ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India, 3rd-6th April 2012

(P27)

Cinema matters: the changing film object in a globalizing world

Location Arts and Aesthetics Lecture Hall No. 101, SAA-I
Date and Start Time 06 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenors

Kuhu Tanvir email
Debjani Dutta (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Ramna Walia (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Shaunak Sen (Jawaharlal Nehru University) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This panel proposes to map the changes in the cinematic object at a moment of flux when digital technologies and the experience of globalization are threatening to replace celluloid as the material of cinema.

Long Abstract

This panel proposes to map the changes in the cinematic object at a moment of flux when digital technologies and the experience of globalization are threatening to replace celluloid as the material of cinema. The contemporary as we know it today is marked by a proliferation of technology that has effected far reaching changes in the global landscape of media practices and institutions. As media technologies converge, cinema also undergoes a drastic shift not just in production but also in its exhibition, distribution and consumption. Digital platforms allow viewers the chance to manipulate and appropriate images, leading to new forms of sensuous exchange and virtual travel. This sensuous change alters the idea of cinematic materiality, as objects of everyday use and desire such as cell phones, television, and computers assume newer affective and symbolic charge on screen. The changing nature of cinematic circulation via the internet also alters the archive of cinema as evident in the way popular cultural memory gets stored on YouTube and other such sites. With the community of users at the centre of this ever-expanding archive, the history that emerges is not merely institutional, but encompasses more anecdotal forms of knowledge. The panel seeks to bring together diverse sites where cinema's transformation can be located. The sites can include film practice, film culture, the film object and the film archive.

Chair: Ranjani Mazumdar

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Techno-materiality in Cinema: The Skin of the Televisual

Author: Shaunak Sen (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper attempts to chase the techno-material culture primarily in its movement through the cinematic. For this it focuses exclusively on the object of the Television and a larger predicative idea of televisuality.

Long Abstract

The contemporary moment in India has seen growing aggregates of the country's population accommodate and get entwined into increasingly technologized models of experience. This proliferation has precipitated various material changes, and the technological is now a seamless and integral part of the 'material flesh' of the everyday through mundane technological objects like televisions, cell phones and other electronic devices.

This paper attempts to chase this techno-material culture primarily in its movement through the cinematic. For this it focuses exclusively on the object of the Television and a larger predicative idea of televisuality. The preponderant TV screens that are fast becoming ubiquitous in urban spaces, give rise to a new kind of a sensorium. In this new electronic topology, the immaterial lapses into the material; distant events become immediate and tactile, architectural surfaces cease to be opaque as walls get increasingly inscribed by screens; and the city goes from being a geographical space to an etherized entity dispersed and accessed via a multitude of screens. This paper looks specifically at four films - 'Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost'(2003), 'Zinda' (2006), Peepli Live (2010) and 'Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani' (2000) to stage a discussion on different aspects of televisuality. The first two films provide complex instances of the development of a sensuous, corporeal-ized, haptic-visual engagement with the Television image. Peepli Live and 'Phir Bhi…'on the other hand are mobilized to think of cinema's negotiation with the enduring television event at the face of a new emergent urban media-sensorium.

Screen Substances: The Mediatized Object of the Korean Wave

Author: Debjani Dutta (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper charts the circulation of Korean Wave merchandise as it moves from the textual world of films, TV and pop music to virtual and offline networks.

Long Abstract

The Korean Wave refers to the vast flow of South Korean cultural products—including cinema, music, television and fashion—across the globe. With cyberspace emerging as a major site of cultural transactions, the virtual dissemination of music and images has been accompanied by the online and offline circulation of film, TV and popular music-related merchandise. This paper looks at the mass of cultural goods generated by the Korean Wave as a property of its mediatized nature. These objects are intimately connected to the brand instituted within the cinematic text where they acquire their symbolic and affective charge. Their circulation outside of it is not in terms of the movement of a concrete object but mutations and modifications of the brand image imprinted on a variety of surfaces. The branded object becomes a repository of productive potential as fans not only consume goods but produce their own versions. I trace the cinematic, digital and offline trajectories of both unofficial fan-made goods and official merchandise as well as their relationship to the emerging forms of community on the internet.

I explore this mediatized object through two distinct sites. First, I look at the virtual and offline circulation of the multiple versions of the Pig Rabbit -a stuffed animal featured in the popular Korean TV series, You're Beautiful (2009). Second, I explore object(ive) forms of the body of the pop music star as it is produced on-screen and in merchandise.

The new Marathi film

Author: Aarti Wani (Symbiosis College of Arts & Commerce)  email

Short Abstract

As the global traffic of ideas, images and objects filters into the Marathi sensorium, the new Marathi film is the surface that registers, absorbs and reflects its effects. This paper examines some of the textual strategies and tropes of this cinematic moment in Maharashtra.

