names Like Mine: Sairat Director Nagraj Manjule’, Hindustan Times. Available at: www.hindustantimes.com/ regional-movies/only-movie-villains-have-names-like-mine-sairat-director-nagrajmanjule/story-11sG7GmFBSjblydjwHPhdO.html [Accessed 01 January 2016]. TNN. (2017). ‘Sairat’ Is Maiden Indian film to Record Symphonic Orchestra in Hollywood’, Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/entertainment/marathi/ movies/news/Sairat-is-maiden-Indian-film-to-record-symphonic-orchestra-in-Hol lywood/articleshow/51586577.cms Vasudevan, R. (1989), ‘The Melodramatic Mode and the Commercial Hindi Cinema: Notes on Film History, Narrative and Performance in the 1950s’, Screen, 30(3): 29–50, summer. Waghmare, S. (2016). ‘Nagraj Manjule Interview for Sairat/Story of Sairat’, News Mantra. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8ndM-GCbAg Wani, A. (2013). ‘The New Marathi Film’, Economic and Political Weekly, XLVIII: 11, 27–30, 16 March. Wani, A. (2016a), ‘ “The Child” of New Marathi Cinema’, Studies in South Asian Film & Media, 7: 1+2, 59–70. Wani, A. (2016b). Fantasy of Modernity: Romantic Love in Bombay Cinema of the 1950s. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.

12 Untold Stories, Representations and Contestations Masaan (Crematorium) and Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love) Sangeeta Datta Introduction Choosing two disparate films by debutant directors, set in two different urban locations, my chapter will analyse the diversity of emerging independent film content, their treatment of ordinary stories and the fascinating polarities that map and shape lives in contemporary India. Contemporary independent films in India constitute a movement similar to the arthouse or Parallel cinema movement of the seventies. Responding to mainstream Hindi cinema that offered a homogenised and fantasised concept of India, Parallel cinema of the 70s sought to depict the nation in its diversity of cultures and language, many of which were products of regional cinema (Datta, 2005). Similarly, the new independent films explore the socio-political dichotomies of globalised India. Blurring the lines between mainstream and independent cinema, the new “Indie” film tells untold stories about laypeople through the cinematic lens. In essence, narratives of human interest, often based on real life events, are presented in this new genre. The Indie has been rapidly revising the notion of mainstream cinema or Bollywood—defined as big scale family drama with stars and fantastical song and dance. Indeed, the Bollywood cinema of romance and family ties that was celebrated in global terms even a decade ago is now, like Cinderella’s ball, a thing of the past. The year 2017 has been a definitive year for content-driven Indie realist film. Ashvin Devasundaram (2016) writes about the rapid reorganisation and re-orientation of the modern Indian cinematic domain, which ‘resonates with broader transformations in the socio-economic, geopolitical and cultural Indian landscape’ (Devasundaram, 2016: 17). Turning away from the big Bollywood narratives, indie films have particularly explored untold stories of the marginal and subaltern. Like the 70s arthouse cinema, there is a shift in terms of identity, gender and socio-cultural perceptions. Devasundaram comments on this ‘hybrid’ combination of mainstream Bollywood and arthouse production values:

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  229 This assertion of the new Indies’ concatenation of formal and stylistic attributes from India’s two enduring film traditions raises the notion of hybridity in the new wave of Indian Indies. (Devasundaram, 2016: 17) Set between rural/urban divides and small city/ big city binaries, Indie films like Aligarh (2016), Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016), Newton (2017), Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation, 2016) and A Death in the Gunj (2016) examine the issues of identity, implicated by caste, class and gender. This chapter will examine themes of identity in flux, aspirations of social mobility and the forces which still regiment their moral universe. It will demonstrate how Indie film narratives revolve around complex contradictions of a traditional nation galvanised by globalisation and technology. This chapter will also examine how independent cinema challenges a largely misogynist and patriarchal mainstream psyche and radically transforms female subjectivities. The ‘sanitization’ of home space in Bollywood cinema (Gopinath, 2005) has led to simplification of female representations, such as the idealised mother or wife. It could be argued that Indie cinema liberates female identity and presents complex, nuanced characters as portrayed in Anurag Kashyap’s Dev.D (2009), Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), That Girl in Yellow Boots (2010), Q’s Gandu (2010) and Land of Cards (2012). Indies also highlight the prominence of female directors just as they diverge from normative representations of gender. Anusha Rizvi (Peepli Live, 2010), Leena Yadav (Parched, 2015) and Alankrita Shrivastava (Lipstick Under My Burkha, 2016) offer non-normative and transformative female protagonists. Gender fluidity is sensitively handled in Onir’s I Am (2010), Kaushik Ganguly’s Just Another Love Story (2010) and more recently in Hansal Mehta’s Aligarh (2016). In order to explore the above-mentioned themes, this chapter will discuss in detail the Hindi film Masaan (director Neeraj Ghaywan, 2015) and the Bengali film Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love, director Aditya Vikram Sengupta, 2015).

Two Riverine Tales: Masaan Masaan deals with lived reality in the holy city of Varanasi (formerly Benares), class/gender inequality and the paradox of technology and tradition when fast-paced modernity invades a city of religious rituals and ancient values. The film offers two parallel narratives of individuals trying to forge new futures in the face of societal pressures. Dreams of romance and fantasies about sex get shattered but the path for charting individual lives seems to open up. Masaan is the Hindi word for burning grounds or crematorium, here, precisely the Harischandra Ghat in Benares. The Hindu belief is that the

230  Sangeeta Datta departed soul attains sure salvation if the last rites are performed in this space beside the Ganges. The ghat (steps going down to the river) is thus a physical space separating land and river, life and death and offers a metaphorical space for death and separation as well as for release and new life. Evoking this space, the film offers two tragic narratives of two protagonists, trapped in the confines of a rigid caste system and patriarchal values. One is a retired Sanskrit teacher’s daughter; Devi, the other is Deepak, the son of the cremation ghat owner. Their worlds are different, and they intersect but only once before the film’s last scene. They are linked by death, devastation and purgatorial experiences Devi (Richa Chadha), a computer trained typist has plans to leave her father’s home and set up an independent life in another town. She is curious about sex and plans a rendezvous with an outstation university student whose thesis she is typing. Her father, formerly a Sanskrit teacher, now sells ritual goods in a stall by the river. The film opens with Devi watching porn in her room. Her female agency is therefore established with definition and focus right at the outset. As dawn breaks, she steps out of her house, changes into a sari in the public toilet and joins her boyfriend, Piyush, to enter a sleazy hotel While an offscreen television news voiceover announces the death of a boy mauled by a tiger in the zoo the couple get intimate. In the next shot they are seen having sex, and are interrupted rudely by insistent knocking on the door. The police break open the door, and accuse the couple of illegal behaviour. In a violent scene, the police drag half-naked Piyush to the wall and beat him mercilessly. The female police constable pulls Devi by the hair while the officer takes a video of her, ostensibly for the purpose of blackmail. The officer grills Devi, assuming she is a sex worker. The constable breaks open the bathroom door to find Piyush has slit his wrists and is bleeding profusely. Devi watches horrified as he is carried out of the room. The policeman orders the female constable to dress the girl and take her to the police station. For a moment the camera rests on Devi as it all sinks in with a sense of finality. She is then hauled to the police station, while the neighbours stare and film on their phones. As Devi is driven away in a police van she sees Piyush’s body being taken away on a stretcher. What would have been a furtive sexual escapade turns out to be a shocking, humiliating and tragic turn of events. The viewer is shocked and appalled at the outcome of what initially seemed to be an innocent sexual encounter. As mentioned earlier, the agency of the young girl is privileged in the narrative sequence. Devi watches porn, steps out of her house, takes a rickshaw, changes clothes in a public toilet, meets Piyush who takes her to the hotel. This idea of the sexually curious or sexually active woman also has precedence in another independent film Dev. D (director Anurag Kashyap, 2009), where the village girl Paro carries a mat to the fields for a rendezvous with her lover, and actively indulges in sex and sexual banter. The new indie films, as markers of contemporary reality in India, strongly register openness about sex, so Devi, who is curious

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  231 about sex and freely walks into a hotel for a sexual liaison embodies this openness. In her YouTube show ‘Film Companion’, critic Anupama Chopra (2015) writes, ‘The first fifteen minutes are so startling and sad that you sit up and wonder what next? Director Neeraj Ghaywan and writer Varun Grover construct a tapestry of bruised and broken lives’. Actor Richa Chadda (Nahta, 2015) comments on the singularity of the script and strong treatment of the character Devi’s perspective. The film challenged established conventions of Indian cinema in its writing of female agency and sexuality. Chadda reveals ‘Neeraj brought the script to me two years ago. We were not sure if it would ever get made but I told him I was with him. The screenplay was very interesting and the role challenging’ (ibid.). The second narrative unfolds with a young man, Deepak Kumar (Vicky Kaushal) reaching home from college. He washes his hands and feet customarily from a basin full of water and walks up to the floor above to wake his sleeping brother; he is wanted at the ghat. At Harischandra Ghat, the funeral pyres are burning and more biers are brought in. It is a busy time and Deepak tells his father his brother is coming soon. The boy lights a flame from a funeral fire and carries it home. The kitchen fire is ritually lit with this fire. This one gesture locates the family’s caste affiliation. Deepak is the son of the Domraja (Dom are the low caste ‘untouchables’ who ritually burn the dead and are ostracised from mainstream life and other castes). The third character, retired Sanskrit teacher, Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) is introduced next. The scene cuts to the old man sitting next to his daughter, Devi, in the police station. The police officer emphasises that Devi seemed intent on satisfying her sexual curiosity. He harps on the shame she has brought to her father. He also warns that with Piyush’s death there will be further legal complications. In short, he asks Pathak for a large bribe, which the latter can ill afford. The issue of family honour, which Devi’s father feels obliged to protect, becomes all important, as the officer threatens to blackmail him. Masaan therefore offers a mosaic narrative meshing together portrayal of a low caste boy in love with an upper caste girl, a daughter’s struggle against her public sex scandal, and a father’s shame and slow loss of morality. It deals with a motley group of characters trying to escape the moral stranglehold and corruption of the old city. Set in present day Varanasi, the location encapsulates the paradox of neoliberalism. The holy city, the caste system, the duplicitous moral codes are all played off against the innocence of the blooming romance of the young couple—Deepak and his upper caste girlfriend, Shaalu. In the Durga Puja (festival of goddess Durga) scene, the young couple buy red balloons. In a wide shot, over the crowds two balloons float up with the background song by the band, Indian Ocean Tu kisi rail se (You pass by like a train, I shake like the bridge under). This idyllic sequence is enhanced by aesthetic imagery of a bustling environment. There is a ritual betting game going on at the ghats where little boys jump into

232  Sangeeta Datta the water to collect coins thrown into the river by pilgrims. This vibrant atmosphere is interrupted by a sequence in which Devi gets a call from the computer coaching office at which she is employed. Her boss makes lurid, sexual remarks alluding to the scandal, but Devi refuses to be shamed. She eventually confronts him directly and resigns. As the boss turns more abusive, crowds gather outside the office door. This is only the beginning of a catalogue of lewd sexual harassment that Devi has to face. Her father eventually helps her get another job in a school. Here, an office clerk who knows her secret makes open sexual advances and threatens to divulge her secret. In this regard, Masaan provides strong insights into pervasive misogyny that is normalised in a patriarchal society. The film also uses the mainstream trope of a young man (Deepak) wooing a girl (Shaalu), but through contrasting use of social media and classical poetry, juxtaposing social hierarchies and disparate financial conditions that threaten to divide the two star-crossed lovers. The issues of female and caste identity and the struggle against orthodox family and community norms are therefore played out against the backdrop of the flowing river Ganga. The theme of caste-division is also foregrounded in a sequence where Shaalu’s family departs on a pilgrimage. When the bus stops for a break, she steps outside and calls Deepak. She tells him that her high caste parents will not accept Deepak, but she promises to be with him at all costs. She exhorts him to get a good job and she is even willing to elope with him if necessary. Deepak is on a boat ride with his friend. As the couple talk to each other over mobile phones, the boat passes each ghat looking magical in the night with distant lights flickering on the water. There is a dreamlike gossamer web in the air as Shaalu says she will marry Deepak. Deepak subsequently writes his exam and completes his job placement interview. He is shaken up from an exhausted sleep as his brother summons him to the ghat. Suddenly they see corpses lined-up in the middle of the night. As a body is prepared for last rites, Deepak notices a red ring on the righthand finger of one corpse. In the background people talk of a serious accident, a pilgrim bus has overturned in the river and there is not a single survivor. A horrified Deepak pulls away the sheet revealing the dead Shaalu’s face. Stupefied he falls to the ground. His silent expression as he holds her lifeless hand, his bafflement as the body is covered with wood moves into a long shot of him sitting desolate by the pyre as it burns. With the shadowy bridge in the background and fire in the front, a group of Deepak’s young friends wrap themselves around him as his heartbroken sobs rend the night air. On a moonlit night, Benares looks beautiful with lights glistening in the water. Deepak throws the ring he has recovered from Shaalu’s corpse into the water. Then he dives into the water searching for it. As he surfaces he sees a lotus floating by him. The song in the background is about searching for the elusive fragrant soul which is lost in worldly matters. After wandering on the banks all night when dawn breaks, Deepak finds closure. He gives his interview and gets a job in the railways in Allahabad.

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  233 Devi also moves on with her life. Pathak borrows money and pays a second instalment to the blackmailing cop. After serendipitously finding the ring belonging to Shaalu and selling it, Pathak is able to eventually complete paying off the bribe. Devi gets a job in the railway services and decides to leave Varanasi to take up her new position in Allahabad. Devi leaves for Allahabad, as her departure is framed by a wide shot where trains cross tracks at the station junction. In an act of attempted reconciliation, Devi finds Piyush’s house and goes in to meet his parents. The house is held in a long shot as she enters, and voices can be heard inside. The father’s angry voice is heard before he breaks down sobbing. Devi finally finds closure as she floats the gift box given to her by Piyush in the waters. She weeps, while Deepak who is present coincidentally on the steps of the ghat, watches her. Their two narratives finally meet on this ghat of another city. The boatman offers them a ride. Both climb onto the boat, and their metaphorical boat moves on. The sun is seen low in the sky and the waters are gilded with light. Devi and Deepak have been such lonely individuals, struggling against their given circumstance; they now reach out to each other. The song Man kasturi rey continues in the background, and deals with the search for the scented soul and the fact that the two shattered beings now have a destination—the sangam or river confluence. Bruised souls find hope again in the river waters. This sequence draws from the ageold Hindu belief of regeneration at the sangam, which now embraces the socially ostracised Devi and Deepak and offers them fresh horizons. Overall in Masaan, the waters of the Ganges create a panoramic backdrop to the making and breaking of little human stories, of aspirations and love. Cinematographer Avinash Arun captures the soul of the city in the metaphor of the train on the bridge and the boat on the water, both intrinsically part of Benares as well as symbols of life’s journey. Editor Nitin Baid weaves the two narratives together although there are sections when the timeline seems too compressed. Jay Weissberg’s Cannes Film Review points to this: Set on the Ganges in the holy city of Benares, the pic (alternately titled ‘Fly Away Solo’) attempts to weave together two separate stories of people struggling to overcome societal pressures, but helmer Neeraj Ghaywan hasn’t found ways to overcome script and editing weaknesses, resulting in a disappointing drama that’s unable to realize the potential of the one truly interesting character. (Weissberg, 2015) Unlike Weissberg, Anupama Chopra (2015) perceives poignancy and affect in the film’s narrative strands—she states that ‘various threads come together a little too neatly. But by then I was so devastated that I needed comfort. The director leaves us with a smidgeon of solace and hope’. It could be argued that the debutant director, Ghaywan produces many nuanced sequences

234  Sangeeta Datta with an economy of storytelling that makes Masaan a hauntingly beautiful and sad film. The script, intimate with the city and its inhabitants, effectively holds the threads of the two narratives. As stated earlier, the strategic use of music by Indian Ocean is magnetic and evocative particularly in the sequence when Deepak has to cremate the girl he loves. Produced by Drishyam Films, the film found support from Macassar in France and then distribution by Pathe. Independent Indian production house, Phantom Films came on board, and Sikhya, found international distribution. Although the writing and direction provide the foundation for powerful performances, screenwriter Varun Grover (Nahta, 2015) states that when he wrote the script he was not sure if it would be made. Both director Ghaywan and writer Grover spent several months in Benares while the script was being written. Ghaywan reveals I had no idea who would make it. We wanted to make a real film, shot in Benares. Almost all the scenes are shot on real location except the cremation scenes. In the Bombay industry trying to make a reality film is not an easy task. (ibid.) This emphasises how Masaan managed to surmount difficulties faced by Indies with alternative thematic content in trying to secure funding and distribution. In the early years of the Indie film new wave around 2010, filmmakers needed the support of mainstream Bollywood production houses. Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live (2010) was backed by Aamir Khan’s production house and the marketing budget matched other mainstream films at that time. Anand Gandhi’s Ship of Theseus acquired a patron in Kiran Rao. and her public profile helped the film gain visibility and theatrical distribution (Devasundaram, 2016). The template earlier was to find a mainstream producer, distributor or cast a mainstream Bollywood star—for instance, John Abraham in Shoojit Sarcar’s Madras Café (2013). Funding and market conditions have changed since then and Masaan, is pathbreaking in this respect, although there is still the element of patronage and collaboration involved. Director Ghaywan was Anurag Kashyap’s assistant on the latter’s film Gangs of Wasseypur (2012). Kashyap, considered the ‘godfather’ of Indie films, came on board and assisted in getting the French company Macassar as well as Pathe involved (Nahta, 2015). Devasundaram (2016) also underlines the significant space of international film festivals where indie films can get visibility and possibly win recognition. Masaan which won two awards at Cannes and Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox are recent examples of profile raising through international festivals. Film festivals like the Berlinale are also the route for films facing censorship issues in India, such as Q’s Gandu (2010), Unfreedom (2015) and Sexy Durga (2017). Like Masaan, the issues of female sexual agency,

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  235 patriarchy and community honour play out in different and urgent sociopolitical registers as witnessed in more recent independent films. Sexy Durga was squarely in the media eye when despite the jury selection at IFFI (International Film Festival of India) the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting decided to drop it from the list. This led to a larger controversy, with jury chair Sujoy Mukherjee resigning and turning to the press directly about his dissatisfaction. The demand to change the title (as Durga is the name of a Hindu goddess) also points sharply at the aggressive Hindu-isation of culture under a right-wing government. In 2017, a much larger controversy ensued over the mainstream film Padmavati (director Sanjay Leela Bhansali) when there were nationwide protests by aggressive right-wing groups about the story of a Hindu princess and a Muslim invader. The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) demanded several cuts to the film and finally demanded a change in the film’s title as well.

