Accepted paper:

Nuances of the political: satire and activism in contemporary Bollywood


Binayak Bhattacharya (Amity University)

Paper short abstract:

In contemporary India, where absence of direct political critique is seemingly apparent in cinema, the paper investigates how the nuanced political rhetoric, appearing in satirical terms, carves a newer form. It takes two films, Tere Bin Laden (2010) and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (2013) as cases here.

Paper long abstract:

This paper attempts recognizing the vectors of political resistance in India, offered largely by the non-urban citizen subjects vis-à-vis the dissidence of the middle class intelligentsia against ideological imperatives of the discourse of development forwarded by the government-corporate coalition, while exploring the tinges of a few recent political satire films. It considers two Hindi films, Tere Bin Laden (Abhishek Sharma, 2010) and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (Vishal Bhardwaj, 2013) as cases in point. Tere Bin produces a sheer criticism of the project of 'War on Terror' in the aftermath of 9/11 while mocking at the wholesome imagination of an 'American Dream', which the aspiring new middle class of India is an important part of. Its selection of the Pakistani city of Karachi as the physical space for narrative unfolding interestingly connects the issue of media manufacture of war, specifically in the South Asian context. On the other hand, Matru barges into the issue of land acquisition and brings in contemporary Maoist movement as a constituent of the spectrum of the resistance. The satire in Matru develops on the split-personality of an alcoholic billionaire who fluctuates between his dreams and delusions of whether to develop a modern township transforming his own village Mandola or to honour the rights of the farmers to keep their lands. In contemporary India, where the absence of direct political criticism through cinematic terms is seemingly apparent, the paper investigates how the nuanced political rhetoric, appearing in satirical terms, carves a form of resistance in mainstream cinema.

panel P03
Arts of the political in contemporary South Asian literature and film