Facing the abyss: encountering traces of nuclear genocide at the movies
(University of Sussex)
Paper short abstract:
This paper considers the rupture of an encounter with images of the atomic attacks in Hiroshima in an Indian film, Aman (1967) through an enquiry of the popular film aesthetic in terms of sounds, visuals and narrative.
Paper long abstract:
In a rare and moving episode in the 1967 Indian popular film, Aman, a couple visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum to a haunting track that begins with a sign of the museum on the door. The woman is the Indian actress, Saira Bainu, playing a Japanese character, Meloda. The man is Dr Gautam Das, played by Rajinder Kumar, who is educated in England and makes a vow to come to Japan to help develop a cure for radiation maladies. A dramatic musical start accompanies their entry into the museum as she points her finger sombrely at a large reproduction of the mushroom-shaped atomic blast. From her indications and his horror-struck gestures, it is clear that this is Das' first visual encounter with reproductions of the atomic blast and its human and environmental damage. There is no conversation, no dubs or voice-overs, only the slow and doleful singing of the well-known playback singer, Mohammad Rafi. The song is a tribute to those who lived in Hiroshima whilst also interpellating the viewers, largely Indian, into empathising with their fate through the use of the lyrical 'we' and visceral registers such as deformed bodies, childless mothers, and cavernous ruins. In this paper I consider this filmic moment of first encounter with the atomic devastation as it is portrayed in the popular film aesthetic, and how it is reproduced through sound, visuals and narrative, with a reappraisal of Kantian ideas of the sublime.
Anxious visions and uncertain images