Bollywood and women

For the reminder files, an email response to a student met doing Capital in India proposing a PhD on women in Bollywood. I'm not sure I'm the one to ask and if my response is any help, but here it is:

"Sorry its taken a few days to get back to you properly. I have been travelling.

I've read your research proposal and thought about what you ask, and mainly I have some questions for you before I can answer really. Well, I can make some guesses at what you might want as an answer and give some suggestions, but really I'm not clear enough on your circumstances to best advise.

There are some corrections to be made on your text, but they are minor grammar ones and hardly the sort of thing that matters, especially if this is a draft that will change. I've ignored them as they are minor infelicities of speaking, extra prepositions and so on. Mistakes anyone can make in a longer text. So, first question – is this a draft?

IF this is a draft, are you committed to this study in this form? I mean, the image analysis, textual analysis, and interviews with spectators aspect seems, well, of a certain vintage. Is this kind of analysis the best we can do? Will it provide any result that achieves what you perhaps want it to – and, most importantly, what is that? What is the purpose of the analysis in the widest possible sense? The promotion of women in films? An understanding of this? A critique of this? There are many other possibilities.

I ask about this because there are people you might seek to work with who have done similar sorts of studies, using similar methodologies. I can suggest some perhaps. There are others who would possibly seek out students to do things a bit differently.

Another similar question, which shapes who might be suggested as a person to work with for PhD has to do with your engagement with a certain version of feminism. There are of course many versions, and not all scholars would put Laura Mulvey and Angela McRobbie in the same box, and some might find their work dated as well – there are others, doing good work. And not necessarily white western feminists. Of course not all women of colour feminists are the same also – ranging from identity to feminism-marxism you of course find the same range of variation. You must at least engage with these scholars. I guess I am asking if for this study you even need the version of western feminism that you set out in your draft?

Maybe you do want to do a study that is particularly focussed upon some version of feminism like that of McRobbie. I cannot think then who to suggest, but you could ask her. Similarly, you could ask Laura Mulvey. But then, I'd suggest asking someone like Meeta Rani Jha for advice. Actually she did interviews with women viewers of Bollywood film for her PhD. I've not read it in its final version, but read early chapters a can confidently say I am sure its really very good. I'd encourage you to look her up. I am not sure if she is teaching now, but she is on facebook.

My next set of questions are also pretty naive on my part. But why do you want to go abroad to do this research? If it is to connect to western feminism, then it of course makes sense, but for a PhD from abroad… well, the reasons are several, but in this day and age it is not a matter of access to materials. With good internet you can get everything you need in India book4you.org, and sci-hub though surely questionable sites in terms of copyright, will get you any text you need. My strong belief is that you should choose where to do your PhD by going to work with someone whose writing you really like.

That may be, as noted, Mulvey or McRobbie. Or someone else. There are certainly people in India that would be great to work with on this topic. If you have not considered this, then you must – IIT Kharagpur has Anjali Gera Roy and she is doing great and I think original work. Of course there are other stars in India eg SV Srinivas is really great, there is Moinak Biswas and Abhijit Roy at Jadavpur of course (as you know) and Madava Prashad in Hyderabad.

Anjali Gera Roy's work is not well enough known yet:
Gera Roy, Anjali (2010) '"Global flows": Ethnographic Studies of the Hindi Movie in Africa', Journal of African Literature and Culture 7(8):33-48.
Gera Roy, Anjali ed (2012) The Magic of Bollywood: At Home and Abroad, New Delhi: Sage.
Gera Roy, Anjali (2015) Cinema of Enchantment: Perso-Arabic Genealogies of the Hindi Masala Film, Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan.

Then, maybe there are other reasons for you wanting not to be in India – social, political even. I will not judge. Then you should look first to whose writing you like, then try to work with them. Have you heard of Rajinder Dudrah?

Check out:
Dudrah, Rajinder (2002) 'Vilayati Bollywood: Popular Hindi Cinema-going and diasporic South Asian identity in Birmingham (UK)', Javnost, 9(1): 19-36.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2006) Bollywood: Sociology Goes to the Movies, London: Sage.
Dudrah, Rajinder (2012) Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema, London: Routledge.
Dudrah, Rajinder, Elke Mader and Bernhard Fuchs (2015) SRK and Global Bollywod, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Raminder Kaur at Sussex University would be someone to consider working with. she has done brilliant work on a wider range of things, all of it is great.

