Film, History, Society

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation ElectiveSUS1EL9124

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester, 2016

Course Coordinator and Team: Rajan Krishnan & Adjunct Faculty

Email of course coordinator: rajan[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in, vebhuti[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: No prior knowledge is required. It is also open for students of all disciplines.

  1. Does the course connect to, build on or overlap with any other courses offered in AUD? This is a standalone SSH elective offered by SCCE
  2. Specific requirements on the part of students who can be admitted to this course: (Pre-requisites; prior knowledge level; any others – please specify) NIL, open to all.
  3. No. of students to be admitted (with justification if lower than usual cohort size is proposed): Usual Size
  4. Course scheduling (semester; semester-long/half-semester course; workshop mode; seminar mode; any other – please specify): Semester Long
  5. How does the course link with the vision of AUD? This course breathes in an interdisciplinary perspective how in and through film narratives perceptions of history and society are formed.
  6. How does the course link with the specific programme(s) where it is being offered? It is a course that makes students reflect on interconnectedness of social sciences and humanities disciplines.

Course Details:

1. Summary:Cinema in its myriad forms as filmic text, institution, practice, industry and popular culture has permeated the un/conscious of society since its inception. Taking cinema’s deep relationship with the popular-social as its starting point, this course hopes to be able to use cinema strategically as a medium to open up questions that often form the basis of much social, cultural, and political thought and analysis. In doing so, it works with the assumption that the cinematic medium allows for the refraction of socio-politico-cultural thought through on-screen representation and reflection upon the same.

2. Objectives:The cinematic screen through representation alone does not prompt us to consider the social; cinema also produces the social through its industry and infusion through popular culture and its practices. To think cinema as an institution thus is also to think its relationship with society and consider how questions of class, caste, gender or race (to name a few) shape the cinematic institution (in its various avatars). This course, then, will attempt to draw upon cinematic texts and literary texts in order to consider the constellation of film, history and society.

3. Expected learning outcomes: An appreciation of film narration as a source of historical and sociological perception.

4. Overall structure (course organisation, rationale of organisation; outline of each module):The course has four thematic modules: Intersections I, II and III;Considering history on screen;. Each module shall be spread over three weeks.

5. Contents (week wise plan with readings):

Module I : Introduction

Week 1: Introduction to the course, overview of readings and material.

Core reading:

Bordwell, David Bordwell. On the History of Film Style. Harvard University Press, 1997. Tom Gunning. “The Whole Town’s Gawking: Early Cinema and the Visual Experience of Modernity,” Yale Journal of Criticism, 7:2 (Fall, 1994), p. 190. 5

Screening: High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)

Week 2: Representation in film with respect to history and Society

Core reading:

Noel Burch. Life to Those Shadows. University of California Press, 1990.

Tom Gunning. “The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant-Garde,” in Thomas Elsaesser, ed. Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, (London: British Film Institute, 1990).

Clips: Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948), Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)

Week 3: Debates on Realism : Western and Indian context

Core readings:

Andre Bazin “What is Cinema?”

Sergei Eisenstein “Film Sense”

Satyajit Ray . “Our Films, Their Films”

Screening:Kathapurushan (AdoorGopalkrishnan, 1995 )

Clips: Shree Krishna Janma (D. G. Phalke, 1918), Aparajito (Satyajit Ray, 1956 )

Module II: Film, Society and History: Focus on Indian Cinema

Week 4: Cinema and the Nation: Questions of representation in Post-Independence India

Core reading:

Sumita Chakraborty, “Culture/ Nation: Reclaiming the Past”, National Identity in Indian Popular Cinema, 1947-1987. Austin: University of Texas Press, 18-52.

Ravi Vasudevan “Shifting Codes, Dissolving Identities: The Hindi Social Film of the 1950’s as Popular Culture” in Ravi Vasudevan ed. Making Meaning in Indian Cinema Oxford University Press: 2000, 99-121.

Further reading:

Madhava Prasad, “ Introduction: The Ideology of Formal Subsumption” , Ideology of Hindi Film: A Historical Construction. New Delhi: Offord University Press, 1998, 1-28.