Romancing the Quotidian: Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love) Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s film Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love, 2014) draws on the big city narrative to explore human isolation and tender strands of human love. In the crumbling lanes of modern day Kolkata, a married couple lives an almost invisible life. They see each other in dreams, as in reality they work different shifts of the day and barely get to meet. Echoing Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar (1963) and Charulata (1964) and the lyrical cinematic touch of Buddhadeb Dasgupta, the debutant filmmaker focuses on a poetic and detailed microcosm of everyday city life. The aforementioned young, unnamed, married couple struggle to work and live in modern day Kolkata. Their quotidian, silent life (no dialogue) set against the bustling city backdrop brings an epic timelessness to the film. The luminous city holds in its heart people who love and pray and bear the labour of a committed universe. Expanding his thoughts on realism, Sengupta states that throughout the film he discouraged his actors from ‘acting’: I only wanted them to be themselves. To achieve that I went for large number of retakes till I achieved what I wanted. ‘Real’ in cinema is different from ‘real’ in life. You don’t need to show I am ‘thinking’ or ‘I am feeling pain’. (Kaahon Cinema, 2015) Uday Bhatia (2015) writes about 2015 being a landmark year for indie films with several theatrical screenings of non-mainstream or arthouse films. Court and Kaaka Muttai were followed by the Cannes winner Masaan and the films, Killa (The Fort) and Labour of Love.Sengupta’s film was so far off the beaten track that it failed to find distribution even after winning

236  Sangeeta Datta the best debut director award at Venice Days, a fringe event at the Venice International Festival. This could be attributable to the fact that it is a film without dialogues or structured narrative about the daily urban monotony experienced by the Bengali couple. Sengupta eventually released the film through his own company, For Films, after which it also won the National Award for best film and best audiography. Overall, ‘Labour of Love is a sensuous, detailed tribute to the daily rhythms of life in Kolkata’ (Bhatia, 2015). In following the daily journeys of the young couple, the film brings the city alive in an unprecedented manner. Evoking Mrinal Sen’s Interview (1971) and Ray’s Pratidwandi (The Adversary, 1970), set in a city of political turmoil, this film narrows into one microcosmic domestic world in which every activity creates poetry of its own. It is almost a puzzle as we know nothing about the couple at the beginning. Small hints are offered to link the two people who inhabit different worlds, the woman working in a bag factory by day and the man working night shifts at a newspaper printing press. Sengupta focuses on the everyday, on the routine and compels us to look at detailed and textured images. In the passage of a mundane day the moments are distilled, refined and layered, offering a heightened reality in which every moment is registered like in the stream of consciousness. Lyrical images are conjured by the camera, of the sun slowly setting in the horizon, the pigeons coming to roost, spices stored in the kitchen, water drying in the pan, the fish ready to be cut, wet footprints marking the red floor. As there is no dialogue or action, the layered audiography plays a vital dramatic role: the radio news, the hawker’s call, the cat meowing, the neighbour’s daughter practising her music, the printing press, then classical music icon, Bismillah Khan’s shehnai playing Raag Tilak Gamod. In essence, the social context is set through the film’s sound design as epitomised by the loudspeaker speech and the offscreen street demonstrations. News about the mill closure, the mill worker’s suicide and the demand for accountability, are all familiar soundscapes of a city overseen by a leftist regime for many decades. Sengupta states he was inspired by Satyajit Ray and other Bengal art film masters in designing his own film. His film also invokes the painstaking detailing of European cinema as in Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975). The camera seeks textured surfaces, peeling walls, balcony grills, stained glass windows, iron bars on the old lift and ancient tram wires. The movement from abstract surfaces and obtuse frames to everyday images also evokes Wong Kar-Wai’s timeless romance In the Mood for Love (2000). The director manages to fuse each scene with unspoken feelings and a love story is told without any words uttered. Namrata Joshi (2015) writes in The Outlook: On paper it would seem difficult to pull off a film like Asha Jaoar Majhe that rests on banal daily rhythms, but Sengupta fashions a lovely tale of love in times of recession. . . . But hope lives in dreams if not in reality.

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  237 It is also about finding eternity and a reason to smile, in just a stolen moment together, however fleeting it might be. (Joshi, 2015) Sengupta’s blend of image and sound, particularly the film’s exposition is indeed reminiscent of the famous opening sequence of Charulata (1964). Ray’s film opens with a ten-minute non-dialogic sequence in which titular Charulata’s languid afternoon routine is set out in beautiful imagery. She embroiders a handkerchief, orders the servant to bring tea, and drifts through the ornate drawing room playing the piano and choosing books to read. She runs from one window to the other with her opera glass to look out and see life on the streets. When her husband passes her on the corridor she looks through her opera glass but fails to bring him any closer. The time on the grandfather clock indicates exactly how many minutes have elapsed. The audience lives along in real time with Charulata, for the duration of this sequence. The markedly tactile cinematography in Labour of Love is by Sengupta and Mahendra Shetty who has worked on other indies such as Udaan (2010) and Lootera (2013). The film’s sound design by Anish John fetched him the National Award for audiography. Labour of Love is one of the most visually and aurally striking films in recent years, but it is possible to consider whether there’s enough substance within the scenes to justify all that it chooses to leave out. Uday Bhatia (2015) writes: The radio news and street demonstrations makes it clear that there’s a recession going on, but we are not sure how this impacts the film couple—whether they are compelled to work to pay the bills, or if that’s the way they prefer it. Apart from a beautiful, surreal five-minutes at the end, the film seems content to expertly record everyday life that tells anything approaching a story. (Bhatia, 2015) It could be argued that this sense of waiting through expanded time, through conjuring detailed worlds is Sengupta’s construction of reality in cinema. Describing Asha Jaoar Majhe as a seminal piece of work, Aseem Chhabra (Chhabra, 2015) writes: It is a very rare quality for a film and especially one made in India. One has to go back to the early works of Satyajit Ray to find that sensual tone in the narrative, for instance watching the young bride Aparna (Sharmila Tagore), preparing tea in the morning at her new home (Apur Sansar) or the details of Charulata’s (Madhabi Mukherjee) life inside her old palatial house. The legacy and artistry of Ray’s and Sen’s Bengali cinema as reflected in Sengupta’s film has been commended in the international film festival circuit.

238  Sangeeta Datta During the promotion of Sengupta’s film at the BFI London Film Festival, curator Cary Sawhney (BBC World News, 2014) comments: Stylistically it’s very different from Indian cinema. We haven’t seen this kind of film—evocative of great filmmakers of Kolkata. It has a lyrical poetic quality, it has a stillness, rare in world cinema, difficult in Indian cinema. On the level of performance and characterisation, Ritwik Chakraborty and Basabdutta Chatterjee play the couple who are compelled to work at different times of the day and consequently their paths cross briefly only once daily. Bhaskaran (2014) describes the narrative as ‘their humdrum middleclass existence filled with monotonous jobs and punctuated by meal breaks and sleep’. As mentioned earlier, this absence of dialogue and human interaction makes the image making and sound design vital to the dynamic of the film. Designed with pure lyricism, the tactile images slip into abstract frames. In one evocative sequence in the film, the camera pans slowly across the peeling walls of a building. A young woman (Basabdatta Chatterjee) steps out of the house and walks briskly through narrow lanes. Her journey to work involves a tram ride when she eats a piece of cake and a bus ride in which she tucks the bus ticket in her watchband. When she walks into her workplace the last siren has sounded, and the women are already at work in the bag factory. Meanwhile we see a man sipping morning tea in an old house. He then takes off his office clothes and slips into his pyjamas. He eats a similar piece of cake for breakfast. The soundscape gets busier as offscreen the neighbour’s young daughter takes music lessons, with the surrounding sound of a popular Tagore number Gaaner bhitor diye. The song describes the wonders of the world while the camera travels across the small apartment framing the man through the old bedpost or the stained wardrobe mirror. The water running in the bathroom, the wet footprints on the red floor, the hanging out of clothes on the washing line, the strange groaning of the ceiling fan, the political speech outside referring to the jobs lost, the closing of wooden shutters to cut out light and sound, build up an everyday routine pattern through enduring images and perfect stillness. Overall, this new independent film resembles the earlier Indian New Wave Cinema, but with a fresh narrative, complex treatment and recognised potential in film festivals. In a post screening conversation with Soumik Datta at BFI London, director Sengupta states: We were honest in our expressions. It was written with a script which showed images, people. It did not need sound, the film did not want it. I refer to the recession of 2009 when people lost jobs but had to carry on with their lives. In my film two individuals lead life with a lot of dignity. There is unrest outside; they hope things will get better. Early Bengali cinema has been part of my life and I am sure this reflects in my

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  239 film. But I harnessed memories from my childhood, the summer afternoon, the sounds that I heard, moods and textures. (Sengupta, 2015) The construction of this reality required observation and planning by the young team. In the film, there are parts of the city that seem stuck in time, and resemble Calcutta of the 50’s and 60’s. During the same Q&A conversation, the film’s producer Jonaki Bhattacharya discusses the method and approach of the film: We would go on long walks on winter mornings, specially on Sundays— streets are empty. We would talk to people in different parts of the city, without any agenda. The script actually has in it, everything I have experienced, painting, music, writing plays. (Bhattacharya, 2015) Time plays a big part in the film, every moment is eked out as the two people wait for each other, waiting for things to happen. The filmmaker states that he was being honest to what he wanted to express in the film—songs floating in from the house, from a distant puja pandal or an offscreen radio. These indigenous elements of local culture and inspiration derived from Bengali cinema are affirmed by Sengupta: I haven’t watched Tarkovsky or Bergman, but I am very close to Bengali cinema. I love the relationships that were explored in Bengali cinema, subtle, graceful. It is also like our family elders who don’t really demonstrate feelings but there is a deep bond. It is expressed in little objects, food, it almost became an expression of that. (Sengupta, 2015) In addition, background music was not a priority for the filmmaker. Sengupta explains how he spent a year editing the film, and how his background is in music, stating that when he paints or make a film, it feels like music (Sengupta, 2015). In the film, people go about quite serene and unaffected by outside life. So, while the audio design builds the outer world which they inhabit, and explains their choice of work and lifestyle, their inner world seems to hold pure emotion and a moment of peace. Gautaman Bhaskaran (2014) states: ‘the first thing that strikes about Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s debut feature is its wonderful silence. In an India which is bombarded with the nosiest of sounds, this work has no dialogues’. In terms of storyline, Sengupta’s movie drew from a global inspiration—a two-page Italian short story, ‘Adventures of a Married Couple’ by Italo Calvino. There has been one other film on this, an 11-minute short, The Adventure of a Married Couple (2013) by Iran’s Keywan Karimi. Like Labour of Love, this is also a poetic variation of the Calvino story.

240  Sangeeta Datta Bhaskaran describes comparative aspects of the short movie and Sengupta’s film: Trapped in daily repetition, between the frenetic sound of a glass bottle factory and the guarding of a shed filled with naked mannequins, a young couple meets at evenings. They eat without looking at each other, not even speaking. While Karimi offers the couple at least a chance to meet, Sengupta is harsher. His couple do not see each other at all. Or, at best, one fantasises about the other. (Bhaskaran, 2014) Sengupta avoids showing the iconic structures of Calcutta; instead he follows characters and their immediate surroundings; the woman’s early morning walk through the middle-class neighbourhood, the tram journey, then the bus journey and a further walk. The man’s journey begins in the evening when the city has a different look, the surreal glow of street lights and stalls in the background as he bikes to work. Frames, relentlessly slow in pace, take us through the mundaneness of life. Only later we find and empathise with the rhythm and economy of their lives. An unspoken thoughtfulness and sharing of domestic work. The man does the shopping, the woman does the cooking early in the morning. He soaks the clothes in the bucket, she hangs them out to dry on a line. The camera takes us close to the characters capturing little nuances of expression and gestures. Frames merge with an imaginative soundtrack, old Bengali film songs playing on an offscreen radio, Geeta Dutt’s perennial Tumi je amar (You are mine) and Sandhya Mukherjee’s Ujjal ek jhaak payra (bright flock of pigeons), a rickety ceiling fan and the shehnai playing the unspoken emotional grid of the two characters. At the end we seem to have entered the house and spent a day in real time with the couple. Veteran actor Soumitra Chatterjee (2015) comments ‘This film is so unexpected, so finely nuanced like the films made in our times. Minutely observant of surroundings and a deep empathy for the people. In our times Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen stepped out on the streets to capture reality’. In the film’s last scene, when the two meet briefly for a few minutes, the reunion is interpreted as idyllic and romantic. The walls of the shoddy room disappear into a beautiful deep forest with bird calls and tall trees. In this brief sequence the director is able to evoke the lost sense of human love or romanticism, of brief but pure happiness, in complete contrast to mainstream cinema’s pre-produced and formulaic images of love/tree/woman/ song and dance. As the woman prays in front of the altar, the street noise and procession slogans melt away to the sound of the shehnai. The camera pans slowly to the door and the man enters looking at her, eyes shut in earnest prayer, the morning sun bathing her with an incandescent purity. The walls are magically replaced by forest trees and in the morning mist, the couple embrace

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  241 and walk together. The bed and dressing table are surrounded by this subtle, forest green. They sit briefly on the bed, she fetches tea for him. She fixes her sari and he pins the pallu (‘the sari’s edge’), touching her shoulders and neck so briefly. She steps out of the door, camera tracks her by the same wall he had walked against, climbs down the steps in slow motion. The shehnai, the slow motion, the smoke-filled corridor between the buildings, all add to the elusive, liquid, transient moment. He looks out through the window following her receding figure, for a moment she is lost in the smoke, then she is visible again as she takes a turn and disappears around the corner. Another day of separation, lonely hours, only heightened by the expectation and poetry of a brief meeting. The shehnai, plaintive, infinitely sad, everlastingly beautiful, continues to play over the end credits.

Indies Reversing Cinema Trends While there has been a growing body of Indie cinema over the past years, a definitive shift has happened more recently. In 2017, there has been a recognisable trend of big films failing at the box-office and small Indies increasingly capturing audience interest and markets. There is now a greater market confidence in small films with realistic narratives. Many of these independent films are literary adaptations or based on real-life stories. Several are developed through script workshops and co-production markets and showcased at film festivals before they open theatrically in India. The script for Masaan was written while the director and writer stationed themselves in Benaras for three months of research. Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan (Hotel Salvation) takes us back to Benares where death is as much a reality as it is a celebration. In the film, a reluctant son takes his father to the holy city where many go willingly in their last days to seek salvation. The old man seeks death, but instead is propelled into life and new relationships. The son finds time to reflect and untangle many earthly ties. The drama is set in a hotel (Hotel Salvation) on the ghats of the Ganga where old people are brought by their family members to spend their last days. Life is never predictable though, so thoughts and fears of death are interrupted by unexpected, bizarre and serene moments. The film’s aesthetic resemblance to Masaan is underpinned by the shared location, although the approach in Mukti Bhawan is distinctive: Mukti Bhawan is a story of the kind of fears we all have: the impending demise. It may be our own, or of our loved ones, but the loss of life in the city of salvation Benaras, signifies far more, the city itself, almost becomes a character. . . . Despite the subject being as morbid as death, the film has a light touch feel to fatality, or the interplay between life and death has a gentle humour that emphasises on the entire process of passing away. (Dailyhunt, 2017)

242  Sangeeta Datta On parallel lines, Asha Jaoar Majhey evoked a construction of cinema reality similar to Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen. Countering the increasing trend of the corporatising and commercialising of Bengali cinema, a 2016 independent Bengali film Sahaj Pather Gappo (Colours of Innocence) experienced a 100-day run in cinema halls. Directed by Manas Mukul Pal, the film is about two brothers in a poverty-stricken Bengali village. Adapted from a short story by famed writer Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, it traces everyday lived realities in the village and the dreams of young children bound in poverty and deprivation. The two brothers Chotu (Nur Islam) and Gopal (Samiul Alam) find their carefree life rocked when their rickshaw-puller father is fatally injured. Overall, Sahaj Pather Gappo is a deeply touching film about childhood innocence and resilience of the human spirit. The film inevitably evokes Satyajit Ray’s seminal Bengali film, Pather Panchali (1955) with its memorable child actors and similar narrative terrain (Sahani, 2016). Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) was also written by Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, and charts a young boy’s coming of age in an impoverished rural family. The lyrical, languorous cinematography (Mrinmoy Mondal, Shupratim Bhol) in Sahaj Pather Gappo captures verdant rice fields, lotus filled ponds, flowing rivers and monsoon rains, evoking Ray’s masterpiece—which turned out to be a game-changer for Indian cinema in the 1950s. The realistic style also draws from the legacy of 70s/80s subaltern films like Shyam Benegal’s Ankur (1974) and Manthan (1976). During a telephonic interview (2017), Sahaj Pather Gappo director Manas Mukul Pal states: Many people in the industry were sceptical and warned me about making a rural film with an unknown cast and an unfamiliar dialect. My producer was very supportive so we could plan marketing with billboards, hoardings and we have just marked 100 days in the theatres. Many who had turned their back on the project now want to come back and be associated again. My producer and I want to create a production house to nurture independent filmmakers. (Pal, personal communication, 2017) In this context, Sahaj Pather Gappo, which was filmed in and around scenic rural environs in West Bengal’s Bolpur, joins independent films, such as Sairat (Marathi) and Thithi (Kannada), which have explored rural locations for cinematic impact.

Conclusion This chapter has examined in detail two significant indie films, one in Hindi cinema and the other reflecting the regional (Bengali) context. The films display content and stylistic innovations revealing different subjectivities and

Untold Stories, Representations, Contestations  243 ways of storytelling. As demonstrated, these themes have also been dealt with in other indie films dealing with small town and rural realities. The success of such films in the festival circuits and in domestic markets, indicates a definite shift in the scale and scope of the Indian indie. The year 2017 was punctuated by independent content-driven films consolidating a shift in audience perceptions and markets. Ashwin Vinayan (2017) writes of these content-driven films gaining momentum and garnering critical acclaim. Arnab Banerjee (2017) also points to the trend of small films capturing wider audiences in 2017. These films have less to do with box-office ratings, but stand out because of distinctive directorial vision, political engagement and aesthetic skill that has resulted in not just powerful performances but distinctive narrative styles with transformative stories. The consolidation of the indie in 2017 is testified by the remarkable debut films of the year—Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj, Rakhee Sandilya’s Ribbon, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s aforementioned Mukti Bhawan, Shankar Raman’s Gurgaon and Alankrita Srivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha. The now consolidated new wave of Indian cinema holds multiple voices and cultural specificities collapsed into the term ‘Indie’. Devasundaram (2016: 271) has written ‘It must be acknowledged that the heterogeneity of content and composition characterizing the new Indies juxtaposed with their prolific output since 2010, validates the contention of a New Wave’. The mechanics of funding, distribution, exhibition and the vital roles of new sources such as crowdfunding, burgeoning film festivals, changing dynamics of festival markets, alternative distribution digital platforms—all these create a shapeshifting, charged context within which the new independent film is made.

References Banerjee, A. (2017). ‘Year-Ender 2017: Amid the Hits and Duds, here Are 7 Films that Stood Out’, 30 December. Available at: www.deccanchronicle.com/entertainment/ bollywood/301217/bollywood-best-2017.html [Accessed 31 December 2017]. BBC World News. (2014). ‘Aditya Vikram Sengupta and Cary Sawhney Interview’, 14 October. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EccvkT6cLYw [Accessed 04 November 2017]. Bhaskaran, G. (2014). ‘Why Aditya Sengupta’s Asha Jaoar Majhe has no Dialogues’, 5 September. Available at: www.hindustantimes.com/world-cinema/why-adityasengupta-s-asha-jaoar-majhe-has-no-dialogues/story-cBHA98hAr87SKSZxWEf wEI.html [Accessed 01 November 2017]. Bhatia, U. (2015). ‘Film Review: Labour of Love’, 26 June. Available at: www.live mint.com/Leisure/P2CRrOIP3la9EqAcYkS1iM/Film-Review-Labour-of-Love. html [Accessed 10 November 2017]. Bhattacharya, J. (2015). ‘Labour of Love Director and Producer Q & A/ BFI National Archive’, 30 September. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwmLVzcJ-zo&t= 176s&index=1&list=LLKeSaz8fIHLR-ajKZQ8pmnA [Accessed 17 September 2017].

