ASA12: Arts and aesthetics in a globalising world

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

(P07)

VCD visions: the fabulous aesthetics and new industries of VCD cinema and television across South Asia

Location Arts and Aesthetics Auditorium
Date and Start Time 04 April, 2012 at 08:30

Convenor

Madhuja Mukherjee (Jadavpur University) email
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Short Abstract

This panel explores the histories and current forms of VCD aesthetics and industry in old and new South Asian cinema and television. The omnipresence of the VCD in South Asia posits serious conceptual challenges and research opportunities for the anthropology and history of the media in South Asia.

Long Abstract

This panel explores the new forms of vision opened up by the VCD format in South Asia. Across much of Asia and Africa, the VCD format has become extremely popular as low cost film carrier. From resistance movements using the VCD in Burma through to the widespread availability of controversial Pastho films in VCD formats in Pakistan, the VCD format lends itself to a range of unexpected media practices. This panel aims to explore the recent histories and current forms of VCD aesthetics and industry in old and new South Asian cinema and television. Challenging the dominance of large studios, national development corporations and linguistic majorities, the VCDs posit serious conceptual challenges and research opportunities for the anthropology and history of the media in South Asia. What new modes and means of production have been made available and to whom by the immense popularity of VCDs in South Asian cinema? What aesthetic transformations have been wrought by these new technologies? How and where have new audiences come into being through the VCD and its players? And in what ways might the theories of South Asian cinema need to be rethought on the basis of the VCD phenomenon? The panel encourages immersive ethnographic explorations of contemporary VCD practices and detailed histories of the format in South Asia.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

The Mujra Dance Video Cds: Its Production, Content and Masculine Desire in Present Day Pakistani Popular Culture

Author: Farida Batool Syeda (National College of Arts, Lahore)  email

Short Abstract

The rise of popular home made semi-professional videos of women dancing mujra, is a result of emergence of digital media, enabling laypersons to make such video in Pakistan. The content of these videos both from the visual to the lyrical reflects the masculine expressions of fantasy and desire.

Long Abstract

This proposed study seeks to investigate the rise of home made and semi-professional videos that depicts women dancing mujra, a popular genre in Pakistan. The decade of 90's and later saw the immense widespread use of digital technology in Pakistan. The emergence of digital media, camcorders and mobile phone technology enabled laypersons to make video of themselves or others have been the key factors in the development of semi porn mujra dance videos. It is associated with Punjabi film songs, used in remaking of a private video without the consent of the film producers, in which women would be shown dancing in a garden or in some room of a rented place.

I argue that the cultural code imagines Pakistani society as pious, whereas in contrast, one continue to find ambiguity in the expression of sexual desire defying any sort of mega moral and religious narrative. To bring forward the modes of ambivalence, it is important to deconstruct the layers forming the actual production of the mujra dance videos while analyzing the content of the lyrics and the dance form juxtaposed against the socio-historic background of the culture. The proposed paper will analyze the content of these videos both from the visual to the lyrical. The masculinity is reflected through its expressions of fantasy and desire, inherently complex in the face of overtly patriarchal norms, is projected through the layers of popular culture.

love, films and chewing-tobacco - an exploration of the "cultural margin" of a VideoCD circulation by an ethnography of a village video night in India

Author: Markus Schleiter (Heidelberg University)  email

Short Abstract

The paper explores in which ways a collective video night in an Indian village is embedded and signified within everyday culture. It is outlined then in how far a “cultural margin” in form of a net of cultural practices is part of letting Santali Video-CD films to travel into the village.

Long Abstract

VideoCD films in Santali, the language of the Santal people, are commercially produced, popular films with a high circulation in rural areas of Odisha, Jharkhand and West-Bengal. The emerging of the VideoCD circulation could be explained by economic and technological factors like a pre-existing Video-CD distribution infrastructure of the manyfold larger film industries of India. An ethnographic analysis of mine on collective video nights in the village Durdura in Odisha, however, hints at the importance of the cultural practice of film watching there. Moreover, I will complement the above techno-economical understanding of the video circulation by suggesting a "cultural margin" effecting VideoCD outreach in the village.

In the paper I will explore how the event is embedded in the cultural space of joint pleasures, and village inhabitants go there as they intend to create a common timeframe of enjoyment with kins and peers, bonding these relationships (Hindi: rishta). Likewise, video nights carry the flavour of dance nights, which are within Birhor and Santal society "traditional" occasions for the youth to flirt, and thus are signified with the illicit attraction to provide a space for courting. Consequently, I will argue that there is a multiplicity present of differing everyday practices of engaging with video and also their reciprocal references to practices consisting far beyond video - like village dances - which are continuously building a "cultural margin" to let VideoCDs enter the village, and thereby, are part of shaping media routes.

Otherness of Cinema: Video Technologies, Marginal Cultures, Economy of New Industries

Author: Madhuja Mukherjee (Jadavpur University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper presents an overview of digital practices, its aesthetic meanings, and economic ramifications in larger historical contexts. In addition, it focuses on contemporary video and digital cultures popular in the linguistically, politically, and economically marginalized areas of Bengal.

Long Abstract

This paper presents an overview of digital practices, its aesthetic meanings, and economic ramifications in the larger historical contexts. However, the paper focuses on contemporary video and digital cultures popular in the linguistically, politically, and economically marginalized areas of Bengal, India. Curiously, digital technologies and aesthetics may be studied through a wide spectrum of effects ranging from what Lev Manovich describes as special effect-interactive cinemas, to the ways in which Samira Makhmalbaf argues for digital revolutions and the possibilities of 'other' nations producing a plethora of self-images. Therefore, while digital practices may signify Dogme 95's vows of chastity, Jean Luc Godard's "In Praise of Love" (2001) and "Film Socialisme" (2010), as well as Manovich's "Soft Cinema" projects (2005), or independent cinemas produced from India, as showcased in several contemporary film-festivals, much of the theoretical readings comprise studies on art-house endeavours. Contrary to this, scholars like Daisy Hasan and others, have written about the videos made from the Manipur region, moreover, documentaries (like "Malegaon Ke Sholay" by Nitin Sukhija) have also depicted the economy of the videos from minor communities and locations. It is within such contested domain that, this paper presents the research conducted on Rajbanshi films (produced from North Bengal as well as Assam) and films from Purulia. While questions of politics, language, and industry are crucial for this paper, I also examine the making of such films to consider the 'otherness' film and video cultures which are deeply connected to varied modes of reception.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.