While Indian cinema's role in imagining the nation has been analysed by Ashis Nandy and Madhava Prasad, among others, Gautam Kaul's pioneering book looks at the relationship between cinema and Indian nationalism beginning in 1896, when the Lumière brothers' cinématographe came to India. Kaul draws on a wide range of texts: films and episodes or songs within films, whether using various ruses to avoid British censorship or which celebrated the movement's history in the post-independence era. He discusses the relationship between film industry personnel and the freedom struggle and also the views of politicians about cinema - while Gandhi was disparaging, most other nationalists were alert to the merits of cinema as an instrument of social and cultural change and a source of propaganda.
The scope is ambitious: the book covers the art and the middle cinema, regional cinemas, the national Hindi cinema and short and documentary films. The general reader may find the weight of detail overwhelming, while specialists will find it useful as a compendium of data, although further textual analysis and sourcing of information would have been helpful. There is a useful filmography of relevant films, although the bibliography is inadequate on both film and nationalism. Nevertheless, despite these limitations, the book is a useful and enjoyable reference work that can be used as a point of departure for the student of Indian cinema, as well as of Indian nationalism.
Rachel Dwyer is lecturer in Gujarati and Indian studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, London.
Cinema and the Indian Freedom Struggle
Author - Gautam Kaul
ISBN - 81 207 2116 X
Publisher - Sterling Publishers. New Delhi
Price - £25.00
Pages - 251