244  Sangeeta Datta Chatterjee, S. (2015). ‘Soumitra Chatterjee talks about Asha Jaoar Majhe/ Labour of Love!’, 25 June. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcFNQjlTKzM [Accessed 10 September 2017]. Chhabra, A. (2015). ‘Review: Asha Jaoar Majhe is One of the Best Indian films of 2015’, 29 June. Available at: www.rediff.com/movies/report/review-asha-jaoarmajhe-is-one-of-the-best-indian-films-of-2015/20150629.htm%20Published%20 29%20June%202015 [Accessed 15 July 2017]. Chopra, A. (2015). ‘Masaan Movie Review’, 24 July. Available at: www.youtube. com/watch?v=7lbgMxEEzyU [Accessed 01 November 2017]. Dailyhunt. (2017). ‘Bollywood Best 2017’, 30 December. Available at: https://m.dailyhunt.in/news/india/english/asian+age-epaper-asianage/bollywood+best+2017newsid-78961606 [Accessed 20 January 2018]. Datta, S. (2005). World Director Series: Shyam Benegal. London: British Film Institute. Devasundaram, A. I. (2016). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. First Edition. Gopinath, G. (2005) Impossible Desires. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. Joshi, N. (2015). ‘Asha Jaoar Majhe (Labour of Love, Bengali)’, 13 July. Available at: www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/asha-jaoar-majhe-labour-of-love-ben gali/294753 [Accessed 10 November 2017]. Kaahon Cinema. (2015). ‘Aditya Vikram Sengupta/Asha Jaoar Majhe/ Labour of Love/ Acting’, 29 June. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=i87widZ2sSw [Accessed 10 November 2017]. Nahta, K. (2015). ‘Richa Chadda, Neeraj Ghaywan, Varun Grover- Masaan-Exclu sive Interview’, 25 July. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=60CxZzhgVWg [Accessed 01 November 2017]. Pal, M. (2017). ‘Interviewed by Sangeeta Datta [telephone interview]’ [Accessed 18 November 2017]. Sahani, A. (2016). ‘A Portrait of Hope’, 25 November. Available: Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/entertainment-others/a-portraitof-hope-4395413/ [Accessed 22 December 2017]. Sengupta, A. (2015). ‘Labour of Love Director and Producer Q & A/ BFI National Archive’, 30 September. Available at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwmLVzcJ-zo&t= 176s&index=1&list=LLKeSaz8fIHLR-ajKZQ8pmnA [Accessed 17 September 2017]. Vinayan, A. (2017). ‘Year-ender 2017: Ten content-driven films that surprisingly ruled the year’, 15 December. Available at: www.deccanchronicle.com/entertain ment/bollywood/151217/year-ender-2017-ten-content-driven-films-that-surpris ingly-ruled-the-year.html [Accessed 16 December 2017]. Weissberg, J. (2015). ‘Cannes Film Review: ‘Masaan’’, 23 May. Available at: http://variety.com/2015/film/festivals/cannes-film-review-masaan-1201504265/ [Accessed 15 November 2017].

13 Haobam Paban Kumar and the Cinemas of North East India Meenakshi Shedde

Introduction This chapter delves into an overlooked sector of independent Indian filmmaking—North Eastern cinemas. Drawing on interviews conducted with Haobam Paban Kumar, a leading director from Manipur, this chapter contextualises Kumar’s Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, 2016, Manipuri) and his other films, against the backdrop of turbulent regional politics in Manipur. This volatility has stemmed from violent Indian army incursions into rural indigenous territories and the suspension of civil liberties, resulting from the army presence in the region. Locating Kumar’s cinematic work in the larger landscape of filmmaking in the North East, this chapter reveals the complexities and obstacles faced by this contested region’s filmmakers. Haobam Paban Kumar, is a shy, soft-spoken man, who smiles easily. In a press interview, Kumar states ‘My maternal grandfather, Thiyam Tarun Kumar, was employed at Bombay Talkies as a choreographer. He choreographed for Devika Rani, and also worked with dancer Uday Shankar. He even went to Lahore to open a (Manipuri) dance school’ (Sahani, 2017). His maternal uncle, the distinguished theatre director Ratan Thiyam, known internationally for his spectacular plays rich in mythology and folklore, encouraged Kumar to assist Manipuri filmmaker Aribam Syam Sharma. Kumar also studied direction and screenwriting at the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata. Kumar is among the foremost filmmakers from India’s North East (NE) region, with Assamese and Manipuri filmmakers at the vanguard. Among Assamese directors, veteran filmmakers include Bhabendranath Saikia and Jahnu Barua, while the younger generation includes filmmakers like Rima Das, whose Village Rockstars (2017) was at the film festivals of Toronto, San Sebastian and Mumbai, and the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and won over 22 awards worldwide.(ChineseShadows.com, 2017). Senior Manipuri director Aribam Syam Sharma’s Ishanou (The Chosen One) was at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991, and his Imagi Ningthem (My Son, My Precious) won the Grand Prix at the Festival des Trois Continents in France in 1982 (E-pao.net, 2015). Other significant Manipuri directors include

246  Meenakshi Shedde Makhonmani Mongshaba, Oken Amakcham, Oinam Doren and Haobam Pabam Kumar. A number of Kumar’s own films have been selected at international film festivals worldwide, and his Lady of the Lake is also available on Netflix—noteworthy for such a quiet and thoughtful film. The film has won acclaim at the Berlin, Busan and Mumbai Film Festivals. Its bevy of prizes include the Golden Gateway Award, Mumbai Film Festival; UNESCO Cultural Diversity Special Mention, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Brisbane; German Star of India Award, Indian Film Festival of Stuttgart, Germany; Special Mention, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles; National Film Award for Best Film on Environment/ Conservation; FIPRESCI India Critics’ Award, Bengaluru International Film Festival; NETPAC Asian Award, Kolkata International Film Festival 2016, and the G. Aravindan Puraskaram for the Best Debut Director.

Political Discourses Surrounding Kumar’s Lady of the Lake and Other Films A fiction feature, Lady of the Lake is set in Loktak Lake in Manipur, where villagers have traditionally been living in modest bamboo huts, built on ‘islands’ created from floating biomass, called phumdis, for centuries. In 2011, armed government officials arrive in an amphibian earthmover and raze and burn their bamboo huts, claiming that they were polluting the lake. Despite a legal stay on the destruction of the phumdis, the government officials continue to destroy them, without being able to produce a court order authorising their actions. The villagers’ protest, mostly with the women at the forefront. The fisherman couple Tomba (Ningthoujam Sanatomba) and his wife Tharoshang (Sagolsam Thambalsang), are anxious about how they will survive. Their marriage is already on the brink because the husband is a depressed layabout, who leaves it to the wife to earn enough for them both and pay for their daughter’s education in the city. One day, Tomba finds a gun in a phumdi and hides it in their house. Tharoshang keeps telling him to throw it away, as they already have enough trouble with violence, but he feels powerful with a gun in his hands. Later, towards the film’s climax, Tomba hears a midnight knock. It is a middleaged woman, in traditional dress, who stares at him, then paddles off without a word. He chases her by boat and shoots her down—for no reason: she did not steal, kill or threaten him in any way. There is a second midnight knock. It is same mysterious woman again. This time, she hands him back two bullets—presumably the ones he used to shoot her. Is she a ghost? A spirit sent to warn him? I would argue that she is his conscience, and returning his bullets is a powerful gesture: a magnanimous slap in the face, if there can be such a thing, alerting him to his own stupidity, and reminding him of the futility of the gun and violence. It is telling that women drive the narrative here—the wife, the female ghost emblematising conscience, and the women leading the protests against the officials: they understand that

Haobam Paban Kumar  247 violence will solve nothing. In the final, long underwater shot, the gun is found buried among weeds. Lady of the Lake is hardly like any other Indian fiction film you’ve seen. Indian features are largely talkative, striving to explain the same point in three different ways, and of course, the mainstream films love masala— romance, action, six songs and a happy ending. Astonishingly for an Indian film, Lady of the Lake is largely silent, with minimal dialogues, and has no music. ‘Music is dangerous’, the director told me, in an interview at the Berlin Film Festival in 2017, where his film had screened; this is a significantly radical statement from an Indian filmmaker, given that song and dance is part of Indian cinema’s DNA. It also reflects how Kumar has created his own cinematic universe, distinct from mainstream Indian cinema. The film’s screenplay is by Kumar and Sudhir Naoroibam, based on the latter’s short story Nongmei (Gun). Real life fisherfolk couple Ningthoujam Sanatomba and Sagolsam Thambalsang play the protagonists, acting out their own lives in compelling and persuasive performances. This is what I call a ‘faction film’—an amalgam of fact and fiction. Kumar largely avoided scripted dialogues, and preferred to let the cast improvise, as they were playing themselves. The film’s pace is slow and gentle—mirroring the pace of life on the lake, where, little happens, other than the current political crisis. But Shehnad Jalal’s cinematography is powerful, his mainly long takes reel the viewer in. Sankha’s editing is accordingly languid, and there is meticulous sound design by Sukanta Majumdar. Kumar’s other feat is to make a feature film in a succinct 72 minutes, which seems virtually impossible for mainstream Indian filmmakers. Most of his films, including Lady of the Lake, are produced by his own company, Oli Pictures. The film displays a high level of technical finesse, despite being a low-budget indie. (Kumar has stated that his crew worked for free; he pays them as and when he gets money) (Sahani, 2017). In fact, Lady of the Lake, a fiction feature, has a powerful documentary feel, placing the viewer in the midst of the action on the lake. That is largely because of how Kumar directs it (it is his debut fiction feature: he has directed a total of 13 films, including this fiction feature, documentaries and short films, apart from television films). The documentary sensibility is also because the film borrows substantially from Phum Shang (Floating Life, 2014), his feature length documentary on the same subject made two years earlier. Sharing some dramatic footage, both films open with huts on the phumdis burning down, as villagers watch helplessly from boats; and the showdown is entirely from footage shot during the documentary, in which villagers, mainly women, say they are ready to die for the cause, as they protest vociferously against the armed government militia and police—who have illegally brought an amphibian earthmover to destroy their homes. At the frontline is a woman holding her baby, while another woman gives the baby medicine in the middle of the showdown, while most of the men stand on the sidelines. There is an amazing sequence, in which ordinary women

248  Meenakshi Shedde stand tall before the machine, and then, in modest dug-out canoes, surround the official ‘Anaconda’ boat with armed militia, and determinedly chase it out, all the way to the horizon. In another sequence, a woman climbs the earthmover crane, echoing a chipko (‘to stick to’) movement, where people hugged trees to prevent their felling; here the woman sticks to the crane to prevent it from felling them. The villagers say they have no trust in the proffered resettlement on land, and some families even refuse the Rs. 40,000 (around GBP 440) compensation offered. In the midst of all this, there is exquisite poetry amid the silence, as the camera glides on the lake, with shots of a boat sailing in the moonlight with the boatman in silhouette, looking like an on-screen haiku. A lot of the cast, including protagonist Ningthoujam Sanatomba of Lady of the Lake, feature in both films. It turns out that originally Kumar wanted to make a fiction feature based on Nongmei. But when he went for a recce, he found that the villagers’ huts were being illegally destroyed, and the fiction film took a backseat, as he made the more urgent documentary—Phum Shang. ‘I repeatedly heard the locals say, “If only we had guns, we could have retaliated”. This moulded my fiction story’, says Kumar (personal communication, 2017). So later, when he wanted to make his fiction film, many of the villagers, and footage from the documentary, inevitably went into the feature, which continued to explore the issues raised in the documentary, but also pointed to where the solution lay. Phum Shang questions the moral authority of the armed government militia, who brazenly destroy villagers’ huts on the Loktak Lake without being able to produce an order authorising the same, when the locals demand it. Ironically, this film, critical of the state government, was funded by Films Division, a central government arm that produces documentaries, which may attest to progressive elements present within the organisation. During our conversation, Kumar states: I respond to life around me in Manipur—whether it is military excess in AFSPA 1958 (2005) or developmental issues in Lady of the Lake, or HIV/AIDS in Mr. India, or ethnic divisions in my forthcoming film. When people see my films, they will understand what I went through in life. Yet, I’m more interested in playing with cinematic language, than telling a story. (Kumar, personal communication, 2017) India became independent in 1947. Two years later, Manipur became a part of India in 1949, but a large portion of the Manipuri population resisted the move, believing the merger to be an illegal and illegitimate annexation, giving rise to separatist movements and insurgency. The violence increased in 1972, and with nearly five decades of militant insurgency and secessionist movements in Manipur, and the streets crawling with soldiers much of the time, there is an ever-present threat of violence and instability. India’s North

Haobam Paban Kumar  249 East region consists of eight states—Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, and most of them have been in turmoil over the last few decades. The region is geopolitically strategic, as it shares international borders with China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, with Manipur sharing a long border with Myanmar. The North East also has nearly 275 ethnic communities and as many languages and dialects. Manipur alone has about 30 different languages and tribes, some of whom have mounted murderous attacks on each other. Long neglected by the central Indian government in New Delhi, the North East has had an antagonistic relationship with ‘mainland India’. The local people are fed up of violence and corruption, and keen to see some economic development. It is in this context, that Kumar’s Lady of the Lake points to how, despite everything, the region’s gun culture will solve nothing, and only keep things on the boil. It also acknowledges the women’s indomitable courage, protesting even in the face of a massive earthmover, about to gobble up their homes, while the men remain mainly on the sidelines. Apart from Lady of the Lake (fiction, 2016, 72 mins) and Phum Shang (2014, 52 mins), Kumar’s other films include the powerful AFSPA 1958 (2005), A Cry in the Dark (2006), Ruptured Spring (2012), Mr. India (2009), The First Leap (2008) and Ngaihak Lambida (Along the Way, 2006). He is the producer, director and scriptwriter for a lot of his works. There is no doubt that Kumar’s AFSPA 1958, and A Cry in the Dark, pole-vaulted him to international attention. A Cry in the Dark premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and was shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York. Commissioned by YLE, the Finnish public broadcaster, it is a tighter, more explanatory version of AFSPA 1958. Kumar’s first significant work, AFSPA 1958 is based on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which allows the Indian army to shoot at will and on mere suspicion, while enjoying complete immunity (also see chapters by Ashvin Devasundaram and Preti Taneja in this volume). Following the simmering violence since Manipur’s merger with India in 1949, various separatist and insurgent groups took control. To curb them, the government administered the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, allowing the Army and Central forces deployed in ‘disturbed areas’ to not only conduct searches and make arrests based on mere suspicion, without a warrant, but to shoot and kill at will. AFSPA 1958 is a powerful documentary on government excesses and the civil disobedience movement in Manipur at a flashpoint in 2004, when a woman, Thangjam Manorama Devi, was picked up from her home in 2004 by soldiers of the Assam Rifles regiment, and her body was later found raped and murdered some distance away. Newspaper reports suspected her of being a member of the banned insurgent group, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). The film documents how the incident provoked enduring waves of protests, demanding the removal of the AFSPA. The film won the FIPRESCI International Critics’ Award and International Jury Award at

250  Meenakshi Shedde the Mumbai International Film Festival, and National Film Award for Best Documentary. Kumar has evolved considerably as a filmmaker. In his documentary AFSPA 1958 made in 2006, we see guns in practically every other frame. But in his fiction feature, Lady of the Lake made 10 years later in 2016, his philosophy and filmmaking approach are far more distilled and oblique. Even though the overall situation has not changed much, and armed government excesses against unarmed civilians continue, the gun is used sparingly, and the film questions its value in conflict resolution, but mostly symbolically, through visitations from the spirit world. AFSPA 1958 has the urgency of news reportage, playing more of the documentary role of a news reporter, while still allowing us to reflect both on the arrogant and cruel ways of the army that knows it can get away with anything, including murder, as well as the people’s enormously disciplined resistance, opposing the law authorising rape, murder and torture by the state. Its cameramen Saikhom Ratan and Pukhramban Bobo, who are also journalists and cameramen with news channels, are almost always in the midst of pitched action amid army personnel, clearly putting their lives at risk. Kumar told me that many journalists freely exchanged film footage during the AFPSA crisis. Except for some youths, who occasionally and unequally battle the soldiers armed with guns, grenades and tear gas canisters—with mere catapults and stones, they are essentially peaceful demonstrations by ordinary civilians, young students, school children and senior citizens, with slogans, chants and placards. What stands out is how organised, Gandhian, nonviolent and civilised the people are. By contrast, the army men thrash and kick students brutally, forcing students to cudgel each other, and do somersaults on the filthy, wet road, for the soldiers’ entertainment. The agile and fearless cameramen are present at key flashpoints: we see Manorama’s body outside the hospital morgue. We see the spirited public protests. There is footage of the women that makes us lower our eyes: we see about 14 middle-aged women, stand stark naked before the gates of the Kangla Fort, where the Assam Rifles was headquartered, with a banner saying, ‘Indian Army Rape Us!’ ‘We are all Manorama’s mothers’, they say. Meanwhile, Manorama Devi’s body is quietly cremated by the state, without the family members being present, but later a stadium is jam-packed for her memorial. A few days later, a protestor tries to immolate himself in front of the state Chief Minister’s office, and we hear his screams as his clothes catch fire. Later we meet the iconic Irom Sharmila, a woman human rights activist who was on an (eventually) 16-year hunger strike to protest against AFSPA, from 2000–2016: the government forcibly fed her through a nasal tube and intravenous drip for years, to keep her alive. Finally, Pebam Chittaranjan, a Manipur Students Union advisor, immolates himself to protest against AFSPA. The camera is on hand: it is horrible to see a human burn himself, his flesh on fire, as pieces of burning flesh and clothes fall away. The army

Haobam Paban Kumar  251 patrol half-heartedly douses the flames when he is all but charred: his body is all white, as his skin has been singed away. In his dying statement in the hospital, he says that he tried to kill himself to protest AFSPA. On his death, again, the government disposes of Chittaranjan’s body without the family members being present. Civilians respond with peaceful, jail-bharo (‘to fill up jails’) agitations, holding up placards saying, ‘Arrest Us’ and ‘Beat Us More’. Their Gandhian non-violence in the face of extreme aggression, is humbling, and a lesson to the powerful forces of aggression. The film is powerful and moving, but also somewhat relentless and repetitive, especially by today’s standards of continuous violence on television news. At the time of writing, the AFSPA continues to be in force in Assam and Nagaland, and in all of Manipur, except for the Imphal municipal area, but earlier in 2018, it was removed from Meghalaya and continues in parts of Arunachal Pradesh. It was withdrawn from Tripura in 2015, and is not operational in Mizoram (Times of India, 2018). Also at the time of writing, Kumar is working on his second fiction feature, whose working title is Josephki Macha (Joseph’s Son) (Kumar, personal communication, 2018). In it, Kumar wants to explore one of the biggest issues affecting Manipur’s ethnic conflict in a state that is home to around 30 different tribes and languages. Based on a short story by Naoroibam, it is set against the backdrop of the Naga-Kuki ethnic clashes in Manipur in 1992. Title character Joseph, whose only son has been missing for years, is asked to identify a body in the morgue, but resists doing so. The film was featured at the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC)’s Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Market in Goa in 2016.

