Wars, nationalism, economic depression, colonisation, decolonisation and, more recently, globalisation, have affected perceptions of contemporary as well as past worlds. Cinema, a popular medium directed to the broadest possible audience, has reacted to and in turn shaped the changing political, social and economic conditions of the times.
This book investigates how the cinematic medium negotiated the dominant ideas of history in order to construct a range of historical imageries. Focusing on the medieval epoch—a notion of historical age which came only during the colonial period as an equivalent to the European idea of Middle Ages—it studies the influences of various nationalist imaginations of the past, unmistakably present after the emergence of a mass-based nationalist movement in the 1920s and 30s.
The ‘pre-modern’ idea of society and governance in the medieval period came under attack from the ‘modern’ colonial rulers. Also, because of its association with the Islamic ruling class it was criticised by the dominant ‘Hindu’ nationalist ethos of the time. The volume examines this contested time on screen, and raises questions like: How did the internal organisation of the film industry guide the articulations of certain stereotypical images of the ‘medieval’ during the 1920s to 1960s? How did dominant historiographical interpretations influence a popular production like film in the colonial and the post-colonial situation? Did the cinematic representation succeed in codifying ‘medieval reality’ with stereotypes other than that of elitist vision of historicity?
With an extensive filmography and detailed bibliography, the words that populate the book are also complemented with glimpses of posters and scenes from the films discussed in the book. An important read for students and scholars of film studies, history, visual anthropology, South Asian studies and culture studies.
Urvi Mukhopadhyay is Assistant Professor, Department of History, West Bengal State University, Barasat.
She did her Bachelor’s (1996) and Masters (1998) in History (both from Jadavpur University, Kolkata) and completed her PhD (2004) from School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
List of Plates
Film and the Medieval/the Medieval in Film
1. The Construction of a ‘Medieval’ Past and Its Uses in Colonial India
2. ‘Re-visioning’ the Medieval Past: The Silent Era of Indian Film
3. ‘Re-visioning’ the Medieval Past: The Coming of the Talkies
4. The ‘Medieval’ in a Time of Communal: Polarisation, 1940–46
5. Contesting Visions of the ‘Medieval’ in Independent India, 1947 to the 1960s
The ‘Medieval’ in Post-Nehruvian India