Accepted paper:

The Politics of class, caste and community: representation of heteroglossic voices in the Indian films of Franz Osten


Sadiq Rahman (University of Hamburg)

Paper short abstract:

Less known German filmmaker Franz Osten’s Indian films, with strong political undertone, have contributed in developing cultural perspectives on India in pre-war German Cinema. He explores class, caste and community and merges local and global politics. I review how he represents politics on screen.

Paper long abstract:

The role of the less known German filmmaker Franz Osten, who directed seventeen Indian films (between 1925 and 1939) and contributed in the development of a cultural perspective on India in the pre-war German cinema, needs a reassessment. While we fail to acknowledge Osten's contribution in Indian Cinema, I argue that his significance can be best understood when his films are approached from a political point of view. Osten explores class, caste and community and explains the interplay between politics and culture in Indian society. I use David Bordwell's Historical Poetics of Cinema to outline the framework for my argument. I study three silent films and three talkies of Franz Osten and analyze the political themes and cultural contexts these films try to address. Most of these cultural debates and political actions represented in the film stem not only from Osten and his team's creative innovations but also from social changes affected by politics during that time. I discuss how structurally and stylistically his films have a political flavour and also how he merges local and global politics. I briefly discuss some of the techniques used by Osten and the earlier filmmakers to represent politics on screen . I also explore how his films have influenced later developments in politics based films. In conclusion, by closely examining these six films, my paper sheds new light on the less recognized contribution of Franz Osten and his much neglected films.

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