Challenges to Filmmaking in the North East The reason the cinematic achievements of Haobam Paban Kumar, Bhabendranath Saikia, Jahnu Barua, Rima Das, Aribam Syam Sharma and all the other North East filmmakers are remarkable, is because there is so much going against filmmaking in this region. First, there is a powerful feeling of being cut off from ‘mainland India’, and a hatred towards this mainland that has largely ignored and actively oppressed the people of this region through the army and other institutions, without productively advancing development in the region. Since over three decades, there has been quite a strong anti-India sentiment. In her book Understanding India’s North East: A Reporter’s Journal (2018), Rupa Chinai writes, ‘In 1980, during my first visit to Manipur, the street walls in Imphal, the state’s capital, were emblazoned with slogans saying “Indian dogs go home”. Three decades of encounter killings, rape, torture during interrogation and deaths in custody after indiscriminate arrests have followed since then’ (2018: 12). In fact, the last five decades have seen insurgency and secessionist movements, with rival revolutionary groups that are as oppressive as the government. There is a heavy military presence in the streets of Imphal, and a

252  Meenakshi Shedde horrific record of crimes by both the Indian Army and local militant groups. Manipur is primarily an agricultural economy; there is very little industry, and unemployment is very high. As I have personally seen during my three or four trips to Manipur over the decades, there is poor infrastructure, with terrible roads, frequent power cuts and expensive essentials, as they are brought in via a long route from ‘mainland India’, and are often sold at much higher prices than in the rest of India. There is also endemic corruption, a deeply entrenched drug culture with easy availability of drugs from across the Myanmar border (which Pradip Kumar Singh, the protagonist of Kumar’s Mr. India, frankly admits), and among the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in India (according to the Manipur State Aids Control Society) (MSACS, 2018). Despite these dire circumstances, filmmaking is part of the rich indigenous culture of Manipur (population 22,93,896 by the 2011 Census), whose major groups are Meitei, Naga and Kuki. They have a rich culture, with traditional music, traditional theatre (shumang lila or courtyard plays, that includes Nupi shumang lila or all-women travelling troupes), traditional Manipuri dance and thang-ta, a martial arts form that also has a performative aspect. The Manipur film industry is modest by Indian standards, but remarkable when you consider the regional context in which it has taken root. The Assam State Film Finance and Development Corporation (ASFFDC), produced its first Assamese film only in 2000, and has produced barely 10 feature films so far, according to the ASFFDC (2018). Paban Kumar observes that ‘the Manipur State Film Development Society does not really produce Manipuri films, nor does it have a shooting studio’ (Kumar, personal communication, 2017), so it is challenging to raise money for film production. Distribution is equally wretched: ‘Manipur state has barely 4–5 functioning theatres today, including just two in the capital, Imphal; the rest are mostly video parlours’, states Kumar (ibid.). The conspicuous fact is, after a body of 13 films and being feted internationally, Paban Kumar has managed theatrical release in Imphal, for exactly one of his films—Lady of the Lake, and just for a single day- three shows. In fact, the Manipur State Film and Television Institute was set up only in 2016, headed by Nilotpal Majumdar, with Haobam Paban Kumar being one of its Executive Board Members. He has also been an Academic Council Member of the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata. The Central Government earlier decided to set up a film institute for the whole North East region in Manipur, but later decided to shift it to Arunachal Pradesh, according to Manipuri news website E-Pao (E-Pao.net, 2015). Kumar’s mode of filmmaking, hyper local, with a small crew and tight budget, is in stark contrast to the grandiose manner in which Bollywood makes films, with big stars, song and dance, even when its stories are located in the North East. Interestingly, Bollywood’s few popular, full-fledged films set in the North East, include Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998, which was at the Berlin Film Festival), in which Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s Amarkant

Haobam Paban Kumar  253 Varma falls in love with Meghna (Manisha Koirala), a beautiful, mysterious, woman political revolutionary from the North East, trained as a suicide bomber. Another is Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom (2014), starring top Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra and produced by well-known Bollywood filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The film is based on the real-life story of Mary Kom, a woman boxer from a poor peasant family from Manipur, who won five world championships and an Olympic bronze medal. Kumar states that Manipuri society is not matriarchal. Yet, in one way or another, we are constantly reminded that women in the North East are at the forefront in quietly persistent ways. Things took a dramatic turn in Manipuri cinema, when the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), the overground political wing, of the outlawed but powerful Manipuri insurgent outfit, People’s Liberation Army (PLA), banned Hindi films in Manipur in 2000. According to journalist Shamik Bag (2015), ‘they considered Bollywood/ Hindi films a cultural invasion, and demanded that Manipuris resist this “Indianisation” ’ (Bag, 2015). Thousands of Bollywood video cassettes were destroyed on the streets, and cinema halls were ordered to stop screening Hindi films. No concessions were made, not even when Mary Kom, the aforementioned biopic based on the life of boxing star and Manipur resident MC Mary Kom was released in the rest of the country in 2014. The ban still continues till today. However, several resilient Manipuri filmmakers turned the Hindi film ban to their advantage, by making low-budget, digital films. According to Bag (2015), before the ban, less than 10 Manipuri films were produced annually; but 80 Manipuri films were released in 2014, according to the Film Forum Manipur (FFM), the apex body of the state’s film industry. The budgets for these films range from Rs 10 lakh (around GBR 11,000) to Rs. 15 lakh (around GBR 16,000) (Film Forum Manipur cited in Bag, 2015). Theatrical release is a big challenge. According to Utpal Borpujari (2017), journalist and filmmaker, ‘Except Assam, all the other states have fewer than 10 cinema screens, if at all’. In Manipur, there were over 100 cinemas before the ban (Bag, 2015). But, as Paban Kumar clarifies, there are barely four to five genuine cinemas in the entire Manipur state, the rest are shabby video parlours. As a result, filmmakers show films in all kinds of halls—community halls, theatre halls etc. Even the sun isn’t helpful for releases: (I discovered that the ‘late night’ show in Imphal is at 6 pm, as it gets pitch dark by then, as the state is in India’s extreme east). Given that chances of box-office recovery are modest to nil, hits, such as Zubeen Garg’s Mission China (2017) are rare (Borpujari, 2017). In addition, The Film Forum Manipur (FFM), an apex body of 14 organisations of artistes and technicians, have imposed cultural conservatism, with rigid guidelines on language, costume, action, realistic portrayal and use of props, etc., according to Bag (2015). Films must be cleared by the FFM before being submitted to the Central Board of Film Certification

254  Meenakshi Shedde (CBFC) of the central government. Films that do not comply, cannot be screened. One guideline, states Bag, is that an additional Manipuri traditional costume be worn for every piece of foreign attire sported by actors in a film—‘If you wear jeans thrice on screen, you have to wear Manipuri dresses four times. We also ask for realistic portrayal of song sequences rather than the fantastical sequences we see in Hindi cinema involving dancers and multiple locations’, says an FFM official (ibid.). One film had a blurry mass representing a male character throughout the film, because he was wearing a kurta-pyjama, ‘mainland India’ style, which is banned (ibid). Given all these challenging circumstances, filmmaking is like guerilla warfare. So, the accomplishments of Kumar and his fellow filmmakers are all the more hard-won. Already, India is the only nation that makes films in 43 languages and dialects—so while its cinema is very rich, its markets are highly fractured. The bigger regional cinemas including Bollywood, the Tamil and Telugu industries each make on average 250 to 350 feature films annually in each regional state—far more films than any European nation: the UK makes about 156 features (BFI, 2017) and France makes 177 features (CNC, 2017). Ultimately, having about 30 dialects in a single state like Manipur, which saw its first full-length film, Deb Kumar Bose’s Matamgi Manipur release only in 1972, is certainly challenging for the film economy. Not that it has hindered filmmakers from the North East. Resilience is their great strength.

Haobam Paban Kumar’s Filmography: 14 Films • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake), 2016 Phum Shang (Floating Life); 52 min, 2014 Male Actress 35 min/HDV/Non-Fiction/2012 Ruptured Spring 17 min/HDV/Non-Fiction/2012 Along the Way (5 episodes) 22 min each/Beta/Fiction/2011 Nupishabi 52 min/ HDV/Non- Fiction/ 2010 Mr. India 47 min/ DV/ Non- Fiction / 2009 The First Leap 25 min/ DV/ Non- Fiction / 2008 Ngaihak Lambida 19 min/ 35mm/Fiction/ 2006 A Cry in the Dark 52 min/ DV/ Non- Fiction/ 2006 AFSPA 1958 77 min/ DV/ Non- Fiction/ 2005 They . . . me . . . Them 20 min/ DV/ Non- Fiction/ 2005 Malem (Mother earth) 06 min/ 35mm (B&W/ Fiction/ 2004) Punshi (Life) 03 min/ 16mm/ Fiction/ 2003

Notes There are filmmakers throughout India’s North East’s eight states. The more senior, distinguished ones include P.C. Barua, Jahnu Barua and Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia and Dr Bhupen Hazarika from Assam, and Aribam Syam Sharma from Manipur (his Ishanou, The Chosen One), was at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991, and Imagi

Haobam Paban Kumar  255 Ningthem (My Son, My Precious), won the Grand Prix at the Festival des Trois Continents in France in 1982; the younger generation includes Assam filmmakers Reema Kagti (Hindi films) and Rima Das (Village Rockstars was at film festivals worldwide, including Toronto, Hong Kong, San Sebastian, Goteborg, Jogja-Netpac Asian Film Festival, IFF Kerala, IFF India, Dharamshala, BAFICI Buenos Aires, Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Haobam Paban Kumar’s (Manipur) films have been at the Berlin, Toronto, Busan film festivals and dozens of festivals worldwide; Karma Takapa’s (Sikkim) Ralang Road was at the Karlovy Vary film festival. Other filmmaking talent from the NE includes actors Danny Denzongpa (Sikkim), Adil Hussain and Seema Biswas (Assam), and music composers S.D. Burman and R.D. Burman (originally from Tripura). All of these individuals have been popular in ‘mainland’ cinema across a span of 80 years or so. Adil Hussain has a distinguished national and international presence, with over 60 films, including Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Shubhashish Bhutiani’s Mukti Bhawan (Venice FF), Danis Tanovic’s Tigers, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera, Leena Yadav’s Parched, Iram Haq’s What Will People Say? and Bhaskar Hazarika’s Kothanodi. Reema Kagti’s Bollywood films include Talaash, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd and the forthcoming Gold, which Kagti directed, about India’s Olympic gold hockey medal, starring top Bollywood star Akshay Kumar. She has also written the screenplays for major Bollywood films, including some box-office hits—Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Dhadakne Do, Talaash, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Bombay Talkies and the forthcoming Gold and Gully Boy. Filmmakers from Assam: Include Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, P.C. Barua, Jahnu Barua, Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia, Dr Bhupen Hazarika, Gautam Bora, Manju Borah, Dr Santwana Bordoloi, Rima Das, Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya, Jaicheng Dohutia, Sanjib Sabhapandit, Abdul Majid, Sanjeev Hazorika, Sanjib Hazarika, Bhaskar Hazarika, Bobby Sarma Baruah, Bidyut Kotoky, Utpal Borpujari, Jadumoni Dutta, Kenny Basumatary, Reema Borah, Chow Partha Borgohain, Roopa Barua, Zubeen Garg. Filmmakers from Manipur: Include Aribam Syam Sharma, Makhonmani Mongshaba, Oken Amakcham, Haobam Paban Kumar, Oinam Doren, Maipaksana Haorongbam, O. Gautam, Meena Longjam, Sonia Nepram, Mohen Naorem and Wanglen Khundongbam. Filmmakers from Meghalaya: Include Pradip Kurbah, Hamlet Bareh Ngapkynta, Wanphrang Diengdoh, Dondor Lyngdoh. Filmmakers from Arunachal Pradesh: Include Sange Dorjee Thongdok, Ahsan Mujid Filmmakers from Nagaland: Kivini Shohe, Sesino Yhoshu, Tiakumzuk Aier, Yapangnaro Longkumer, Vito Sumi, Bendang Walling, Sophy Lasuh, Rebecca Changkija Filmmakers from Sikkim: Include Karma Takapa, Prashant Rasaily. Filmmakers from Mizoram: Lalawmpuia Khiangte, Mapuia Chawnghtu. Filmmakers from Tripura: Include Debashish Saha, Sanjib Das, Joseph Pulinthanath.

References ASFFDC. (2018). ‘Feature Films | The Assam State Film (Finance and Development) Corporation | Government of Assam, India’, Available at: http://asffdc.medhassu. in/information-services/feature-films [Accessed 14 June 2018].

256  Meenakshi Shedde Bag, S. (2015). ‘Being a Movie Buff in Imphal’, Available at: www.livemint. com/Leisure/7OfxOV3BcgFAa8ERcsf2tI/Being-a-movie-buff-in-Imphal.html [Accessed 08 June 2018]. BFI. (2017). ‘Genre and Classification’, Available at: www.bfi.org.uk/sites/bfi.org. uk/files/downloads/bfi-genre-and-classification-2017-06-16.pdf [Accessed 14 June 2018]. Borpujari, U. (2017). ‘Cinema of the Northeast: From Early Assamese Films to Star Manipuri Directors, All You Need to Know- Entertainment News, Firstpost’, Firstpost. Available at: www.firstpost.com/entertainment/cinema-of-the-north east-from-early-assamese-films-to-star-manipuri-directors-all-you-need-toknow-4109699.html [Accessed 08 June 2018]. Chinai, R. (2018). Understanding India’s North East: A Reporter’s Journal. Greater Noida: Saurabh Printers Pvt Ltd. Chinese Shadows.com. (2017). ‘Village Rockstars’, Available at: www.chineseshad ows.com/village-rockstars [Accessed 11 June 2018]. CNC. (2017). ‘Centre National du Cinema et de l’image animée. CNC—sectoral statistics’, Available at: www.cnc.fr/web/en/sectoral-statistics [Accessed 14 June 2018]. E-Pao.net. (2015). ‘Special Retrospective on Aribam Syam Sharma; New Horizons from NE Section Opens at IFFI 2015’, Available at: http://e-pao.net/ GP.asp?src=31.231115.nov15 [Accessed 11 June 2018]. Kumar, H. (2017). ‘Interviewed by Meenakshi Shedde [in person], on the Red Carpet of the Berlinale Palast for Cinestaan.com’, 21 February 2017, at Berlin Film Festival Available at: www.cinestaan.com/articles/2017/feb/22/4440/ still-waters-run-deep-haobam-paban-kumar-on-the-risk-of-using-music-in-film Kumar, H. (2017). Interviewed by Meenakshi Shedde [in person], post-screening Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake) Q/A for the Berlin Film Festival, 14 February 2017. Kumar, H. (2018). Interviewed by Meenakshi Shedde, [telephone interview], 8 June 2018. MSACS. (2018). ‘Manipur State Aids Control Society’, Available at: https://manipursacs.nic.in/ [Accessed 11 June 2018]. Sahani, A. (2017). ‘The Water Runs Deep’, The Indian Express. Available at: http:// indianexpress.com/article/entertainment/entertainment-others/the-water-runsdeep-4507494/ [Accessed 08 June 2018]. The Times of India. (2018). ‘AFSPA Removed from Meghalaya, Restricted in Arunachal Pradesh—Times of India’, Available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes. com/india/afsparemoved-from-meghalaya-restricted-in-arunachal-pradesh/articleshow/63881261.cms [Accessed 11 June 2018].

14 The Subaltern Screams Migrant Workers and the Police Station as Spatio-Carceral State of Exception in the Tamil Film Visaranai Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Introduction The Tamil regional cinema space is punctuated by a distinct independent filmmaking arena. Alongside non-commercial counterparts in the Marathi filmmaking domain, Tamil independent films often espouse significantly incisive, interrogative, experimental and polemical themes under the broader canopy of new wave Indian Indie cinema. Vetrimaaran’s Tamil political thriller Visaranai (Interrogation, 2016) epitomises this probing and socio-politically excoriating strand of Indie filmmaking. The film is a visceral exposé of police brutality brought to bear on a group of ‘lower caste’ Dalit migrant workers from Tamil Nadu, residing in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh state. Arguably, ‘no other groups are so systematically criminalised by the police as dalits and adivasis [tribals] are’ (Shinde, 2005: 88, my emphasis). Following the thematic thread of this volume’s earlier chapters on Indie narrations of untold and excluded stories, I will argue that Visaranai’s filmic rendition of falsified charges, forced incarceration and extreme torture inflicted on the aforementioned migrants is symptomatic of a broader, more complex and culturally specific ‘state of exception’1 than prefigured in Giorgio Agamben’s original template (2005). In Visaranai, the state of exception is typified by suspension of constitutional, human and civil rights, often imposed on the most vulnerable strata of ‘lower caste’ and minority subalterns who already exist in the liminal shadowlands of everyday existence in urban and rural India. The Indian caste-related scenario departs from Agamben’s generalised Amero-European idiom in that states of exception can be generated unpredictably and spontaneously in improvised, unconventional or appropriated spaces ranging from the social to the carceral. Caste-based oppression inflicted on subaltern victims including ‘lower caste’ Dalits in these unlocalisable spaces of exception can be enacted arbitrarily by dominant civil society as well as repressive instruments of the state, legal and juridical network. In essence, as the ‘lowest common denominator’, the outsider Tamil Dalit migrants in the film cease to inhabit a state of being and are coerced into states of exception on several levels.

258  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Through a textual analysis of the film’s discourses of subalternity, law enforcement, legal inconsistencies and politics, and drawing from philosophical paradigms espoused by Agamben inter alia, I will situate the police station in Visaranai as a spatio-carceral site. In this space, a state of exception specific to India is reified and enforced through violative expropriation of the migrants’ physiological and psychological space, and through disavowal and indefinite deferral of both international law and the purported secular democratic design of the Indian constitutional state. This chapter demonstrates how the acts of brutalism and human rights contraventions within the precincts of the police station are microcosmic manifestations of larger socio-political and religious systems of marginalisation brought to bear on ethnic and religious minorities in the everyday exterior civic space in India, as imagined in other Indie films such as Court (Chaitanya Tamhane, 2014), Papilio Buddha (Jayan Cherian, 2013), Fandry (2013) and Sairat (2016) (Nagraj Manjule) In effect, the police station ‘space’ of exception is one of the potent nodal sites in a larger spatial grid of subaltern subordination involving civil, economic, technological, legal, political, social and cultural spaces. This chapter also positions the Indian police station portrayed in Visaranai as a contradiction of its own conceived function. This occurs when the police station space deploys a stylised state of exception—part of a repressive, reproducible, porous and mobile spatial configuration that collapses geographical and geopolitical boundaries between regional Indian states. Police stations exist and operate across the Indian topographical divide. They can therefore function as crucibles of collusion and conflict between local and national political power matrices, to suspend legal statutes and the rule of law, and facilitate subaltern disappearance, non-existence and noncitizenship. Therefore, I argue that the police station is not only a standalone synchronic carceral space where legal and civil rights can be frozen, but it is part of larger carceral archipelagos—an assemblage of deterritorialised spaces. An example of this thesis is envisioned in the film Haider (see Preti Taneja’s chapter in this volume), where the civil rights of Kashmiri subaltern others can be suspended indefinitely or obliterated outright. In these human rights dead zones, institutionalised brutality and regulatory biopower—the power over life—can be exerted with impunity on society’s oppressed and abject others. This chapter takes cognisance that Visaranai is adapted from a biographical true-life account—Lock-Up: Jottings of an Ordinary Man (2017), authored by a daily wage Dalit auto-rickshaw driver, M. Chandrakumar. Visaranai’s cinematic interrogation mirrors Chandrakumar’s chronicle of his own arrest on false charges and his confinement and torture in a Guntur prison cell for 15 days, after which he was jailed for five and a half months. I interpret this literary-cinematic synthesis as a multiform mode of resistance, where the subaltern voice speaks from personal experience and writes back against oppressive structures. In this context, the objective is to understand

The Subaltern Screams  259 how the agonising subaltern screams that reverberate across Visaranai’s narrative are metonymic of a shattering of subaltern silence through emancipatory independent filmic storytelling, buttressed by the film’s intertextual fountainhead in the form of Chandrakumar’s liberating literary testimony. This chapter upholds the notion that the independent filmmaking sector in India can afford cinematic agency and provide vicarious space for oppressed subaltern subjects to speak, whilst they may not be accorded basic human rights in the real everyday alleyways of their lived experience.

