Skip to Content

Indian Melodrama: Transnational Mobilities, Cross-Pollinations and Cinematic Reinventions

«Back To Seminars

Organizer: Anupama Kapse

Co-Organizer: Ira Bhaskar

Contact the Seminar Organizers

How have worldwide melodramatic forms been modified and taken up by South Asia’s many cinemas? Examining the role of gesture, musicality and aural practices in the constitution of a recognizable Indian film form with characteristic features after sound technology arrived in India, this seminar considers the transmutation of Euro-American melodramatic forms into a distinct Indian constellation of emotional and aesthetic effects across several languages, from the 1930s to the present.

Panel speakers, each selected from different institutions and with different language competencies, will ask why, when and how melodrama became a simultaneously transnational and subcontinental domain with distinct Indian roots. How have film scholars looked at such regional formations both outside, and in relation to, Bombay cinema? How do media practitioners and film historians locate melodrama’s thematic and formal proliferations across India, taking Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Hindi and Urdu film cultures not as peripheries but as formative centers? How have they traced melodrama’s cross-pollination vis-à-vis India’s varied film industries and their practices? By posing these questions, we attempt to map new directions for thinking about melodrama through collaborative spatial and aesthetic paradigms that have previously not been tapped. Paying particular attention to the song, dance, devotional, theatrical and moving image traditions that link India’s many regions, languages and media practices despite their differences, we ask: how are global genres reconstituted by melodrama’s spread into local performance traditions? What sort of narrative modes, media, star-mechanisms, and economic systems does melodrama mobilize? What new markets and affective communities is melodrama capable of organizing?

While different popular cinemas developed as “vernacular” language sites for the articulation of cosmopolitan modernities by articulating sophisticated vocabularies of feeling alongside the emotional accoutrements of the film song and the sensory registers of cinematic spectacle, our primary aim is to debate, research and map the routes through which melodrama moves centripetally inwards towards the hinterland and smaller districts, and centrifugally outwards towards national and transnational constituencies. What cultural forms can melodrama’s migratory impetus stimulate, and how do they complicate our ideas of modernity and the contemporary moment, working as a heterogenous expressive matrix?

«Back To Seminars