See her works, among others:
Kaur, Raminder (2003) Performative Politics and the Cultures of Hinduism: Public Uses of Religion in Western India New Delhi: Permanent Black.
Kaur, Raminder (2013) Atomic Mumbai: Living with the Radiance of a Thousand Suns. Routledge, India.
Kaur, Raminder and Ajay J Sinha (2005) Bollyworld: Popular Cinema Through a Transnational Lens, New Delhi: Sage

I do not know if it is my place to even raise this, but have you funds for a PhD abroad in one of the expensive places (UK, USA)? I mean, there is very little chance of funding for Indian nationals for UK and US so its a big lottery if you are not already of independent means. Cost of living plus fees in the UK would reach £30,000 per year. Do not even consider converting that into rupees unless you are ready for the shock.

Which means, considering some of the less costly places to do a PhD.

There is Tejaswini Niranjana at Lingnan University in Hong Kong. I've no idea about fees there, or cost of living in Hong Kong, but the University is good and Tejaswini is a great scholar.

Of course I am not ruling out he US or UK if you have funds, and there are many people there.

I don't know enough about where and why you want to go. I repeat again that I think you should choose based on who you want to work with. Of course prestige of a programme also matters to some people (employers also) but in terms of quality of the research, you want to work with the people you think are the best.

I have not included anything specifically on women in my book just finished a few months ago, but I did try to survey what I thought was interesting in South Asian film studies in the recent period. Since some of the people I discuss are not mentioned by you, perhaps you would like to look at the book. I include it here (please NOT to forward to anyone). It will come out in India later this year I hope, also in more costly version in the UK. Its attached.

Check out form the bibliography there the work of Jigna Desai, Amit Rai, and Ajay Gahlawat.

You might consider working with the wonderful Earl Jackson at National Chao Tung University Taiwan. Their cultural studies dept, where I have been visiting prof and so has Madava Prashad, is really well respected. And Hsinchu is a very interesting city.

In the US also look at the work of H Mann, references in my book bibliography.

I hope it might be of interest and/or stimulate further thoughts. I'm sorry it was not in my competence to write anything particularly good on the role of women in films, though of course I do discuss related issues inevitably, Fire, Parched etc…

The book was what I was working on when we met. After working on it intensely after classes through that month, it was finished soon after.

Good luck
John"

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Begum Jaan – trailer (remake of Rajkahini, রাজকাহিনী)

For those in need of an alternative to Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House, in April 2017 we will get the Hindi film Begum Jaan, I hope soon also for a UK release. It is a remake of Rajkahini by the same director, Srijit Mukherji.

Impressed that the fire stuntsperson managed a fair impersonation of the map of india in this scene from the trailer.

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Watch the trailer here.

Since Begum Jaan ‘is the Hindi adapted version of Bengali movie Rajkahini’, the promoters have taken the remake principle to heart as a marketing strategy by staging a debate as to who is the better Begum, Vidya Balan or Rituparna Sengupta?? See here for the way to beat this up into a smart promotional angle with a series of other character match-ups.

The trailer for Rajkahini (2015) is here, of course with Tagore song…:

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and if you are into mapmaking its a tragic feast…

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Saibaba ‘given’ life = court takes life from a nice guy in awful #repressive state anti #maoist trumped up show trial. 