Stigmatised Subalterns in Outer Social and Inner Carceral Spaces The film charts the precarious existence of four migrant Tamil workers, Pandi (Dinesh Ravi), Murugan (Aadukalam Murugadoss), Kumar (Pradeesh Raj) and Afsal (Silambarasan Rathnasamy). Apart from their ad hoc menial day jobs, the men are largely homeless, seeking sleeping space in the local Gandhi Park in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur town. This element of the film again reflects the real-life experience of Lock-Up author, M. Chandrakumar, who worked as a waiter at a roadside restaurant in Guntur at the time of his arrest and internment on the falsified charge of burglary. Surviving so far in the park’s parlous environment of nocturnal uncertainties, the men fall easy prey to prowling police, who round up the migrants and lock them up in the local police station jail cell. Eventually, the beleaguered migrants are accused falsely of perpetrating burglary in a wealthy and high-profile individual’s home. This marks a protracted ordeal of brutal torture within the confines of the station space, as the police go to great lengths to extricate forced confessions from their captives. At the vanguard of this dehumanising scheme is the despotic, xenophobic and sadistic police inspector Vishweshwar Rao (Ajay Ghosh), who derives unfathomable degrees of gratification in taunting, humiliating and tormenting the quartet. Prior to their arrest, we gain a fleeting glimpse of the social ostracism faced by the men, especially the quartet’s putative leader, Pandi, who works at a small grocery store, and is ridiculed by the Gandhi Park caretaker for his obvious otherness and inability to speak in Telugu—the state language of Andhra Pradesh. This stigmatisation soon segues from the social to the carceral space. The policeman arresting Afsal, whose name reveals his Muslim identity, demands to know whether Afsal is ‘Al Qaeda, ISIS or LTTE’. The policeman summarises his derisive query with the self-styled syllogism—‘all Tamils are LTTE’. This automatic conflation of Muslim Afsal with Islamic terrorist organisations and the blanketing of all Indian Tamil people as Sri Lankan Tamil armed separatists from the erstwhile Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) movement, is shorthand for the virulent brand of minority-shaming that typifies the majoritarian ethno-religious identity politics popularised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government.

260  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram The migrants soon discover that the police station surpasses their experience of oppression in the social sphere through an amplified degree of legitimisation and authorisation afforded the station’s spatio-political formulations. In the police station, the state of exception is not only reified and reinforced, it is performed in the name of the law and the ruling state authority, whilst standing simultaneously outside the legal tenets of law. This absolute power wielded by instruments of the law—the policemen in the film—harkens to the supreme power of the potentate—the sovereign who wields power over life and death, as framed by Foucault. Therefore, in Visaranai, the police station space becomes the battleground on which sovereign power (police) and bare life (subaltern prisoners) come face-toface in an uneven, one-sided and inequitable conflict. The collision is clearly skewed, in that the subaltern is silenced forcibly and stripped comprehensively of all rights within the state of exception embodied by the police station as carceral space. This chapter’s consideration of the station’s inner space is shackled to the notion of the subaltern being divested of basic democratic and civil rights outside the punitive police station space. This is a leitmotif throughout the film narrative, where the four men are framed as exploitable pawns—treated as expendable or disposable ‘human waste’ reminiscent of the ‘lower caste’ manual scavengers portrayed in political filmmaker Divya Bharathi’s Tamil documentary Kakkoos (Toilet, 2017). Despite manual scavenging ostensibly being outlawed in India, the film’s Dalit participants are forced by discriminatory political, religious and social systems to eke out a livelihood by clearing human excreta from public toilets, often with their bare hands. Indeed, a child in the documentary has interiorised her profession to the extent that she refers to herself as Kakkoos. This socio-ideologically enforced selfidentification draws comparison to an incident where police from a station in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, sent out a van to round up 10 lower caste men on the charge of planning a robbery. This arbitrary arrest was devised to compel the men to perform their caste-ordained menial ‘duty’ to clean the police station toilets and rid the station of rubbish after which the detainees were released (Shinde, 2005: 88). This true-life incident is replicated in one of the scenes in Visaranai. Divya Bharathi herself was arrested without a summons or warrant by police in Madurai, Tamil Nadu in July 2017, on the pretext of an earlier court case indicting Bharathi for involvement in a student agitation over the death of a fellow Dalit student due to delayed provision of medical treatment and deplorable living conditions in the Dalit student hostel where Bharathi resided at the time. This scenario also mirrors the nationwide student protests following the suicide in 2016 of Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula at the University of Hyderabad—the thematic centrepiece of the documentary film The Unbearable Being of Lightness (Ramchandra P.N., 2016), which was denied a certificate of release by the state-controlled Indian censor board.

The Subaltern Screams  261 Blurring borders of representation and actuality, these themes entail that the subaltern is implicated in a perpetual state of postponement—where even their everyday social space is susceptible to becoming a state of exception, through subtle, intangible and psychological levels of segregation but also via violent and brutal incursions by possessors of power into the subaltern’s social space. Visaranai’s depiction of the overt, arbitrary and interminable infliction of corporal punishment on the four prisoners in the name of the law, negotiates the inner and outer spaces of exclusion, and reveals how these domains are by no means self-contained or mutually exclusive. In terms of Indie film representations of the overlapping interior and exterior spatial contours of subaltern subjugation and exception, the brutalised men in Visaranai share consanguinity with the Dalits activists in Papilio Buddha (Jayan Cherian, 2013) and Court (Chaitanya Tamhane, 2015), the vilified gay university professor Siras in Aligarh (Hansal Mehta, 2016), the lesbian woman subjected to corrective rape by her police inspector father’s colleagues in Unfreedom (Raj Amit Kumar, 2015), the hapless indebted farmer contemplating suicide in Peepli Live (Anusha Rizvi, 2010), the sexually violated slum girl in Ajji (Devashish Makhija, 2017) and the young intercaste lovers in Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry and Sairat (see Aarti Wani’s chapter in this volume). They represent a spectrum of subalterns suffering daily depredations across several private and public spheres—beaten, assaulted, robbed, raped and abused at the hands of powerful oppressive forces.

Visaranai’s Space of Exception: A Distinctly Different Third Space In this section I will argue that the film’s subalterns are trapped in a third space that is unlike others commonly cited in pedagogical and philosophical theories. This idiosyncratic in-between space is not the salutary interstice of emancipation, articulation and agency envisioned by Homi Bhabha or in spatial terms by Edward Soja. Indeed, it is not even the same third space in which I locate the new wave of Indian Indie films from which vantage point they are able to critique and challenge Bollywood norms and socio-political master narratives in modern India (Devasundaram, 2016a). The carceral space of exception in Visaranai is a more menacing, anomie-inducing and disenfranchising liminal halfway zone. As aforementioned, although the spatial coordinates of the state of exception depicted in Visaranai, are plotted around the perimeter of the police station space, the fate of the beleaguered migrants held captive within this space is subject to a tumultuous arbitration in ‘a zone of indistinction between outside and inside, chaos and the normal situation’ (Agamben: 2017, 20). Although Agamben posits the state of exception as an imbrication between the aforementioned binaries, I would argue that the arena of chaos in which the Tamil subalterns are subjugated is actually a more

262  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram heterodox third space suspended in a limbo between the abovementioned co-mingling inside and the outside. The men inhabit a volatile space of undecidability that hangs between the exteriority of the outside world (the civic and political space), and the interiority of the police station precincts. They are implicated not only within the station’s physical contours, but in the contravention of the police station’s conceived or imagined spatial purpose—as a sanctuary for justice and a refuge from crimes, injustices and misdemeanours. Therefore, the spatiocarceral state of exception experienced by the subalterns in Visaranai is both virtual and real. Virtual because of the subversion of the actual ontological, ideological and functional raison d’etre of the police station, that for the victims, now constitutes an aporetic space of dehumanisation where the constitutional nostrums of justice and the rule of law are rendered nonsensical and postponed indefinitely. Simultaneously, it is a painfully physiological reality because the men are perpetually reminded of this deterritorialisation of spatial intentionality by the horrific instruments of police torture inflicted on their physical frames (Figure 14.1). Ultimately, in this tenebrous third dimension between the physical and psychological, totalitarian discourses of power are brought to bear on the migrants who are lowest in the pecking order in the police station’s spatial configuration, which itself is an arena for tempestuous internecine conflict, collision and power struggles amongst police personnel hierarchies, epitomising the fissiparity of the carceral network. As Foucault contends, prisons are only a singular strand in the network of biopower which is comprised of an agglomeration of institutions. These ‘assorted apparatuses of the state’ (Sullivan, 2015: 28)—educational,

Figure 14.1  Instruments of torture in the police station space.

The Subaltern Screams  263 military, industrial, medical and the police—together form a ‘carceral archipelago’ (Foucault 1977: 297) that projects the punitive systems of penal institutions such as police stations onto the outside world. In the outer social sphere, deviants from social norms and the diktats of law—what Foucault terms ‘correct behavior’, are ‘subject to punishment’ as a reformatory measure. The catalogue of abnormal or atypical behaviour that attracts disciplinary power includes transgressions linked to ‘time (lateness, absences, interruptions of tasks), of activity (inattention, negligence, lack of zeal), of behaviour (impoliteness, disobedience), of speech (idle chatter, insolence), of the body (incorrect attitudes, irregular gestures, lack of cleanliness), of sexuality (impurity, indecency)’ (Foucault, 1977: 178). In the specifically Indian case scenario, the Tamil migrants in the film are always already viewed as disciplinary objects by their social environment and by their police custodians in the carceral space, principally on the basis of the labourers’ caste antecedents and migrant outsider status. This a priori positioning of the men in a space of alterity even before they have been indicted on the basis of any deviant behaviour—deemed guilty in advance, speaks to an anticipatory subjugation of bodies on the basis of pre-imposed subalternity. In this sense, the Foucauldian notion of biopower as a disciplinary schema to coerce compliance from docile bodies is inadequate in isolation to explain the treatment and condition of the Tamil migrants in Visaranai. Although their corporeal forms are beaten into submission, and they are traumatised psychologically, the physical and mental predestination constituted by their caste identity has always already assumed ideological biopower over their bodies, way before their incarceration and brutalisation in the police station space. This typifies the agency and identity-robbing property of caste divisions in India. Compared to Heidegger’s notion of Dasein—a sense of individuals being thrown arbitrarily into the middle of existence, being Dalit or ‘lower caste’ constitutes an identity pre-assigned genealogically before birth. In his suicide note, left-wing political activist and PhD student Rohit Vemula wrote about the Dalit condition: ‘desperate to start a life. All the while, some people, for them, life itself is curse. My birth is my fatal accident’. (The Indian Express, 2016). Anything the state perceives as an imminent threat becomes the basis for the state of exception. At a later stage in the storyline of Visaranai, the Dalit men, as witnesses to police and political crimes, constitute an existential threat to the ruling and opposition political parties as well as the police officials. But they are also a ‘social threat’ by dint of their very being in this world. So, when the Dalit men in the film are coerced into the malign police station space of exception they are robbed of whatever little spatial agency they may have possessed in the outside social sphere. They have transitioned from the status of social detritus to homo sacer,2 in a zone of sovereign terror. This is where the thesis of spatial carceral archipelagos gains prominence whilst assessing the predicament of the prisoners. In the film we

264  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram gauge instinctively that the men in the film are discriminated against on several levels. Their systematic and sustained debasement seems apodictic because of their Tamil outsider and minority/lower caste status in an Andhra Pradesh police station. However, the predicament of the prisoners takes a turn for the worse when they are finally repatriated to their home state, and find themselves entangled in a second interrogation in a Tamil Nadu police station in the capital city, Chennai. This transition is precipitated by a momentary caesura in the prisoners’ routine of beatings in the Guntur jail, when the four Dalit defendants find themselves hauled into a courtroom, which their police captors presume will serve as a kangaroo court to close the case based on fabricated evidence. In order to accomplish this telos, the police orchestrate a coerced live reconstruction of the ‘crime’, where they compel the four men to ‘re-enact’ their modus operandi within the actual bungalow that was burgled. This charade is filmed by the police with the presumption that the fabricated documentation could be instrumentalised as decisive prima facie ‘evidence’ to prosecute the prisoners during the court session. Fortuitous circumstances turn the tables on police inspector Vishweshwar Rao’s aforementioned plan, when Pandi inspires his comrades to break their silence and raise impassioned pleas protesting their innocence to the presiding judge, thereby implicating Rao in their wrongful internment. The prisoners’ case is bolstered by the serendipitous presence of a plainclothes police investigator, Muthuvel (Samuthirakani) from Tamil Nadu, who is present in Guntur on an interstate investigation in pursuit of a high-profile political middleman K.K. (Kishore). At the judge’s behest, Muthuvel is summoned to translate from Tamil to Telugu Pandi’s desperate revelation. The judge acknowledges the veracity of this testimony by issuing an order releasing the prisoners and suspending their tormentor, Vishweshwar Rao. On their release from the Guntur torture cell, the four men are ecstatic about being able to return to what they conceive will be the safe haven of their home state. Instead, they are ordered by their benefactor—the Tamil detective, Muthuvel, to assist his own investigation by abducting his quarry K.K.—the louche auditor and money launderer for the opposition political party in Tamil Nadu. The guileless men comply and transport the captured K.K. to the Chennai police station, inaugurating K.K.’s own police interrogation. Whilst Kumar (whose character is based on the author M. Chandrakumar) is dropped off en route to Chennai, Pandi, Murugan and Afsal upon reaching their destination are asked to stay behind and clean the police station toilets and precincts. During the process, they find themselves caught again in a tenebrous web of deception and skulduggery that ensnares them in the nexus between the interiority of the police station space and the exteriority of regional and federal politics. A. Narayanan, a social activist, comments on how police violence in India is a naturalised phenomenon that impacts the most vulnerable and marginalised, but has a distinct dimension in Tamil Nadu:

The Subaltern Screams  265 Police brutality is rampant and an everyday reality in India, but in Tamil Nadu, the police are a political tool for the party in power. So, they patronise the police by allowing them to have unbridled powers, which shows in the cases of police torture. The worst affected are people from weaker sections like the poor and transgenders. (Ramanathan, 2016) This perspective of police repression as an all-India phenomenon with region-specific political particularities provides an insight into how police stations across India act as both discrete and cross-communicating spatiocarceral islets. There is a serialisation and schematisation in the police strategy of false arrests, brutal torture and forced confessions with the telos of closing cases. The station space serves the dual process of subverting the course of justice and compressing the time it would have taken for a bona fide process of actual investigation bereft of police corruption and political intervention. Indeed, crushing executive and political pressure to meet a ‘closed cases’ target is a strong stimulus for Visaranai’s police rank and file and top brass—from inspector Vishweshwar Rao to the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) in the Chennai police force, to pervert and contravene practically all human rights conventions and legal regulations. The cross-pollination between political power and police force across the crisscrossing discursive network of police stations in India is foregrounded in the film’s representation of political double-dealing, embodied by K.K.’s interstate rendition from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu. The plot reveals that the Chennai DCP masterminded K.K.’s abduction at the behest of the ruling government in Tamil Nadu in order to get K.K. to incriminate the opposition of financial malpractices in court. The Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) is in the pay of the opposition political party which is apprehensive that their pawn, K.K., could be coerced to divulge their nefarious dealings in court. The opposition party therefore instruct the ACP to interrogate K.K., which results in the latter’s violent custodial death, which the Chennai police cover-up as suicide. Political and vested interests collide when the DCP and ACP are locked in a proxy war between the ruling and opposition parties. The Chennai police station becomes the nerve centre in this intricate network connecting carceral and political synapses. In functioning as a spatio-carceral state of exception, the Chennai station is no different from its counterpart in Guntur in its utilisation of space as an arena of psychological and physical torture. The embedded nature of these systems and practices is reflected in a 2001 Amnesty International report on India: In many areas of India beatings are not reported as torture or ill-treatment because they are so much a part of the arrest and detention process. . . . Corruption and extortion, lack of investigative expertise, a confession-oriented approach to interrogation, demands for instant

266  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram punishment in the context of a crippled criminal justice system, the belief that punitive action will not be taken against torturers and discriminatory attitudes are all reasons why torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials abound. Discriminatory attitudes amongst law enforcement officials continue to mean that the most socially and economically vulnerable members of society are particularly vulnerable to torture and ill-treatment. (Sivaraman, 2003) In the Chennai police station which is largely the locus of the film’s latter half, the concept accentuated is of powerful human individuations facilitating the functioning of a carceral archipelago-oriented state of exception. However, the discriminatory divisions mentioned in the Amnesty report are not restricted to a deterministic and dualistic law enforcement official versus Dalit prisoner template. Visaranai also reveals entrenched bigotry and endogenous caste-discrimination within the police personnel hierarchy, where discrimination is enacted simultaneously in the claustrophobic confines of the prison where the three subalterns are subjugated. In this constellation, endemic social stratifications come to light when the ACP assigned to resolve the K.K. imbroglio humiliates Muthuvel, vilifying his Dalit status. Heaping vitriol on his subordinate, the ‘higher caste’ ACP tells Muthuvel that it is only through a state quota system for Scheduled Castes (SCs) that Muthuvel could enter the echelons of law enforcement. In this manner, Muthuvel’s claim to the majority space is destabilised. In her monograph Ex-Centric Cinema: Giorgio Agamben and Film Archaeology, Janet Harbord identifies as one of Agamben’s detours from Foucault’s previous paradigm of biopolitics ‘the foundational presence of an included exclusion (homo sacer) upon which modern politics rests’ (2016: 81). As a Dalit police inspector, Muthuvel is an unconventional homo sacer—the insider-outsider, different from Pandi and his companions who are homo sacer archetypes, and yet they share the same caste affiliation, thereby illustrating the multiple uncategorisable manifestations of the subaltern or indeed of the homo sacer, in contemporary times. The stigmatisation faced by Muthuvel also foregrounds the specific spatial caste dynamics that form the focal point of the film’s negotiation between the police station as spatio-carceral state of exception and the ethnocentric dimensions of the socio-political superstructure in modern India. Agamben (2017: 20) observes ‘in our age, the state of exception comes more and more to the foreground as the fundamental political structure and ultimately begins to become the rule’. This is increasingly the norm in contemporary India, where under the rule of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi, the rise of divisive ethno-religious majoritarian politics has witnessed a coeval spate of rapes, extrajudicial political killings, murder of left-wing activists and scientific rationalists, and violence against minority Muslims, Christians and lower caste groups (Devasundaram, 2016a, 2016b, 2018).

