Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rachel Dwyer on Hindi film Realism. Melodrama and Darshan

From Cinema India.
Rachel Dwyer and Divia Patel.
Rutgers University Press 2002.

Indian cinema uses a certain type of realism, largely drawn from literary and middle-class sensibilities that are heavily influenced by Western culture. In the Indian film industry it operates in a melodramatic mode, a form often found in societies where the pre-modern is giving way to the modern. While some Hindi films are made in a more realistic mode, such as those influenced closely by the social concern novel and the Indian People's Theatre Association movement (for example the films of Bimal roy, which also drew on Italian neo-realism), others are more melodramatic.


Melodrama foregrounds language, as it makes all feelings exterior, with the characters verbalizing their feelings and creating discourses on their emotions. In the Hindi movie one of the key places for an outpouring of feeling is the song lyric, where visuals and language are simultaneously foregrounded. This also applies to the dialogues, which are often delivered, rather than spoken, in a grand theatrical manner, ranging from such formulaic expressions or already interpreted speech as 'yeh shaadi ho nahi sakti' or 'main teraa khun piungaa' to the realistic in films where realism dominates. (28-29)

Another issue that comes up often with regards to realism is the theory of 'darshan' in films (discussed on p. 33). The origin for the "dashan" idea is Diana Eck, though Ravi Vasudevan and Madhava Prasad also refer to it.

Madhava Prasad, who is keen to avoid orientalizing discussions of the cultural specificity of the Hindi film, is unable to avoid discussion of the practice of darshan(a). This term is used for a structure of spectation found in Hindu religious practice (and also in some social and political practices), in which the image authorizes the look (rathre than being merely its object), thereby benefiting the beholder. In other words, darshan is a two-way look, the beholder takes darshan (darshan lena0 and the object gives darshan (darshan dena), in which the image rather than the person has power. Ravi Vasudevan argues that darshan can have enabling as well as authoritative functions. He argued in an earlier article that the use of stasis and tableaux permits this hierarchical darshan, a contention I find persuasive. The star frequently appears in tableau scenes that seem to invite darshan, thus hierarchizing the look and giving the star associations with the traditional granters of darshan, notably kings and gods. (33)

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