By Manishita Dass

Outside the Lettered urban traces how middle-class Indians answered to the increase of the cinema as a favored type of mass leisure in early twentieth century India, concentrating on their preoccupation with the mass public made obvious via the cinema and with the cinema's function as a public sphere and a mass medium of modernity. It attracts on archival examine to discover aspirations and anxieties concerning the new medium, which unfolded tantalizing percentages for nationalist mobilization at the one hand, and troubling demanding situations to the cultural authority of Indian elites at the different. utilizing case-studies drawn from the movie cultures of Bombay and Kolkata, it demonstrates how discourses concerning the cinematic public dovetailed into discourses a few nationwide public, giving upward push to enormous pleasure approximately cinema's strength to democratize the general public sphere past the bounds of print-literate tradition, in addition to to deepening anxieties approximately cultural degeneration. The case-studies additionally show that early 20th century discourses concerning the cinema include strains of a formative stress in Indian public tradition, among visions of a deliberative public and spectres of the unruly lots.

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Additional resources for Outside the Lettered City: Cinema, Modernity, and the Public Sphere in Late Colonial India

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37 The relative paucity of scholarship on colonial Indian cinema creates a big gap not only in Indian film and cultural history and in the history of international cinema, but also in the burgeoning literature on the relationship between cinema and modernity, which has been conceptualized mainly in the context of Euro-American and, more recently, East Asian film cultures. 38 While drawing on existing work in this area, I focus more on discourses about the cinema than on specific films or places.

R.  G. ” 7 Just as the mythological came to operate in this discourse as a sign of the pre-modern or the antithesis of the modern, its perceived primary audience came to represent “traditional India,” a feminized realm of rural piety and naïve spectatorship located outside the orbit of urban modernity. The gendering of mass culture as feminine and inferior is, of course, not novel; as Andreas Huyssen points out in “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other,” it was pivotal to the political, psychological, and aesthetic discourse of modernity and “high” modernism in Europe and America around the turn of the century.

This chapter, which ends by looking forward to the Film Society Movement of the 1940s–1950s, provides a natural transition to the conclusion, where I summarize my findings about cinema in colonial India and briefly indicate how my study relates to post-independence mediascapes. The first chapter (“Conjuring Tricks: Mythologicals and the Invention of An ‘Indian’ Public”) uses the mythological genre, 35 Ou t s i d e t h e L e t t e r e d Ci t y which dominated commercial film production in India from 1912 until the mid-1920s, as a point of entry into the cinematic landscape of early twentieth-century India, as well as into critical debates about cinema and modernity.

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