The Subaltern Screams  267 Agamben (2017: 20) argues that the concentration camp rather than the prison is a marker of an absolute state of exception. According to him ‘prison law only constitutes a particular sphere of penal law and is not outside the normal order’, whereas the juridical domain of the concentration camp is governed by martial law (2017: 20–21). He contends further that ‘as the absolute space of exception, the camp is topologically different from a simple space of confinement’ (2017: 21). Agamben’s restricted argument could be interpreted as a banalisation of the possibilities of spatial flexibility when it comes to accommodating and hosting acts of evil. It also contradicts his admission that the state of exception is ‘essentially unlocalizable’ (2017, 20). The Nazis earmarked the sporting site of Vélodrome d’Hiver as the containing crucible to detain thousands of Jews before transporting them to the Auschwitz extermination camp (Devasundaram, 2016a: 258). In an Indian context, I have gestured towards how the derelict Faraz cinema hall in Indian-occupied Kashmir represented in the film Haider, serves not as a sanctuary for film aficionados but as a theatre of interrogation and torture of young Kashmiri dissidents before their enforced disappearance by the Indian security apparatus (Devasundaram, 2016a: 258–59). In this regard, even the most innocuous and ostensibly inviolable of spaces can be transformed to facilitate states of exception. The most pertinent example is the horrific gang rape, torture and murder of an eight-year old girl, Asifa Bano, from a Muslim tribal community, in January 2018. This brutal act was perpetrated in the inner sanctum of a Hindu temple in the Jammu and Kashmir region. The subsequent clamour by ruling BJP leaders, affiliates and supporters to defend the eight perpetrators (including four policemen) rather than seek justice for the victim, captures the tenor of the neo-fascist brand of politics silently endorsed by Modi’s BJP in contemporary India. Therefore, it is largely myopic to essentialise, authenticate or privilege one space of exception over another based on the degree of associative horror ubiquitous with certain sites, such as concentration camps. Indeed, Nazi extermination camps are the blueprint for the ‘genealogy of the modern age’s “carceral archipelagos” of victimization’ (Finchelstein, 2012: 148). In Visaranai, we witness the extreme levels to which a ‘simple space of confinement’ can be recast into a chamber of custodial horror for human abjects. With the reality of several police stations across India acting as spatio-carceral cauldrons for the suspension of human rights, it would be perilous to soft-pedal on the polymorphous potentialities of space as a tool for exception. It may also be more effective to acknowledge the infinite possibility of human beings to territorialise and transmute banal, conventional and heterodox spaces into zones of exception.

Above the Law: The Police/State Politics Nexus Torture is not criminalised by Indian law, and a 2014 study by The People’s Union for Democratic Rights revealed that ‘torture in police custody

268  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram is a norm rather than exception in all parts of the country including Delhi’ (2014: 8). In this section, I will appraise how Visaranai unlocks the discursive interpenetrating aspects of political power and the police force. I will also shine a light on how manipulation, disavowal or withholding of knowledge linked to human rights legislation enables both political and law enforcement sectors to rise above the law, rendering these formulators, enforcers and law-makers exceptions to the rule of law. Rather than framing the state of exception as a totalising and protracted event, I would argue commensurate with my earlier mention of carceral archipelagos, that it is worth acknowledging the multitudinous states of exception that are part of daily performativity and practice. In India, the subaltern experience of precarity is presided over by spontaneous, labile and mobile situations that can generate states of exception hyperlinked to larger often imperceptible, intangible and unwritten but nevertheless performed precepts of exclusion. This is precisely the case with regards to the popular imagination of police stations in India, that has spawned a cornucopia of film narratives from Bollywood, the arthouse and regional vernacular film sectors.3 Several films portray prison cell incarceration as captivity concomitant with relinquishing human identity and forfeiting legal rights, not merely a transitory holding space. Other largely sensationalist mainstream film narratives normalise the use of police torture as a means to rid the nation of unwanted and unpatriotic malcontents, thereby endorsing a state-sanctioned hegemonic narrative. On an intangible and discursive level however, there is a putative public perception of the Indian police station space as a potential punitive sanctuary for corruption, injustice, deception, torture and wrongful confinement. This imagination has been wrought by the accumulation of a palimpsest of stories and factual events that have transpired within the police station space— narratives traversing time across the length and breadth of the nation. Film storylines, such as the central theme in Visaranai, often represent the direct nexus between political power and the repressive police apparatus. This framing of the carceral space alongside state power could be conflated historiographically with events such as the sovereign imposition of a national state of Emergency between 1975 and 1977, by erstwhile Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. In 2017, the Indian Supreme Court overruled retrospectively a decision it had taken in 1976 at the behest of the then Congress government under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. The Court had ratified the Congress party’s directive to unlawfully detain members of opposing political parties and ordinary citizens. Underscoring the right to life and privacy in the Court’s volte face, a Supreme Court Justice stated: No civilized state can contemplate an encroachment upon life and personal liberty without the authority of law. Neither life nor liberty are bounties conferred by the state nor does the Constitution create

The Subaltern Screams  269 these rights. The right to life has existed even before the advent of the Constitution. (PTI News.com, 2018) This pronouncement flies in the face of the predicament suffered by the detainees in Visaranai, not to mention ordinary individuals, especially from minority groups in India. As aforementioned, Rohith Vemula perceived his birth as a fatal accident in stark contradiction to the Supreme Court’s platitudinal reference to the pre-constitutional ‘right to life’. Visaranai discloses how in the police station space, the authority of law and judiciary is not only transgressed it is transmogrified into an instrument of torture and arbitrary detention. However, a state of exception is an ever-present danger for Dalits in the everyday social space. This is illustrated through a horrific incident that transpired in May 2018, in the BJP-ruled state of Gujarat of which Modi was the erstwhile Chief Minister. Mukesh Vaniya, a Dalit ragpicker and his wife were seeking scraps in a junkyard near a factory when they were accosted and accused of theft by the factory owner and his workers. Whilst Mukesh’s wife was able to escape the scene, he was tied to a pole and flogged to death, with his agonised screams captured in a video recording that was circulated by the Indian news media (Singh and Ghosh, 2018). Therefore, the Supreme Court Justice’s declaration naturalising life and liberty is another instance of tokenism and symbolic bureaucratic legalese that is rarely reified into performative action in the prison sphere or in the social sector. Whilst the right to life is reduced to bare life for the four incarcerated men in the film, prior to their arrest, the right to live equally amongst others is also contravened due to their pre-ordained Dalit subaltern status. For them and for the ill-fated Mukesh Vaniya, the Supreme Court’s pedagogical pronouncement of the right to life is tainted by discrimination experienced on a daily performative basis, and as such, the Court’s declaration is meaningless. To illustrate the extent to which legal statutes are both broken and manipulated by the police personnel in Visaranai, three clauses from the Indian Penal Code (IPC) particular to police dealings with custodial torture can be cited. Section 331—Voluntarily causing grievous hurt to extort confession, or to compel restoration of property, Section 342—Punishment for wrongful confinement, and Section 348—Wrongful confinement to extort confession, or compel restoration of property. As this chapter’s cynosure is the police station as a carceral space engendering a site-specific state of exception, it is apposite to spotlight the verbiage of Section 348, relating to the purported legal consequences of enforced incarceration: Whoever wrongfully confines any person for the purpose of extorting from the person confined or any person interested in the person confined any confession or any information which may lead to the detection of an offence or misconduct, or for the purpose of constraining

270  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram the person confined or any person interested in the person confined to restore or to cause the restoration of any property or valuable security or to satisfy any claim or demand, or to give information which may lead to the restoration of any property or valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine. (The Indian Penal Code, 2011: 133) This caveat notwithstanding the policemen in the film remain defiantly nonchalant, displaying utter disregard and contempt towards these IPC dictums that supposedly form the cornerstone of their conduct and employment. This epitomises not only the state of exception they have foisted on their four victims but also the routinised performativity of this state of exception, where law enforcers have come to consider themselves exempt from juridical stipulations—they are above the law. The standardisation of a state of exception to the law again brings to the fore the individuations and power-based individual action that enables larger states of exception to become a sustainable, reproducible and hegemonic model. On unprecedented occasions, despotic powerholders such as the tyrannical police inspector in the Guntur prison can be dispossessed of their sovereign power, when more powerful, principled and incorruptible agents such as the court judge choose to impose punitive measures on renegade or rogue figures contravening the statutes of law. In the case of another independent film, Court (2015), the central character, a Dalit defendant arrested on trumped-up charges of sedition, is suspended in an interminable courtroom case largely due to the corrupt ineptitude of an apathetic bourgeoise judge. In an Indian legal space often implicated in intertwinements with partisan political power, it is often the case that faithful, unbiased or unadulterated applications of statutes such as the IPC can be exceptions to the rule. Subalterns, in particular, experience social, political and legal oppression in the exterior civil sphere which haemorrhages into the inner carceral sphere. I’d now like to draw attention to the different dimensions of spatial oppression that is perpetrated in the police station space. When the men are transported to the police station, they have no inkling of why they have been arrested and detained. They are left to speculate amongst themselves about assorted reasons for the police inveigling them. As soon as they cross the threshold of the station, the regime of intense corporal punishment is initiated. By denying the detainees any information about the raison d’etre for their arrest, brutalisation and incarceration, the police cabal instrumentalise this suspension of knowledge to exercise absolute power over their victims. In effect, the police weaponise their own brutal brand of silence to pre-emptively thwart the prisoners’ potentiality to protest their innocence and demand their human rights. The muteness of the police is in stark contrast to the silence of the subaltern—invoking the canonical catchphrase that has punctuated Gayatri Spivak’s research—‘can the subaltern speak?’ (2006). This strategy of intentional inarticulacy in the

The Subaltern Screams  271 face of imposed social injustice has been mirrored on the grand stage of national politics in India, with Narendra Modi repeatedly implicated in his strategy of silence amidst gruesome incidents of rape, discrimination and violence against Muslims and other minorities. In relation to the suspension of the film’s subalterns in a purgatory of indeterminacy where silence is broken only by their anguished screams, the notions of carceral space and the state of exception tend to privilege the geographical and semiotic dimensions of space in which inhumane acts become synonymised and mythologised—in locations and monikers such as Guantanamo Bay and Auschwitz, for example. Gesturing back to the notion of spatial oppression, I would like to underscore and reiterate the importance of the psychological and cognitive dimensions that are coded into these sites of exception but often overlooked. For instance, the denial of knowledge and withholding of information about reasons for the four men’s arrest implies enforced uncertainty and fracture in the logical continuity of the legal process as imagined conventionally. This disconnection in due process achieves the desired effect of introducing divisive chaos and indecision amongst the four men. This colonisation of the thought process is also part of a deterritorialisation scheme that is followed by reterritorialization through implantation of an ideology of fear of the unknown, which is designed to expedite surrender and subjugation to sovereign power and the breakdown of resistance. This cognitive zone of exception is probably the most potent instrument of torture, because it is envisaged to engender the disassembling of the human psyche—a relentless bombardment of the mentation faculties to breakdown the notion of self as human being to a perception of self as bare life. It is the rapid depoliticising displacement of a human being from bios to zoe. This modus operandi of psychological attrition is common to the concentration camp, therefore conjoining carceral spaces such as Auschwitz and Guantanamo Bay with the Guntur police station in which the men are implicated in this process of physiological and psychological colonisation. In 1979, India ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which ‘codifies the non-derogable right to be free of torture’, therefore making it obligatory for India to adhere to the terms of the treaty (IHRLC, 2014: 32). Other rights enshrined in the ICCPR encompass rights violated during enforced disappearances including the ‘right to life’ and ‘right to security of a person’. The fact that India is already beholden by international law to uphold the principles of the ICCPR it ratified in 1979, but contravenes consistently the right to life of its vulnerable minority citizens in social and carceral spaces, renders the aforementioned Supreme Court declaration affirming the right to life even more superficial. India has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment despite being a signatory in 1997 (The Indian Express, 2017). India also signed but declined to ratify the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED).

272  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Registering disapproval of the vocabulary of the CED, India’s negation was expressed thus: [t]he constructive ambiguity in the definition of enforced disappearance is not helpful, as it results in the creation of two different standards of proof for the same crime: one in this instrument and another in the Rome Statute. The missing elements of intent and knowledge in the definition will not help in easing the burden of proof, as mens rea [intention or knowledge of a crime] is an essential element for the criminalization of any act. A proposition as to state of mind or knowledge is an essential ingredient of the definition of any crime and should have been included in the definition. (IHRLC, 2014: 30, italics and emphasis mine) India’s non-acceptance not only of the phraseology of this statute but also of its concrete implementation in the legal terrain of law and order practice can be interpreted through the actions of the police force in Visaranai. Their own intentionality, displayed in their complete precognition and premeditation of enforced and wrongful incarceration, is withheld from their victims as well as the court of law. It is only the inadvertent and fortuitous presence of the translating Tamil detective, Muthuvel, that amplifies the desperate cries and pleas of the four subalterns and evinces the sympathetic response of the judge, exposing the sinister intent of the corrupt and venal police inspector. This raises questions about the entropic and arbitrary nature of law and legal structures in India in which the hapless Dalit prisoners are enmeshed. It is also a throwback to the intangible psychological dimension of the space of exception which involves a colonisation of the cognitive process. Forcibly inserting a blank space bereft of information—an aporia of zero knowledge and awareness about the reasons for their abduction and detainment, constitutes a canny exploitation of the notion of mens rea. Emphasising mental culpability as a sine qua non for criminalisation of an act, provides the manipulable means for the state and police to fabricate intangible psychological motivation as evidence in the absence of actus reus—actual and tangible proof of a crime. Analogies of this scenario include the ‘thought crime’ of which Winston Smith in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) is accused, the ‘PreCrime’ premise of Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story, Minority Report (2002) and the diktat in the Gospel of Matthew (5:28) decreeing that a person guilty of lustful intent has already committed the act of adultery. This approach is adopted when the police inspector, Vishweshwar Rao orders the four prisoners to ‘confess’, even before they have been made aware of their ‘crime’. Rao has pre-decided their mens rea, which therefore constitutes an indiscriminate tool for powerholders and the ruling order to wield in the battleground of biopower. The ensuing fabricated legal zone of indeterminacy is the exploitable space that provides carte blanche to the Guntur, and

The Subaltern Screams  273 later, the Chennai local police to transgress international conventions of human rights that the Indian democratic state subscribes to nominally, but violates in practice. The above arguments could therefore be posited as paradigmatic of a local-national nexus—a tacit agreement to manipulate mens rea amongst other exceptions to international law to suit the vested interests of authoritarian forces of repressive state and legal power. This assertion is also commensurate with the idea of India espousing an antinomical national narrative—presenting an image of a secular progressive democracy to the exterior global space whilst consistently contravening civil rights within the confines of the country’s internal civic space (Devasundaram, 2016b, 2018). Indigenous Indian laws could be called upon to illustrate this discrepancy. As portrayed prominently in the film Haider—the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) grants Indian security forces in Kashmir a veritable calling card to violate private civilian space, by marching into ordinary homes and undertaking enforced disappearances of young men akin to the situation in Visaranai. So, whilst the army personnel can invade interior space on the basis of a bespoke law created by the Indian legal system, the police in Visaranai consider themselves vindicated to commit similar acts of plucking vulnerable people from the social space of the streets, armed with foreknowledge that they can manufacture mens rea at will, to aid the removal of their subaltern victims from the streets to the cloistered confines of the police station. Overall, the state of exception enacted at the micro-level in the police station in Visaranai speaks to the larger macro-level serialised suspension of legal legislation and civil rights rulings when the Indian police process specific cases of atrocities and crimes on Dalits. In a study conducted by a third sector organisation in Andhra Pradesh, between 1999–2003 only 18 First Information Reports (FIRs) were accurately registered out of a total of 103, cases with 29 not registered at all (Human Rights Watch, 2007: 33). The National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes passed the largely axiomatic pronouncement that ‘a large number of cases of atrocities go unregistered, mainly because of reluctance on the part of police officers to register the cases’ (Benjamin, 2010: 156). Dalit cases are often wrongly registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) rather than the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989. Improper registration has a practical impact on court rulings, the provision of justice and proportional sentencing. This bureaucratic measure seems farcical and paradoxical justifying Vetrimaaran’s comparison of Visaranai to Kafka’s The Trial (Vetticad, 2016), considering as mentioned earlier that the police themselves exhibit flagrant disregard to the IPC rule book. However, a Human Rights Watch interview with a Tamil Nadu activist reveals that a case booked under the Atrocities Act necessitates the accused to be jailed immediately without bail, and therefore, high caste Hindus ‘cleverly use the police to avoid putting cases under the act’ (Narula, 1999: 189). With no tangible regulatory mechanism

274  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram to ensure correct registration of police cases, it becomes a case of who will guard the guardians?

Voicing the Voiceless: Shared Screams of Subaltern Resistance Ultimately, this chapter displays how the Tamil Indie Visaranai shares the general ethos of the overarching Indian Indie New Wave, in terms of articulating narratives of subordinated and dispossessed subalterns. Pandi stands out amongst his subaltern comrades by dint of his largely unwavering defiance and resoluteness throughout the catalogue of horror visited on the men. Exhorting his companions to go on a hunger strike, he declares ‘It is better to die fighting than to live as prisoners all our lives’. This call to resistance connotes a scream of subaltern disobedience to the supreme power of the repressive police apparatus. Thematically, it is similar to Jayan Cherian’s controversial film Papilio Buddha which represents a Dalit community in the southern state of Kerala, who reach the threshold of their forbearance in the face of incessant daily oppression at the hands of society, police and political power. In one graphic sequence in Visaranai, Pandi is beaten brutally by Vishweshwar Rao (Figure 14.2) on the sadistic condition that if he collapses his companions will be bludgeoned too. Despite a harrowing ordeal, Pandi emerges the victor—still standing, and is positioned as a Christ-like martyr figure, who is flayed mercilessly but sacrifices himself for his friends. These unequal battles of will akin to Papilio Buddha culminate in a bloody showdown between the police and the Dalits during the film’s taut and violent denouement. Overall, Pandi’s immutable and irrepressible stance in several locations—the Guntur courtroom, the two police stations and in the outer social space, inspires his compatriots to similar action.

Figure 14.2  Vishweshwar Rao flogs Christ-like martyr, Pandi.

