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April 2001, Week 3


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Nitin Govil <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 15 Apr 2001 23:46:11 -0400
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Please note the following upcoming event:

"Another History Comes to the Surface: Melodrama in the Age of Digital

A Lecture by Ravi Vasudevan
Fellow, CSDS; Co-Director of Sarai, The New Media Initiative

Friday, April 27 2001
New York University: Tisch School of the Arts
Cinema Studies Department, Room 656
New York, USA



Drawing upon _Hey Ram_ (Kamalahasan, 1999), a controversial film about Hindu
nationalism and Gandhi's assassination, this presentation analyzes the
shifts in discourses about the Indian nation-state in popular cinema. The
film supplants earlier cinematic modes of representing nationhood by
engaging different coordinates of class, caste and region in its account of
national identity formation. But my main concern is with how the film's
representational strategies complicate the possibilities of a coherent
perspective on the past. Shifting the contested sacred referent within the
melodramatic mode to the nation-state and its icons, _Hey Ram_ appears to
ask the spectator to look at Gandhi and his assassination through a
compendium of caricatural performance, stunt and video-game formats, thus
depriving the nation-state and Gandhi of a sacred aura. On the other hand,
the narrative form withholds markers of textual orientation for the
spectator within its relay of character voices and stances.

Through melodrama, _Hey Ram_ presents the complex possibilities of a history
predicated on the integrity of the human body. Crucial to the depiction of
this dilemma is the regime of performative experiment associated with
Kamalahasan. Here is a star who has had a special fascination for generating
images of the mutable body (through physical self-transformation, make-up
and morphing). The particular way he incarnates an iconic Hindu history - at
once deploying intimate expressive techniques and large-scale gestural
idioms -complicates any clearcut empathetic identification with the
character. The film's displacement of the art of the index by digital method
s generates its own peculiar order of melodramatic compensation. In the
final stages of his life, the Hindu protagonist, assailed with guilt at the
assassination of the Mahatma, appears to merge with the Mahatma's body. This
is an eerie attempt to recover not only a past ethicality, but to compensate
for the loss of the body itself, and of historical representation predicated
on an indexical relationship to the past.

Ravi Vasudevan is a Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing
Societies in Delhi and Co-Director of Sarai, the New Media Initiative. He is
the editor of _Making Meaning in Indian Cinema_ (OUP, 2000).  In addition to
recent anthologized work in _Pleasure and the Nation_ (OUP, 2001),
_Reinventing Film Studies_ (Edward Arnold, 2000), and _A Question of
Silence: The Sexual Economies of Modern India_ (Kali for Women, 1999),
Vasudevan has also published numerous articles on Indian film in Screen
(UK), The Journal of Arts and Ideas, Oxford Literary Review, and Economic
and Political Weekly.

The event is free and open to the public.

Sponsored by the NYU Departments of Cinema Studies, Culture and
Communication, Asia/Pacific/American Studies and the Center for Media,
Culture and History.

Online resources for film/TV studies may be found at ScreenSite