Long Abstract

When the low budget Shwaas modestly explored the relationship between a young boy and his grandfather, its sentimental realism was seen as ground breaking. As India's official entry in the 2004 Oscars, it stepped into the global circuit of information and imagery, marking the moment of a clear shift in the production, circulation and reception of Marathi film. Making use of the emergent spaces of the multiplex and film festivals, drawing on cinephilia and the proliferating digital technology, the new Marathi film was thematically unusual even if lacking in formal innovation or technical finesse. Responding to the aspirations and concerns of their niche urban audience, films like Shwaas, Dombivali Fast (2005), Valu (2008), Jogva (2009), and Natrang (2010) explored hitherto ignored subject matters, constituencies and spaces and in so doing emerged as sites engaging with the promises and anxieties of a global culture of consumption and lifestyle, as with the possibilities of manufacturing new selves and identities. As the global traffic of ideas, images and objects filters into the Marathi sensorium, the new Marathi film is in fact the surface that registers, absorbs and reflects its effects. This paper will examine some of the textual strategies and tropes of this cinematic moment in Maharashtra , namely the spatialization of desire via reconfigured spaces of the city and the village as also the construction and performance of fluid gender identities.

The Materiality of Memory: Digital dispersion and the Bombay film remake

Author: Ramna Walia (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will trace the material displacement and virtual dispersion of the past object through the category of a remake in order to map the complexities of Bombay cinema’s tryst with the technological transition from celluloid to the digital.

Long Abstract

The Bombay film remake has, over the last one decade, emerged as a prominent industrial practice within popular cinema. While there is clearly a radical shift in the aesthetics of representation and its interaction with the digital proliferation of images, there is a sense that the past is being recovered. With films like Devdas (2002), Don (2006), Umrao Jaan (2007), Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (2007), Karzzz (2008), Dev D (2009), and the all-encompassing formula of the 1970s in Om Shanti Om (2007), we have seen how "pastness" has found a significant articulation in contemporary Bombay film culture. Fan clubs, video libraries, satellite broadcasting, revivals and retrospectives in museums, film festivals, archives, biographical legends and video sharing web portals have accentuated a more fragmented dissemination of the film's memory, constructing a public archive that has ensured audience familiarity with dialogues, songs, fashion trends, and the stars of the original. The remake deals with this familiar terrain of knowledge, foregrounding questions related to culture, consumption, and entertainment. The "original" is thus multiplied to circulate in diverse contexts and numerous sites as material evidence, wherein the aura of the original is transported from its temporal frame to enter the contemporary. This paper proposes to engage with the materiality of memory evoked in a remake as it travels from the restricted and potentially obscure enclosed space of the archives back into the domain of public exhibition in order to map the divergent impulses of cinema's celluloid history and its interaction with the contemporary digital culture.

Digital Days: The Unstable Archive of Cinema

Author: Kuhu Tanvir  email

Short Abstract

This paper will argue that the shift from celluloid to digital changes the access and the archive of cinema. Unlike the traditional archive, this non-material archive is mobile as the film-object and its paraphernalia move between users resulting in the creation of a network of archives.

Long Abstract

For Jacques Derrida, the archive, in its oppressive domiciliation, is a space in arrest. Endowed with a sense of national responsibility, the National Film Archive of India (NFAI) manifests this oppression as it preserves a heritage that is rooted in a generalized notion of 'high-culture'. This paper will explore an institutional archive like the NFAI that is arguably marked by stasis and the unofficial, nearly unintentional archive of cinema that is on the Internet, in a comparative grid in order to deliberate on the spaces and forces that are instrumental to the creation of a history of cinema in India. I will argue that the change of materiality—from celluloid to digital—is at the centre of this altered notion of an archive of cinema. Contrary to the fixity of the traditional archive, this non-material archive is essentially mobile as the film-object and all its paraphernalia constantly move between users resulting in the creation of a network of archives.

With the user at the centre, the historiographic practices of this archive are decidedly different. This paper will explore sites like YouTube, Wikipedia and online pirate practices to map the way in which this non-material archive destabilizes history with its emergent, anonymous and anecdotal interpolations into existing histories of films, stars and allied industries. Thus the replacing of celluloid with its cheaper and supposedly fraudulent simulacra gives way to a viral film culture that is no longer bound by national boundaries and has a haphazard, anti-monumental but certainly richer archive.

Re-thinking Film Curatorial Practice in India: A Few Examples

Author: Ananya Parikh (Jawaharlal Nehru University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper seeks to explore the shifting trends in film curatorial projects vis-à-vis the changing nature of film cultural and archival practices in India.

Long Abstract

This paper seeks to explore the shifting trends in film curatorial projects vis-à-vis the changing nature of film cultural and archival practices in contemporary India. The traditional understanding of film curatorial practices in India was simply reduced to an organization and programming of films in the festival format. The role of the curator, in this context is likened to that of an administrator and a programmer. In the recent years, however, this limited profile of the film curator and of curatorial practices has been challenged in the light of digital technology changes as well as the proliferation of film images globally. Curating is now essentially interdisciplinary and hybrid, and is seen as an exercise in collating which often expands and often audaciously intervenes in set patterns of watching/understanding cinema. Recent curatorial expressions also often involve a conceptual mapping of spaces and histories of film and redefining of the notion of the audience and the participants. This paper will focus largely on two recent curatorial projects, namely Cinema Prayoga conceived by Amrit Gangar, which conceptualizes the "experimental film" within the Indian context of 'prayoga' and Cinema City: An Interdisciplinary Practice based Archive Project initiated by Majlis Culture, Bombay which documents, archives and re-reads the city through production processes of images and narratives in and around cinema. Through these two example, and some others, the paper will attempt to trace the various shifting impulses of film curatorial practice in contemporary India.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.