The Subaltern Screams  275 In events leading to the film’s climax, Afsal has a premonition that the men have been brought by the Chennai police to a safe house on the premise that they can be eliminated in a ‘fake encounter’. His panic at the prospect of being murdered without mercy causes him to wrestle with one of the policemen and flee—only to be shot dead in the process. This sequence evokes comparisons with Katherine Bigelow’s Detroit (2017), where two white supremacist police officers have unjustifiably detained a group of AfricanAmerican men in a motel. In Bigelow’s film, this interrogation results in the murder of an innocent man when he attempts to escape, with the police officers planting a knife beside his body to falsify evidence. Based on truelife incidents, this consanguinity between the two films lends insight into the shared narrative of marginalised individuals being spatially oppressed through suspension of the rule of law, albeit in culturally specific situations and ad hoc spaces of exception. In another Indian Indie film, I Am (2010), a young gay man, Jai Gowda is beaten mercilessly by a corrupt policeman in Mumbai, when he catches Jai and his male companion kissing inside Jai’s car. In the context of Visaranai, this is a comparable depiction of another marginalised community in India—LGBTQ people being oppressed by police power in the exterior social space. Despite Jai and his companion engaging in consensual intimacy in the private space of Jai’s car, their act is deemed unlawful and aberrant by the policeman, as the private capsule of the car is stationed in a public space, albeit isolated and uninhabited. The policeman singlehandedly suspends the need for legal legitimacy in order to unleash sovereign power over Jai’s docile body, thereby transforming the private space of the car into a carceral possibility—an impromptu carceral archipelago. Similarly, in the case of the state of exception created in the police stations in Visaranai, there is no writ of law strong enough to enjoin the policemen from torturing the inmates. Instead there is the aporetic, arbitrary, spontaneous and unpredictable visitation of power on its hapless victims according to the sadistic whims of the policemen across the hierarchical chain of command. Where there is the exercise of absolute power, there is space for resistance. Even the carceral space of the police station has transformative and indeed revolutionary properties. Lock-Up author, M. Chandrakumar became a Communist activist after his harrowing prison experiences, and the film’s epilogue provides a vignette of his continued activism against social injustice. Vetrimaaran acknowledging the educational applicability of the film, cites in an interview the example of Justice P.N. Prakash of Tamil Nadu who organised a screening of the film for his students studying to be magistrates. As a postscript to the film screening, Prakash instructed his proteges: ‘magistrates are the ones directly in touch with the common man, so take a moment before you do something, look at the victim, whomever the case is against, and think before you write. That’s a big thing’ (Vetticad, 2016). This exemplifies the notion of the Dalit writing back and galvanising elite power structures to become cognisant of these subaltern inscriptions of resistance whilst enacting official judicial rulings. On the larger level

276  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram of independent cinema raising awareness and enhancing the visibility of minority discourses, Visaranai won the Best Feature Film in Tamil at the 63rd National Film Awards, premiered at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival and was India’s official entry to the Best Foreign Language Film category at the 89th Academy Awards. In this regard, the thesis of Indie films acting as cinematic capsules of resistance is validated. Despite its empowering aspects as a tool for activism and awareness, the film ultimately presents a bleak insight into the harsh realities of subaltern existence in contemporary India, when the aforementioned policestate nexus is instrumentalised. In particular, the film’s incendiary climax combines verisimilitude with a dystopian view relating to the seemingly inevitable suffocation of the subaltern scream. This occurs when Pandi and Murugan—the last survivors after Afsal’s murder, manage to flee their captors and conceal themselves in an inner-city marshland subtended by weeds and shrubs—a milieu that recalls the Spanish film La Isla Minima (Marshland, Alberto Rodriguez, 2014). Reasoning that they should split up to try and evade the hunting policemen, Pandi tells Murugan ‘we need to tell the world what happened here . . . for which at least one of us should live’. This autonomous sacrificial gesture by a homo sacer is not only a meta-referential nod to M Chandrakumar’s literary narration of personal experience and disenthrallment, but also the broader exigent need to amplify the subaltern scream, to pierce through the glass ceiling of a caste-contained social structure. After Murugan is dispatched by a single police gunshot, Pandi is the last man standing—locked in a duel to the death with Dalit policeman, Muthuvel. In a rapid twist of events in the final frames of the film, the screen fades to black and the audience hear twin gunshots. It becomes evident that the political/police agenda has been achieved. The last prisoner, Pandi has been eliminated, but Muthuvel—the policeman who knew too much and is wrestling with a crisis of conscience has also been silenced to prevent him turning whistleblower to the press and media. The fact that both Dalit police perpetrator and victim have been eliminated from the equation speaks to the notion of subaltern resistance being silenced and subsumed by insurmountable and indomitable supreme power. The film’s final sequence lends justification to this chapter’s assertion that the spatio-carceral state of exception generated by law enforcers bleeds into the socio-political space. After the invisible twin gunshots, we hear acousmatic voices recognisable as the DCP directing the police underling who has gunned down Muthuvel, to fabricate a story for the press—valorising Muthuvel’s death in the line of duty whilst confronting armed robbers. He instructs his subordinate to counterpoise images of Muthuvel’s wedding with pictures of his mourning widow and children, encouraging ‘debates on police officer safety’. This police colonisation of the public space in the inner-city marshland permeates into the public sphere in terms of their territorialisation of the news media. It epitomises

The Subaltern Screams  277 the shapeshifting ontology of the spatio-carceral space of exception which has moved with sinuous fluidity and unbridled authority through social, political, psychological, public and private spaces. It is important to reiterate the impetus the global release of Visaranai lent to the writing, activism and visibility of both M. Chandrakumar and Vetrimaaran. The film’s epilogue mentions that 30% of police cases in India are closed with forced confessions. The coda also serves as a forum to foreground Chandrakumar’s voice as he is filmed speaking to the Venice Film Festival audience. Encapsulating the importance of subaltern ‘screams’ against an imposed state of exception both in the film and in contemporary existence, Chandrakumar states: When an unquestionable power-centre treats a man brutally, unlawfully, inhumanely, mercilessly, it’s a state of absolute helplessness and despair. We yearned for our cries for justice to be heard outside the prison walls. I’m consoled knowing that, through this movie, our story will be ingrained in society’s conscience forever. (M. Chandrakumar in Visaranai, 2017) Image and text have therefore combined as conduits to creating a platform to document, articulate and combat subaltern oppression. Antonio Gramsci’s vision of the organic intellectual emerging from within marginalised communities (Karabel, 2002: 25–26) is to a significant extent reified in Chandrakumar’s transformation from mute victim to empowered articulator. This autochthonous instantiation of the organic intellectual is foregrounded by Chandrakumar continuing to drive an autorickshaw for a living, choosing to research and conceive his political novels between ferrying passengers. This gives literal and metaphorical meaning to the term ‘organic’, but it also testifies to performative daily acts of resistance that intervene in the totalising pedagogical national narrative.

Conclusion Visaranai stands out as an unflinching contestation of wanton and serialised police brutality and a metonymic portrayal of the larger structurally encoded corruption and lawlessness in legal and law enforcement regimes in India. As has been argued throughout this chapter, the police station in India can be positioned as a potential space of exception where the rule of law, legal process, human rights and constitutional precepts can be arbitrarily suspended—in a dead zone where human rights are deferred indiscriminately. I have also proposed an extension to Agamben’s paradigm by spotlighting the spontaneous and shapeshifting, physical and psychological multiple states of exception that can be conjured instantly in diverse situations and spaces when broaching caste and religion-based discrimination in India. In such scenarios, ordinary citizens (of ‘higher castes’ and majority

278  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram religious status) in the everyday social space have the propensity to morph into self-styled enforcers of states of exception analogous to police officers in the carceral space. Akin to real life Dalit left-wing activist Vira Sathidar, who in the film Court, reprised his real experience of oppression at the hands of the police in Maharashtra, and filmmaker Divya Bharathi’s arbitrary arrest on a trumped-up charge, Chandrakumar’s first-hand account crystallised through Vetrimaaran’s Visaranai is talismanic of the independent Indian cinema space acting as an important cultural counter-narrative to the rising tide of proto-fascist identarian and majoritarian religion and caste-based politics that has become popularised under Modi’s BJP in modern India. The Indie film space therefore presents a vital springboard to breach Bollywood’s bastion by facilitating the narration of dissenting minority narratives that are largely stifled in commercial Bollywood’s hegemonic rendering of a national narrative. This anthology has explored a variegated terrain of independent Indian filmmaking, foregrounding the Indies as intrinsically heterogeneous in form and style but decidedly alternative in content. Mixing the local and the global, these glocal filmic agents epitomise the innate hybridity of a nation negotiating between religious nationalism and consumer-based globalisation. Most importantly, this volume affirms that the Indies—fiction and documentary forms—have kindled a cinematic revolution in the Indian film topography, and are distinctive torchbearers of the country’s future cinematic trajectory.

Notes 1. Drawing on the work of legal and political theorist Carl Schmitt, Agamben frames the state of exception as the suspension of normally applicable rule of law and human rights. Agamben focuses on the state of exception characterised by arbitrary and indefinite detention of non-citizens, particularly utilising the post 9/11 scenario and the incarceration and abuse of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay as examples. 2. Homo Sacer (sacred man) is a theme adopted by Agamben to refer to a paradoxical figure who is sacred but can be sacrificed by the state, and is therefore deemed an exception to the law although the homo sacer is a part of it. 3. Films include Ardhasatya (Govind Nihalani, 1991), Satyameva Jayate (Raj Sippy, 1987), Ghayal (Raj Kumar Santoshi, 1990), Khuddar (Iqbal Durrani, 1994), Lockup Death (Om Prakash Rao, 1994).

References Agamben, G. (2005). State of Exception. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Agamben, G. (2017). The Omnibus Homo Sacer. Redwood City: Stanford University Press. Benjamin, J. (2010). Democratic Process, Foreign Policy and Human Rights in South Asia. New Delhi: Gyan. Chandrakumar, M. (2017). Lock-Up: Jottings of an Ordinary Man. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press.

The Subaltern Screams  279 Devasundaram, A. (2016a). India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid. New York: Routledge. Devasundaram, A. (2016b). ‘Bollywood’s Soft Power: Branding the Nation, Sustaining a Meta-Hegemony’, New Cinemas: Journal of Contemporary Film, 14(1): 51–70. Devasundaram, A. (2018). ‘Beyond Brand Bollywood: Alternative Articulations of Geopolitical Discourse in New Indian Films’, in Saunders, R. and Strukov, V. (eds.), Popular Geopolitics: Plotting an Evolving Interdiscipline. Oxon: Routledge, pp. 152–173. IHRLC (2014). ‘The Right to a Remedy for Enforced Disappearances in India: A Legal Analysis of International and Domestic Law Relating to Victims of Enforced Disappearances’, International Human Rights Law Clinic, University of Berkley, California. Finchelstein, F. (2012). ‘An Argentine Experience? Borges, Judaism, and the Holocaust’, in Brodsky, A. and Rein, R. (eds.), The New Jewish Argentina: Facets of Jewish Experiences in the Southern Cone. Brill, Vol 2, pp. 147–178. Foucault, M. (1977). Discipline and Punish. Tavistock: London. Harbord, J. (2016). Ex-centric Cinema: Giorgio Agamben and Film Archaeology. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. Human Rights Watch. (2007). India—Hidden Apartheid Caste Discrimination against India’s “Untouchables”. Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice. The Indian Express. (2016). ‘My Birth Is My Fatal Accident: Full Text of Dalit Student Rohith’s Suicide Letter’, Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/ india/india-news-india/dalit-student-suicide-full-text-of-suicide-letter-hyderabad/ [Accessed 10 May 2018]. The Indian Express. (2017). ‘India Behind 161 Nations in Ratifying Treaty on Torture’, Available at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-behind-161-nations-inratifying-treaty-on-torture-4644513/ [Accessed 18 May 2018]. The Indian Penal Code. (2011). New Delhi: Universal Law Publishing Co Ltd. Karabel, J. (2002). ‘Revolutionary Contradictions: Antonio Gramsci and the Problem of Intellectuals’, in Martin, J. (ed.), Antonio Gramsci: Critical Assessments of Leading Political Scholars, Volume 3. New York: Routledge, pp. 7–52. Narula, S. (1999). Broken People: Caste Violence Against India’s “untouchables”. Human Rights Watch Asia. People’s Union for Democratic Rights. (2014). Crimes of Habit: A Report on Custodial Torture in Vijay Vihar Police Station. New Delhi: People’s Union for Democratic Rights, April 2014. PTI News.com. (2018). ‘SC overrules emergency era controversial verdict’, Available at: www.ptinews.com/news/9012023_SC-overrules-emergency-era-controversialverdict.html [Accessed 18 May 2018]. Ramanathan. (2016). A Tamil Movie Based on True Events has Sparked off an Uneasy Debate on Police Brutality’, The News Minute. Available at: www.the newsminute.com/article/tamil-movie-based-true-events-has-sparked-uneasydebate-police-brutality-38741 [Accessed 02 June 2018]. Shinde, P. (2005). Dalits and Human Rights. New Delhi: Isha Books. Singh, H., and Ghosh, D. (2018). ‘On Video, Dalit Man Tied Up, Flogged in Gujarat. He Died’, NDTV.com. Available at: www.ndtv.com/india-news/on-video-dalitman-tied-up-flogged-in-gujarat-he-died-wife-critical-1854914?pfrom=home-top scroll [Accessed 21 May 2018].

280  Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram Sivaraman, M. (2003). ‘The Hindu: Redefining brutality’, Thehindu.com. Available at: www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2003/08/10/stories/2003081000520400.htm [Accessed 07 June 2018]. Spivak, G. (2006). ‘Can the Subaltern Speak?’ in Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G. and Tiffin, H. (eds.), The Post-Colonial Studies Reader (2nd ed). London: Routledge, pp. 28–37. Sullivan, M. (2015). ‘Subjected Bodies: Paraplegia, Rehabilitations and the Politics of Movement’, in Tremain, S. (ed.) Foucault and the Government of Disability, Ann Arbor: Michigan State University Press, pp. 27–44. Vetticad, A. (2016). ‘Vetri Maaran: ‘Tamil Filmmakers Have More Freedom of Expression (Than Hindi Filmmakers)’, Entertainment News, Firstpost. Available at: www. firstpost.com/entertainment/vetri-maaran-tamil-filmmakers-have-more-freedomof-expression-than-hindi-filmmakers-3030364.html [Accessed 19 May 2018].

Contributors

Monia Acciari is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television History in the Leicester Media School at De Montfort University, and belongs to the Cinema and Television History (CATH) Research Centre at De Montfort University (DMU). She is currently working on a variety of communitybased projects on ‘audience-formation’ (www.buildingaudiences.org.uk) for the divulgation of new wave Indian cinema across the city of Leicester via DMU funding. She is also a Film Programmer and Associate Director of the first Leicester Asian Film Festival (LeAFF) and works collaboratively with several media partners including the British Film Institute. Her publications, among others, include ‘Theorizing Liminal Cinema: Unsettling the Transnational spaces of Italian Indian co-productions’ in the Journal of Italian Cinema and Media Studies (2016), and ‘The Italianization of Bollywood Cinema: ad hoc films’ (2014). She is currently writing her monograph on film festivals and Indian cinema exploring the tensions between tradition and modernity. Sangeeta Datta is a well-known writer/director, independent filmmaker and cultural commentator. She is director of BAITHAK—a nonprofit arts company and Stormglass Productions which is also dedicated to making meaningful cinema and theatre, drawing from narratives which have an international appeal. Her critically acclaimed work includes the awardwinning feature film Life Goes On (starring Sharmila Tagore and Om Puri) and stage productions The Dying Song and Gitanjali 100. Her published books, articles and music make her a regular presence in international film, literary and music festivals. Trained and published in Tagore music, she is currently working on Anant: Endless, an album of Tagore translations with the legendary Javed Akhtar. Her new film Bird of Dusk premiered in New York and London in the summer of 2018. Her next book 100 Essential Indian Films (Rowland and Little) will be out in December 2018. Ashvin Immanuel Devasundaram is Lecturer in World Cinema at Queen Mary, University of London, and author of India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid (Routledge, 2016). Ashvin was on the

282 Contributors advisory panel for BFI India on Film—part of the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. He is Programming Adviser and Associate Director of the UK Asian Film Festival—London (UKAFF), former Creative Director and founder of the Edinburgh Asian Film Festival (EAFF) and a BBC Academy Expert Voice in Cultural Studies and Visual Arts. Apart from several publications, including the co-edited anthology South Asian Diasporic Cinema and Theatre: Re-visiting Screen and Stage in the New Millennium (Rawat Publications, 2017), Ashvin has delivered an array of international presentations and lectures. These include keynote speeches at the Cinema For All (British Federation of Film Societies) Community Cinema Conference 2017 and the Annual Dadasaheb Phalke Memorial Lecture 2015 in London. Ashvin directed the documentary film Movies, Memories, Magic (2018), charting the London-based South Asian diaspora’s memories of cinema. Swarnavel Eswaran is an associate professor in the English and MI (Media and Information) Departments at Michigan State University. He is a graduate from the Film and Television Institute of India, the premier Film School in Asia. His documentaries include Migrations of Islam (2014), and  Hmong Memories at the Crossroads (2015). His research focuses on the history, theory and production of documentaries, and the specificity of Tamil cinema, and its complex relationship with Hollywood as well as popular Hindi films. His books are Cinema: Sattagamum Saalaramum (Nizhal, 2013), an anthology of essays on documentaries and experimental films in Tamil and Madras Studios: Narrative, Genre, and Ideology in Tamil Cinema (Sage Publications, 2015). Anuja Jain is Lecturer in Film Studies at St Andrews University. She completed her PhD from New York University and before coming to St Andrews in 2016, she was a South Asian Studies Postdoctoral Fellow at Rice University in Houston, Texas, US. Currently, she is working on a monograph entitled, States of Emergency: Art, Activism and Political Documentary Film in Postcolonial India. The project analyses the role of Indian documentary cinema in lending representation to religious violence in post-Partition India, with a focus on the 2002 Gujarat genocide. The central focus of the book is to interrogate the ethics and meaning of documentary witnessing, telling and listening in an ‘era of the witness’. She is also working on a second book project that focuses on the local and global cinematic histories and sensibilities that inform contemporary Indian cinema. Ana Cristina Mendes has been a researcher at the University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (CEAUL/ULICES) since 2005. Her areas of specialisation are postcolonial and migration studies, with an emphasis on the cultural industries and exchanges in the global cultural marketplace. She has recently been pursuing research in the subfields of poverty studies

Contributors  283 (slumming), visual arts, cinemas and literatures of the Asian emerging economies. Her publications include the co-edited book Re-Orientalism and South Asian Identity Politics (Routledge, 2011), the edited collection Salman Rushdie and Visual Culture (Routledge, 2012), the monograph Salman Rushdie in the Cultural Marketplace (Ashgate, 2013), a special issue for Transnational Cinemas (2015) entitled ‘Walls and fortresses: borderscapes and the cinematic imaginary’, and articles in Third Text, The Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Interventions and Textual Practice. Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar are Professors at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. They are involved in documentary production, media teaching and research. Their films have been screened at film festivals all over the world and have won 32 awards. They serve as visiting faculty at several media and design institutions in India and abroad. They write in the broad areas of censorship, documentary film and media and cultural studies and have a book on independent documentary film in India—A Fly in the Curry (Sage, 2016). Aparna Sharma is Assistant Professor, Department of World Arts and Cultures, UCLA, and a documentary filmmaker and film theorist. Her research is practice-based, and she is interested in exploring modes and vocabularies of documentary film that address issues of cultural representation. Her documentaries focus on communities that are displaced from the national imagination of India. Since 2009, Aparna has been working in India’s northeastern region where she completed a documentary Kamakha: Through Prayerful Eyes (2013), which documents the disparate ways by which devotees and visitors access Goddess Kamakhya’s shrine in Assam, northeast India. Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin International Film Festival, based in Mumbai. Winner of India’s National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on the jury of 20 international film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin and Venice. An independent film curator, she has been India/Asia Curator/Consultant to festivals worldwide, including the Berlin, Toronto, Locarno, Busan, Dubai, IFFI-Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and Colombo Film Festivals and British Film Institute (BFI). A journalist and critic, she freelances for Variety, Screen International, Sight & Sound,  Film Comment,  Cahiers du Cinema and Sunday Midday, and has written for 15 books. A filmmaker, she has been Mentor on Script Labs and Film Critics’ Labs worldwide. Preti Taneja is a writer and academic. Her debut novel, We That Are Young, translates Shakespeare’s King Lear to contemporary India. In 2018 it was listed for awards including the Desmond Elliot Prize and the Folio Prize and named a Book of the Year in the Sunday Times, the Guardian,

284 Contributors the Spectator and the Hindu. Preti is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at Warwick University, working in the department of English and Comparative Literary Studies and the Centre for Human Rights in Practice. In 2014–16, Preti held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Global Shakespeare at Queen Mary, University of London and Warwick University, working on Shakespeare performances in relation to human rights abuses and in humanitarian situations. She is also the editor of Visual Verse, an online anthology of art and words, and an editor for The Poetry Archive. As a human rights advocate she co-founded ERA Films, working on issues as diverse as Iraq’s refugee crisis, in Rwanda with survivors of the genocide and with women in slum areas of Nairobi, Kenya. She is an AHRC/ BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker and also holds an honorary fellowship at Jesus College, Cambridge University. Rosie Thomas is Professor of Film at the Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media (CREAM) and co-director of the India Media Centre at the University of Westminster. Her early research as a social anthropologist was on the Bombay film industry and, since 1985, she has published widely on Indian cinema, with a special focus on pre- and early postindependence films. Throughout the 1990s she worked as a television producer making documentaries, arts and current affairs programmes for Channel 4, many on South Asia related topics. She is co-founder and co-editor of the Sage journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies. Her monograph, Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies, was published by SUNY Press in 2015. Sudha Tiwari is a fourth-year PhD candidate and an ICHR Junior Research Fellow at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. She is working on NFDC and New Cinema in contemporary India (1975–97). She was at Yale University as Fox International Fellow (2016–17). Faiz Ullah is an Assistant Professor at the School of Media and Cultural Studies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. His work is broadly concerned with the political economy of news media, labour and popular culture. Amy Villarejo is Associate Professor in the Department of Theater, Film, and Dance at Cornell University. She has published widely in cinema and media studies, with research on feminist and queer media, documentary film, Brazilian cinema, Indian cinema, American television, critical theory and cultural studies. Her first book, Lesbian Rule: Cultural Criticism and the Value of Desire (Duke University Press) won the Katherine Singer Kovacs award from the Society for Cinema and Media Studies for best book in the field in 2003. She has written on Hollywood (Queen Christina, from BFI Publishing) and on television, in her most recent monograph Ethereal Queer: Television, Historicity, Desire (Duke University

Contributors  285 Press). Her work intersects with cultural studies, and, with co-editor Matthew Tinkcom, she has edited a volume exploring that intersection entitled Keyframes: Popular Film and Cultural Studies (Routledge). With Jordana Rosenberg, she is co-editor of a special issue of the journal GLQ on ‘Queer Studies and the Crises of Capitalism’. For students and general readers interested in cinema and media, she is the author of Film Studies: The Basics (Routledge) and Film Studies: A Global Introduction. Her articles have appeared in journals such as Film Quarterly, Cinema Journal, New German Critique, Social Text and numerous anthologies and edited collections. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in cinema and media, feminist theory, queer theory, urbanism, television, critical and literary theory and political art. Aarti Wani is an Associate Professor of English and Head, Department of English, at the Symbiosis College of Arts and Commerce, Pune. She was the 2015 Charles Wallace India Trust fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK. She is the founding co-editor and currently lead editor of the international peer-reviewed journal Studies in South Asian Film and Media published by Intellect Books, Bristol. Her research interests are in popular culture, literature, literary criticism, Hindi and Marathi films, gender, stardom, modernity, love and romance. Her writings on cinema have featured in Film International, Economic and Political Weekly and online. Her book The Fantasy of Modernity: Romantic Love in Bombay Cinema of the 1950s (2016) has been published by the Cambridge University Press.

