chapter  2
12 Pages

From cultural backwardness to the age of imitation: An essay in film history

WithM. Madhava Prasad

There are a number of ways in which the spectator of a popular film might find him or herself at the receiving end of cinema’s pedagogic vocation. Here we need only look at two relevant ones. Thus melodrama is an entertainment form with a pedagogic mission. Its very existence attests to a relation of cultural education between the pioneering missionaries of the bourgeoisie and the expropriated ‘free labor’ flocking to the cities.1 To give another example, it is well known that Hollywood cinema, when it reaches the ends of the world, is more than likely to be regarded by the second-or third-order viewership there as a source of knowledge and values which hold the promise of a better life. This impact of Hollywood overseas is further divisible into two related aspects: first, the direct social impact which has been an object of concern and investigation since at least the 1920s, as is clear from the report and proceedings of the Indian Cinematograph Committee (ICC) of 1927-28;2 and second, the formal pressure exercised by Hollywood upon the film industry, which is so strong that for some prominent filmmakers in India today, Hollywood is nothing less than a Platonic realm of ideas which they aspire to reproduce.