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Moinak Biswas, Coming to the City: Indian Cinema and Making of the Modern Self

Arriving in the city. We look at films from Bombay and Bengal, all from the period of national reconstruction in the wake of independence, that present the moment of encounter with the big city through the eyes of an outsider.

The encounter contains the threat of moral ambivalence, but also gives rise to a sense of exhilaration.

The two responses generated two kinds of cinematic treatment, even two generic possibilities: one defined by an older contrast between the country and the city, tradition and modernity, and the other celebrating the existential ‘freedom’ of the city.

Shri 420 (Raj Kapoor, Hindi, 1955) PosterBoot Polish (Prakash Arora, Hindi, 1954) posterTaxi Driver (Chetan Anand, Hindi, 1954) poster

We shall try to see what these divergent responses meant in terms of film language, and how the encounter with the city contributed to the new popular form that emerged in the post-independence era.


Kaviraj, Sudipta, “Reading a Song of the City -- Images of the City in Literature and Films” (download here)
M. Madhava Prasad, “Realism and Fantasy in Representations of Metropolitan Life in Indian Cinema”, From City Flicks, Indian Cinema and the Urban Experience, edited by Preben Kaarsholm (Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2004) (download here)
Biswas, Moinak. "From Space to Location." positions: east asia cultures critique, vol. 25 no. 1, 2017, pp. 9-28 (download here)

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