Index

2002 Gujarat violence 142 adivasi 133 AFSPA 1958 248 – 250, 254 Agamben, Giorgio 8, 143, 257, 266, 279 Ahluwalia, Ashim 15, 36 – 37 Ajji 261 Akerman, Chantal 236 Akhtar Mirza, Saeed 29, 31 – 33 Aligarh 81, 261 Al Qaeda 259 alternative storylines: alternative narratives xiii, 43, 141, 192 Althusser, Louis 211 Amnesty International 51, 63, 265 Anderson, Benedict: imagined communities 100, 103, 105, 115, 194, 212 angry young man ix, 7, 161 – 165, 170 – 171, 180 – 181 Ankhon Dekhi 15, 37 aporia 211, 272 Apur Sansar 237 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA): AFSPA 5, 8, 49, 51 – 52, 59, 63, 248 – 251, 254, 256, 273 Article 370 49, 51 Arun, Avinash 233 Assam State Film Finance and Development Corporation 252 Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) 53, 62 Auschwitz 267, 271 Babri Mosque 143 Bachchan, Amitabh viii, 3, 7, 161, 164 – 167, 174, 179 – 182 Bangalore: rock subculture 194 Bano, Asifa 267 Batra, Ritesh 25, 36, 234

Beckett, Samuel: Waiting for Godot 206 Benegal, Shyam 29, 32, 38, 42, 44, 92, 159, 242, 244 Bengali cinema 237 – 239, 242 Bergman, Ingmar 239 Berlin Film Festival 247, 252, 256 BFI London Film Festival 238 Bhabha, Homi: time of liberation viii, 183, 187, 192, 197, 200 Bharathi, Divya 260, 278 Bhardwaj, Vishal 5, 46 – 48, 51 – 52, 54 – 62 Bhutiani, Shubhashish 241, 243, 255 Bhuvan Shome 28 Bigelow, Katherine 275 biopolitics 81, 266 biopower 83, 258, 262 – 263, 272 BJP 2, 259, 266 – 267, 269, 278 Black Friday 151 Bollywood i, v, xi – xii, 1 – 4, 6 – 10, 22, 27, 33 – 34, 37 – 38, 40 – 45, 49, 55 – 57, 62 – 63, 66, 72, 79, 83, 86, 93, 95 – 96, 98, 106 – 107, 112, 114, 118, 122, 139, 158 – 159, 174, 176, 181 – 182, 184, 187, 189 – 190, 192, 195 – 198, 201 – 202, 213, 216, 219 – 221, 223, 228 – 229, 234, 243 – 244, 252 – 255, 261, 268, 278 – 279, 281, 284 Bollywood/Ray 201 Bose, Shonali 5, 36, 66, 77 Campaign against Censorship 142 Cannes Film Festival 37, 116, 245, 254 carceral network: carceral archipelago 263, 266, 275 caste 2, 7 – 8, 22, 37, 55, 158, 187, 215 – 216, 218 – 220, 223 – 226, 229 – 232, 257, 260, 263 – 264, 266, 273, 276 – 279 caste-based oppression 257

Index  287 Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) 2, 9, 47, 57, 94, 176, 197, 235, 254, 260 Chandrakumar, M. 276 Charulata 29, 235, 237 Chauranga 36 Cherian, Jayan 274 Chib, Malini 66, 69, 71 – 72 Chopra, Priyanka 253 Cinema for All: British Federation of Film Societies 4, 282 Cinemas of India 1, 23, 35 civil rights 168, 257 – 258, 260, 273 commercial surrogacy: IVF 78, 83 – 84, 89, 97; surrogacy vii, ix, 2, 5 – 6, 78 – 79, 81 – 90, 96 – 99 Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance 271 Co-Production Market 35 – 39, 43 co-production market 5, 251 cosmopolitanism 100 – 105, 108, 111 – 112, 114 – 116 counter-narrative documentaries 124 court 36, 41, 159, 225, 235, 258, 261, 270, 278 crowdfunding vii, 3, 5, 78 – 79, 81, 83, 85, 87, 89, 91 – 95, 97, 99, 117, 243 crowdsourcing 5, 79, 91 – 93 Dalit xii, 2, 5, 8, 13, 20, 72 – 73, 77, 80 – 82, 84, 113, 177, 187, 216, 224, 257 – 258, 260 – 261, 263 – 264, 266, 269 – 270, 272 – 276, 278 – 279 Das, Nandita 78 DDLJ 173 Death in the Gunj, A 229, 243 debility 70, 76 Deewar ix, 161 – 165, 167 – 170, 180 – 182 Deleuze and Guattari 100, 104, 113 Delhi Belly 190 Derrida, Jacques 214 Detroit 275 Devasundaram, Ashvin xi, 42, 62, 176, 213, 228, 249 Dev D xi, 34, 229 – 230 Devdas 172 Dhobi Ghat 38, 206 digital technology 127, 130 Dil Se 252 disability vii, xii, 2, 66 – 68, 70 – 73, 76 – 77, 280 disappeared (Kashmir) 53 – 54, 58, 63, 206

Do Bigha Zamin 177 documentary cinema 3 – 4, 118 – 119, 123 – 124, 129, 131, 282 Doordarshan 31 – 33, 127, 132, 206 Drishyam Films 234 Edinburgh Asian Film Festival i, 106, 282 emergency 30, 54, 125 – 126, 167 – 168, 170, 180 – 182, 268, 279, 282 ethnocentrism 139 Facebook 42, 92 – 93, 98 Fandry 37, 216 – 218, 222, 258, 261 female surrogacy 2 Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) 22, 42, 282 Film Bazaar vii, 5, 25, 27, 31, 34 – 40, 43 – 44, 251 film festivals viii, 100 – 103, 105, 107, 109, 111, 113 – 116, 234, 246, 283 Film Finance Corporation 5, 14, 25, 27 – 31, 38, 40, 42 – 45, 170 Film Forum Manipur 253 FIPRESCI 246, 249 Foucault, Michel 81, 96 – 97 Frank, Robert 18 – 19, 23 F-Rated 3, 10 free speech: freedom of expression 50, 52, 181 – 182, 280 French nouvelle vague 202 Gandhi, Anand 36, 38, 234 Gandhi, Indira 167, 181, 268 Gandhian 175, 250 – 251 Gandu viii – ix, 7, 176, 183 – 207, 209 – 212, 229 Gangs of Wasseypur 229 gender studies 81 Ghatak, Ritwik xii, 28, 30, 172, 202 Ghosh, Rituparno xi global cinemas: world cinema i, 23, 66 – 67, 238, 281 glocal: glocal hybrid form xi Godard, Jean-Luc 184 Gramsci, Antonio: organic intellectual 277 Grierson, John 140 Guantanamo Bay 271, 278 Haider vii, ix, 3, 5, 39, 46 – 64, 258, 267 Hamlet 5, 46, 48 – 49, 59 – 64, 199, 255 Hari Masjid 146 – 147, 156 Hatke cinema 22, 216

288 Index hegemony 9, 40, 93, 140, 192, 198, 279 Heidegger, Martin: Dasein 263 Hinduism 2 Hindu Rashtra 2 Hindu right-wing politics 162 Hindutva 2, 174, 179 – 180 HIV/AIDS 72, 248, 252 Hollywood 43, 77, 196, 220 – 221, 227, 282, 284 homo sacer 266, 276, 278 human rights xii, 5, 8, 47, 50 – 55, 59 – 60, 62 – 65, 71, 101, 118, 141, 151, 168, 218, 250, 258 – 259, 265, 267 – 268, 270, 273, 277 – 279, 284 Human Rights Watch 51, 62 – 63, 273, 279 hybrid i, xi, 1, 4, 7, 9, 27, 43, 47, 92, 98, 115, 124, 176, 181, 188, 190, 192 – 196, 200, 212 – 213, 216, 220, 226, 228, 244, 279, 281 I Am vii, ix – x, 5, 32, 37, 42, 58, 71 – 72, 74, 76, 78 – 82, 84 – 86, 89, 92 – 97, 99, 122, 128, 131 – 134, 136 – 137, 189, 229, 235, 238 – 239, 275 ICCPR 52, 271 independent documentary viii, 6, 117, 119, 124, 138, 141 – 142, 153, 157 – 158, 160, 283 Independent People’s Theatre Association 202 Independent People’s Theatre Association (IPTA) 202 Indian Army 5, 47, 49, 51, 53 – 56, 58, 245, 249 – 250, 252 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 245 – 246, 255 Indianisation 253 Indianness 30, 188 Indian Penal Code 269 – 270, 273, 279 Indian Supreme Court 268 India’s Daughter 108, 115 India shining 19 India’s New Independent Cinema: Rise of the Hybrid 9, 98, 124, 213, 226, 244, 279, 281 Indie documentary 4 International Convention against torture 54 intertextuality 190 item number 79, 96, 190

Jain, Nishtha 131 Josephki Macha 251 Justice Srikrishna Commission 156 Kaakka Muttai 177 Kakkoos 260 Kar-Wai, Wong 236 Kashmir 5, 8, 46 – 59, 62 – 65, 118, 120, 122 – 124, 127 – 128, 132 – 134, 206, 267, 273 Kashmiri civilians 5, 63 Kashyap, Anurag xi, 34 – 35, 38, 151, 229 – 230, 234 Kaul, Mani: Duvidha 30; Uski Roti 12 – 13, 17 – 18, 23, 28 – 29, 41 Khan, Aamir 38, 77, 234 Khan, Irrfan 56, 176 Khan, Salman 55 – 57 Kickstarter 92, 94 Koechlin, Kalki 66 Kracauer, Siegfried 121 Leela Bhansali, Sanjay 76, 175, 235, 253 Leicester Asian Film Festival 102, 105 – 106, 281 liberalisation: 1990s liberalisation 22 Lipstick Under My Burkha: Nihalani, Pahlaj 9 Lock-Up: Jottings of an Ordinary Man 258 – 259, 275 London Asian Film Festival 106 London Indian Film Festival xi Lootera 38, 237 Love Sex aur Dhokha 34, 36 LTTE 259 Lunchbox, The 25, 36, 39, 176, 234 mainstream Hindi cinema: popular Hindi cinema xiii, 80, 138, 169, 176 Makhija, Devashish 102, 261 Malcolm, Derek 37 Mango Dreams 108, 116 Manipuri directors 245, 256 Manipur State Film and Television Institute 252 Manipur State Film Development Society 252 Manipur Students Union 250 Manjule, Nagraj 7, 37, 41, 216 – 218, 220 – 222, 224 – 226, 258 Manthan 92, 242 Mantostaan 108, 112, 116

Index  289 Maoist 122 – 123, 136 Marathi cinema viii, 7, 215 – 217, 219, 221 – 222, 224, 226 – 227 Margarita with a Straw vii, 3, 5, 36 – 37, 66, 69, 77 Marxist: Communist Party of India 203; Marx 97, 202; Marxist Left Front 202 Mary Kom 253 Masaan viii, 3, 15, 38, 81, 228 – 229, 231 – 235, 241, 244 Meghe Dhaka Thara 173 Mehboob Khan 167, 177 meta-hegemony 9, 40, 192, 198, 279 middle cinema 5, 42, 177 Mise-en-abyme ix, 197, 206, 209 – 211 Miss  Lovely 36 – 37 Modi, Narendra 2, 47, 259, 266 – 267, 269, 271, 278 Mother India 58, 167 – 169, 177, 181, 198, 200 Motwane, Vikramaditya 34, 38, 255 Mughal-e-Azam 220 Mukherjee, Hrishikesh 29, 42, 162, 164, 167, 170, 173, 180 – 182 Mukti Bhawan 229, 241, 243, 255 multiplexes 34, 139, 163 – 164, 175 – 176 Mumbai International Film Festival 142, 250 My Brother Nikhil 80 National Film Awards 28, 276 National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) vii, 3, 5, 12, 25, 27, 31 – 36, 38 – 44, 177, 251, 284 nationalism 2, 49, 67, 122 – 123, 167 – 168, 212, 217, 259, 278 Naxalism 123 Nehruvian: socialism 26, 167 neoliberal 2, 8, 14, 25, 40, 86, 90 – 91, 96, 139, 159, 187, 193 – 196, 211, 217 – 218, 224 New cinema movement: Manifesto of the New Cinema Movement 26, 44 new Indian Indie cinema vii, xii, 3 – 5, 7, 11 – 15, 22 – 23, 25, 27, 34, 40, 43, 103 – 107, 159, 184, 188 – 189, 199 – 201, 225, 229, 234, 238, 243, 257, 261, 274, 281 New Theatres film studio 172 Newton 37, 158, 229 New York South Asian Film Festival 199

Nihalani, Govind: Tamas 32 Noe, Gaspar 197, 201 North Eastern Cinemas: North East region 252 Orwell, George 272 Padman 9 – 10 Padmavati 235 Parallel cinema xii, 4 – 5, 14, 28, 34, 190, 202, 219, 223 – 224, 228 parched 81, 255 partition: partitioning of India 202 Pather Panchali 201, 242 patriarchal nation 41 patriarchy 9, 58, 83, 90, 178 – 179, 220, 223, 235 Patwardhan, Anand 125, 131, 141, 160 Peepli Live xi, 34, 201, 234, 261 People’s Liberation Army 249, 253 performativity 192, 221, 268, 270 Phantom Films 38, 234 Pink viii – ix, 7, 87, 161 – 165, 167, 169, 171, 173, 175 – 181 Pirandello, Luigi: Six Characters in Search of an Author 211 police brutality 153, 257, 265, 277, 279 police stations 258, 263, 265, 267 – 268, 274 – 275 populist politics: nativist 2 postcolonial 26, 60, 78, 90, 140, 160, 192, 196, 198 – 199, 201 – 202, 211, 213, 282 postmodern 7, 99, 116, 183 – 185, 190 – 192, 196, 199 – 202, 206, 210, 213 PVR: Director’s Rare 22 Queen 38, 106, 112 Queen Mary, University of London: University module on Indian Indie cinema 4 queerness: queer disability 67 – 68 Rao, Kiran 34, 83, 234 rap music 188, 190, 192, 194 – 195, 212 Ratnam, Mani 252 Ray, Satyajit xii, 25, 27 – 31, 201 – 202, 213, 235 – 237, 240, 242, 245, 252 religion 2, 153, 200, 277 – 278 Report of the Film Enquiry Committee 27, 44

290 Index Ribbon 243 Rizvi, Anusha 34, 201, 229, 234, 261 Roy, Arundhati 134 Roy, Bimal 27, 170 – 173, 177, 181 – 182, 201 Rukh Khan, Shah 72, 83, 163, 174, 252 Sairat viii, 3, 7, 37, 215 – 223, 225 – 227, 242, 261 Sandilya, Rakhee 243 Sathidar, Vira 278 Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute 245 Screenwriters’ Lab 35 – 38 Sen, Mrinal xii, 26, 28 – 30, 44, 202, 236, 240, 242 Sen Sharma, Konkona 243 Sexy Durga 37, 234 – 235 Shahani, Kumar 15, 28, 31, 33, 170 Shakespeare 5, 46 – 50, 59 – 61, 64, 283 – 284 Sharmila, Irom 250 Ship of Theseus 37 – 38, 176, 234 Shiv Sena 159 Sholay 161, 165 – 166 Shrivastava, Alankrita 9, 36, 108, 116, 229 Sikhya 234 Singh, Gurvinder 4, 12 – 13, 15, 22 – 23, 36, 177 soft power 3, 9, 187, 195, 279 Soja, Edward 261 Soviet formalists: Eisenstein and Pudovkin 202 space of undecidability 262 spatio-carceral state of exception: state of exception viii, 8, 143 – 144, 257 – 258, 260 – 263, 265 – 271, 273, 275 – 278 Spielberg, Steven 272 state of the nation 200 subaltern viii, 8, 83, 91, 99, 118, 169, 187, 202 – 203, 212, 228, 242, 257 – 261, 263, 265 – 271, 273 – 277, 279 – 280 Tamhane, Chaitanya 36, 159, 258, 261 Tamil cinema 254, 257, 282

Tarantino, Quentin 192 Tarkovsky, Andrei 239 third space 188, 261 – 262 Thithi 36, 242 Tikli and Laxmi Bomb 102 Titli 36 – 37 Toronto International film festival 35, 177 torture ix, 8, 51, 54, 56, 58, 65, 250 – 251, 257 – 259, 262, 264 – 269, 271, 279 torture in police custody 267 tradition 2, 7, 39 – 40, 57, 69, 107, 127, 138, 176, 178, 188, 195, 197 – 198, 200, 202, 219, 229, 281 Trinamool Congress 205 Twitter 93 Udaan xi, 34, 237 UDHR 47, 50, 57, 59 – 60 UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) i, 106, 114, 282 Unbearable Being of Lightness, The 260 UN Convention against Torture 271 Unfreedom 41, 261 UN security council: LoC 49, 53; Plebiscite on Kashmir 48, 50 Vemula, Rohith 260, 269 Venice International Film Festival 12, 35, 276 – 277 Vicky Donor 82 Vikalp 130, 142 Village Rockstars 245, 256 violence against minority Muslims 266 violence of 1992 – 93 141 – 145, 149 – 152, 154, 156 Visaranai viii, 3, 8, 257 – 262, 266 – 269, 273 – 278 Vohra, Paromita 131 World Bank 139 Yadav, Leena 39, 81, 229, 255 youth subculture 192, 195 – 196 Zizek, Slavoj 193