06 March 2010

Ravi Vasudevan Ends Long Hibernation with 'Spectacular' New Book


the melodramatic

draws on melodrama as a key conceptual apparatus to understand how entertainment cinema in India drew audiences into complex passages of historical change. As the seeming consensus of the 1950s about nation-building unravelled in the 1970s, and globalization introduced new economic and territorial compulsions, Indian cinema offered compelling testimony to debates about economic advancement, social justice, inter-community conflict, and urban lifestyles.

Melodrama provided a narrative architecture and an expressive form which connected the public and the private, as well as the personal and the political, in ways which engaged audiences emotionally. In continuous dialogue with cinematic ‘others’—within American cinema, in Indian popular cinema, and in a realist art cinema—mainstream melodrama also underwent significant mutations. This book explores the dynamics of form and narrative strategy across a wide repertoire of film practices. These include the pioneer D.G. Phalke, popular ‘auteurs’ Raj Kapoor and Guru Dutt, industry moguls Aditya and Yash Chopra, mainstream innovators Mani Rathnam, Kamalahasan, and Ram Gopal Verma, and art and documentary cinema icons Satyajit Ray and Anand Patwardhan.

The book concludes with the contemporary global moment associated with ‘Bollywood’. It considers changes in state policy and industrial organization, and the impact of digital technologies, new economies of consumption, and wider export markets on Indian film culture.

HARDBACK / 476PP / ISBN 81-7824-262-1 / RS 795.00 / SOUTH ASIA RIGHTS / May 2010

‘Here, finally, is the definitive and authoritative study of melodrama we have been hoping for. The Melodramatic Public is not only the most comprehensive book to redirect our understanding of Indian popular cinema, carefully tracing its manifold roots and conducting a painstaking archaeology of the genre. Vasudevan also redraws the map, because he proceeds from a genuinely global perspective, while nonetheless persuasively making the case for regionally specific and local factors in the history of modern popular culture’—THOMAS ELSAESSER

‘Relaying the genre of melodrama into the public realm via spectatorial positioning, Vasudevan demonstrates how, staging the play of new subjectivities within the political, melodrama mediates the very production of Indian modernity. His calibrated reading of Indian films both engages and dismantles generic canons in Euroamerican film studies’—GEETA KAPUR

‘One of the pioneers of film studies in India, in this long-awaited book, locates Indian popular cinema in a world context and offers a thoroughly revised understanding of melodrama as a global aesthetic with a rich Indian history. The author’s deep familiarity with world cinema traditions shines forth and illuminates local questions and challenges prevailing theories’—M. MADHAVA PRASAD

‘Ravi Vasudevan’s innovative concept of the “imaginary public”, developed across these essays through close analysis of Indian cinema’s melodramatic practices and the socio-cultural conditions of their operation, recasts our understanding of the relation between text and context and offers a welcome new approach not only to the application of “melodrama” to Indian filmmaking but to theorization of cinema itself’—CHRISTINE GLEDHILL

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