One of Indian Judicial Systems Most Shameful Decisions since 1947 : DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

Democracy and Class Struggle says this must be one of the most shameful legal decisions since the Independence of India in 1947 a wheelchair bound professor given life Imprisonment 
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014. He and five others were convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
DU professor GN Saibaba and four others get life sentence for ‘Maoist links’

The District and Sessions Court in Gadchiroli, Maharashtra, on Tuesday sentenced Delhi University professor Gokarakonda Naga Saibaba and four others to life in prison under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
Besides Saibaba, the five people convicted under the draconian law are journalist and social activist Prashant Rahi, Jawaharlal Nehru University student Hem Mishra and tribals Pandu Pora Narote, Mahesh Kareman Tirki and Vijay Tirki. While five have been sentenced to life term in prison, the court sentenced Vijay Tirki to 10 years in jail, reported ANI.
The wheelchair-bound academic was arrested in May 2014 after the Gadchiroli police claimed that he had links with Maoists and was “likely to indulge in anti-national activities”. Saibaba was granted bail in April, 2016. The Supreme Court had cited his medical condition – he suffers from 90% disability after being struck with polio as a child – and the fact that all material witnesses in the trial had been examined.
On February 22, Saibaba had complained of chest pains and was taken to a local hospital, where he had been admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. He was said to have a pancreas infection, besides stones in his gall bladder stones. Doctors had recommended he have surgery in three weeks, after recovering from the infection.
Between June 2015 and December 2015, he was out on interim bail for medical treatment.
Saibaba’s family said they had been expecting an acquittal. “It is shocking,” Vasantha Saibaba, his wife, told Scroll.in. “There is barely any evidence against him – the trial proved this. We will definitely challenge the verdict.” She also claimed there was “state pressure” to have him convicted too.
His lawyer Rebecca John said they would appeal against this order. “There is absolutely no evidence against him. If the State trying to enter the mind of a person, into what his ideology is, we get these kind of orders under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.” She added that there was no evidence that he had “any role to play in any violence, or in incitement to violence, or any active participation at all.”
Saibaba had extensively campaigned against the Salwa Judum militia and the human rights violations that accompanied the Operation Green Hunt against Maoists launched under the previous United Progressive Alliance government.
Vasantha Saibaba’s statement to the media is as follows:
Our advocates will move High Court soon. This judgement is shocking. In the history of Maharashtra this is the first case in which all the persons charge sheeted were convicted in all the sections with life imprisonment. Saibaba’s brother attended most of the arguments of our advocates before the hon. judge and found that the judgement has not taken those into consideration. No evidence has been proved by the prosecution, electronic evidence not sealed. It seems the state and Central governments have put a lot of pressure on the judiciary to implement anti people and undemocratic policies at the behest of corporates and MNCs. The governments have selectively chosen to suppress the voice of people to plunder the resources of this country. The BJP govt. wants to push nakedly the agenda of RSS through such people like Saibaba behind the bars.
The government has chosen this case through courts to silence the voice of Dr. Saibaba. By honoring the Court, Saibaba has been attending the Court all these years and today also despite his deteriorated health. As a wife, I will fight in the higher courts to seek justice. The government has been putting relentless pressure on my family for the last four years by raiding my house in Delhi. I appeal to Democrats, people’s organizations, intellectuals, students to condemn such undemocratic character of the government. After the pronouncement, judge has rejected to issue any order on the appeal of our advocate. Advocates asked to issue an order to direct the Jail authorities to give required medicines, help of assistants for Saibaba movement, operation to perform for gall bladder etc. The minimum requirements previous the Court has given when Saibaba was in jail as under trial are also not given. 

Film India archive

Pretty excited to find parts of the FilmIndia archive online, especially 1948 with a (idiosyncratic) review of Sunny’s Mela (stars Nargis and Dilip Kumar). Also I am quite taken by the concept of ’emotional masochism’ used to describe the film. Other films reviews are in a caustic tone, with the phrase ‘hotch-potch’ appearing in at least three article titles I read, and ‘hotch-potch of coincidences’ possibly the most often repeated phrase. But great details, covers, and things not to be forgotten. Full credit for making this available (John McElwee donation to the Media History Digital Library, scanned from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art Library). A lock on resources, but opened up a little, thanks heaps.

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Marx in Algiers again

Of haircuts and Rhino coats…

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This is the worked up text of a talk I gave in Chandernagore in February 2016. The photo is one I’ve failed to trace from the dates and evidence in the letters (see below) of the visit to the barber – if anyone is good at that sort of tracking, please let me know, the photographer of the first one is E. Dutertre, and the second, if authentic, probably the same.

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Click here to read the draft chapter