The year 2013 marks the centenary of Indian cinema. On May 3 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke screened the first Indian film Raja Harishchandra at Coronation Theatre in what was then Bombay. Today, Indian cinema is, undoubtedly, a global transnational cultural industry — in terms of output and reach, and in terms of the multifaceted relationships to social, economic, cultural, political, ideological, aesthetic, and institutional discourses. It is a significant cultural industry that plays a central role in articulating fundamental modalities of inscribing subjectivities — gender, sexuality, nationalism, caste, class, religion, ethnicity — played out within specific historical moments and fields of power. Further, it should be noted that Indian cinema is a heterogeneous assemblage that includes, in addition to mainstream regional Indian cinemas, documentary films, parallel cinema, short films, digital films, amateur films and those made for the festival circuit. It has, in that regard, numerous countenances. Indian cinema is also radically dispersed in terms of contexts of appearance (airplane screens, computer screens, multiplex halls), fluidity of movement between different media technologies (online movie portals, television and DVDs, mobile technology), and the superfluous integration with other commodity forms (animated films, game art, IPL, and so on). The dispersal of Indian cinema specifically, and cinema more generally, also demands that we ask how do people engage with cinema, how is cinema experienced in the age of media convergence. In short, Indian cinema is a mobile assemblage that interacts with or carries out interactions with other media-systems, popular cultures, bodies, institutions, forms of lives, communities, and urban and industrial developments.
Additionally, the study of Indian cinema has bourgeoned and opened an entirely new field of scholarship, challenged the discipline of Film Studies, set up new courses within University Departments, and fostered a healthy critical intellectual community. This body of scholarship has had a tremendous impact, not only in terms of making visible Indian cinema to academia, but of cultivating a culture of taking Indian cinema seriously as a significant cultural object for scrutiny. That said, this body of scholarship must urgently address the changing media landscape. This is a landscape marked by convergence, multi-platform delivery and consumption circuits, and diverse modalities of production. The Indian film industry is now a multi-billion dollar business and employs thousands of actors and technicians. Hence its commercial and human resource aspects cannot be neglected either. This existing body of scholarship must therefore address questions of how might we ‘study’ Indian cinema beyond the domain of representation. Have we exhausted all options? What is the future of this cinema? Are the theoretical and conceptual approaches and trajectories that inform this body of scholarship sufficient? What new theoretical and conceptual engagements must this cinema be connected to? How do we evaluate the economic impact of this film industry, both inside India and outside, as increasingly Indian films are shot in foreign countries, including New Zealand?
At this critical juncture of Indian cinema’s history and a rapidly changing mediascape, it is time, we believe to reflect on and debate Indian cinema: its pasts, present and future; and its possibilities, potentialities, and limits. We invite papers on any aspect or topic relating to Indian cinema. Please send an abstract (250 words) and a short bio to the following email address (Indian-Cinema@otago.ac.nz) by 1 August 2013.
The keynote addresses will be delivered by Professor Vijay Mishra (Murdoch University, Australia) & Associate Professor Ranjani Mazumdar (JNU, India). There will be other specially invited speakers.
The conference will take place at the Dunedin campus of the University of Otago under the auspices of the New Zealand India Research Institute, which has just been established as a consortium of seven New Zealand universities to promote Indian studies in the country.
The conference organizers expect that the paper presenters will seek funding from their own institutions.
Dr. Vijay Devadas, Department of Media, Film & Communication, University of Otago.
Dr. Sita Venkateswar, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Massey University
Department of Media, Film & Communication
University of Otago
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