Screening: Shree 420 (Raj Kapoor, 1955) /Naukri (Bimal Roy, 1954)

Week 5: History on screen: Narrating the Partition

Core reading

Bhaskar Sarkar, “Ghatak, Melodrama, and the Restitution of Experience,” in his Mourning the Nation: Indian Cinema in the Wake of Partition. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2009.

RitwikGhatak, “Cinema and I”

Screening:Meghe Dhaka Tara (RitwikGhatak, 1960 )

Week 6: The Cultural history and Politics of Tamil Cinema

Core reading:

Selvaraj Velayutham , “Introduction: the cultural history and politics of South Indian Tamil cinema”

M. S. S. Pandian, "Parasakthi: Life and Times of a DMK Film"

Screening:Iruvar( Mani Ratnam, 1997)

Module III: The intersections

Weeks 7: Intersection I: Race, Ethnicity

Core reading:

Frantz Fanon , “Black Skin, White Masks”

Ed Guerro, “Framing Blackness: The Africa American Image in Film”

Screening: Ali:Fear Eats the Soul (F. W. Fassbinder, 1974)

Weeks 8: Intersections II: Class, caste

Core Reading:

Anupama Rao, “The death of a Kotwal: Injury and the Politics of Recognition," in Subaltern Studies XII; Violence, Vulnerability and Embodiment (co-editor, special issues of Gender and History, 2004)

Marx, Excerpts from Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and The Germany Ideology

B.R Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste

Screening:Sairat( NagrajManjule, 2016), Clips :Aakrosh ( Govind Nihlani , 1980)

Week 9: Writing Gender on Screen: Cinema, Modernity and the Post Colonial Subject

Core reading:

Rosie Thomas. “Sanctity and Scandal”

Biswas, Moinak. “Writing on the Screen: Satyajit Ray’s adaptation of Tagore”.

Further Reading:

Tejaswini Niranjana “ Integrating Whose Nation? Tourists and Terrorists in 'Roja' “

Screening:Charulata (Satyajit Ray, 1964 )

Module IV: Documenting History on Screen

Week 10: The Documentary Tradition in Indian Cinema

Core reading

Anuja Jain “The Curious Case of the Films Division: Some Annotations on the beginnings of the Indian Documentary Cinema in Post Independence India, 1940s-60s in The Velvet Light Trap 71, 2013.

Vinay Lal “Travails of the Nation: Some Notes on Indian Documentaries,” Third Text 19, no. 2 March 2005.

Screening:Jai BhimComrade(dir. A Patwardhan, 2012)

Week 11: Historic Event, Mythic Memory and Cinematic Re-adaptation;

Core Readings:

Some Aspects of Society & Polity as Depicted in Jayasi’sPadmavatBy B.K. Singh

Was Padmini a Mere Figment OfJayasi’s Imagination? By Dasharatha Sharma

Screening:Padmavat (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, 2018)

Week 12: Documenting Lives: Iranian New Wave

Core reading:

H Kiraly, “Abbas Kiaorostami and a new wave of spectator “

Michael Price, “Imagining Life: The Ending of Taste of Cherry”

Screening: Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)

Week 13: Imagining ‘Alternative’ Histories: Tarantino and New Hollywood

Core readings:

Hake, Sabine, “Screen Nazis: Cinema, History, and Democracy”.

Robert Dassanowsky ed. “Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds: A Manipulation of Metacinema”

Conrad Leibel , “The Fuhrer's Face: Inglourious Basterds and Quentin Tarantino’s Confrontation with Nazis, Hitler and Fascist Aesthetics in Hollywood Cinema”

Screening: Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)

Week 14: Cinema and the Recent History: New Media, liveliness and film screen

Core reading:

Sohini Ghosh, “The Talwars and presumed guilt”

Abhijit Roy, “Live(li)ness and Network Publics in Post-Liberalization Indian Popular Films”

Screening:Talvar (Meghna Gulzar, 2017)


  • Instructional strategies:Screeninngs, Lectures, Discussions

Tentative Assessment schedule with details of weightage:

S. No.




Class Participation and Attendance



Presentation/Short Response Paper



Mid-Term Exam



End-Term Exam








  • Special needs (facilities, requirements in terms of software, studio, lab, clinic, library, classroom/others instructional space; any other – please specify): Projection facility
  • Expertise in AUD faculty or outside SCCE
  • Linkages with external agencies (e.g., with field-based organizations, hospital; any others) NIL