One of the first of serious film studies in India, The Moving Image is a contemporary analysis of the central issues contained in Indian film issues, which distinguish this cinema from films of other countries.
Dr. Valicha emphasizes the fact that the key to understanding cinema lies in understanding the culture it is derived from - for which purpose one first must understand the cultural meaning contained in cinematic codes and signs.
Tracing the development of Indian cinema through important films, filmmakers and actors, the author analyses both the popular and serious forms of the medium in this country. The analysis shows how a changing socio-cultural environment has shaped the structure, the aesthetic values and the codes of Indian cinema.
The book thus argues, convincingly, that film in India is genuine cultural expression carrying meaning and signification that call for serious analysis, and cannot, therefore, be dismissed as mere 'noise'.
The special and valuable insights on Indian cinema that this book offers are enhanced by Dr. Valicha's own fascination with film.
About the Author
A prolific writer and academic Kishore Valicha has written on various subject. His books include Science Technology and Social Change (1980), and Symbols and Significance (1981). His poems have been published in Writer's workshop Miscellany an din New Quest and his articles in The Times of India.
Interested in philosophy, Dr. Valicha has taught aesthetics to post-graduate students at Bombay University for over ten year, and this academic discipline, coupled with his involvement with the cinematic medium, led to his doctoral dissertation. The present book is partially based on this thesis.
Dr. Valicha is "Director of the Distance Education Institute, University of Bombay, he is also a guest lecturer at the National Film Archives, Film and Television Institute of India, Pune.
This book is written keeping the Indian context in mind. It does, however, cover certain contemporary developments both in film and in film theory, to the extent these have some relevance to an understanding of Indian cinema, it internal logic and it socio-cultural functioning.
The main concepts with which cinema can be dealt with today are inextricably linked to theoretical approaches to film as these have grown in the West-mainly in Russia, in France, in Italy and in the United States. Most innovations have also been tried out in these countries. Serious efforts have been made to extend the boundaries of cinema, to perceive its form and meaning and to define its goals and purposes. Of particular interest is the development of semiotics or semiology which has begun to seriously alter ways of perception and analysis of film.
Since cinema is closely related to the different life-styles and beliefs that define human society, its patterns of meaning cannot be understood except in the context of a social and historical consciousness, which seems to permeate its forms. The key to cinema lies in culture. The components of meaning in cinematic articulation are inseparable from various social, intellectual and cultural developments. Furthermore, when dealing with the cinema of a particular society, it is necessary to relate it to certain society. These often go back in time to an ancient past. Certain cultural and artistic forms in cinematic representation make sense only in the light of these contexts.
Being mainly a technological art, the development of cinema is closely related to the growth of science and technology and to the emergence of modernity. Many cinematic forms cannot be understood without a knowledge of the semiological patterns of meaning in science and technology-for science and technology are in themselves significant cultural phenomena and the abstract elements in modern cinema arise out of values that directly and indirectly emerge out o the spread of science and technology. Keeping the above in mind, this work attempts an integral and comprehensive study of the Indian film. It is an attempt to make sense of cinema in India, to decode various signs that are used in it and to perceive its cultural meaning. Its appeal is to the intelligent film lover from whose point of view it is written. It considers both kinds of film-the popular Hindi film and the serious cinema which is associated with names such as Satyajit Ray, Shyam Benegal, Mrinal Sen and others.
This work can be described as an axio-aesthetics of the Indian cinema. It is not a pure kind of aesthetics concerned with enunciating only formal cinematic principles. It is an aesthetics more concerned with the total hermeneutic functioning of Indian cinema, with the relation of cinema to society, culture and the weltanschauung, with what makes for cinematic meaning in a cultural sense. It also attempts to derive an aesthetics by what may broadly be described as a humanistic analysis of several Indian films spread over a fairly extensive period of time, by relating their semantic-symbolic structures of meaning to the socio-cultural context within which they function, and by using tools of analysis that are part of contemporary advances in film theory and criticism. Except for a few Bengali films (a language that I luckily understand), I have concentrated on mainstream popular and serious cinema using the Hindi language.
I have not been able to formulate all the principles of such an axio-aesthetics, nor have I tried to. My endeavour has been to generate insight rather than be didactic. Particularly when dealing with specific films, I have endeavoured to make both incisive and original criticism in the hope that this will lead to a more significant appraisal of the Indian cinema. Finally, I shall feel amply compensated if I have been above to convey what I have intended to, both with respect to the subtleties of the message as well as to the style which I have endeavoured to make as luminous as possible. I have also tried in the process to convey my own sense of fascination with film. I shall feel rewarded if this work proves interesting and exciting to all those film buffs whose first love is the movies.
I would life to add a word about the manner o spelling of Indian film titles. Filmmaker do not follow any specific procedure with regard to the use of English in spelling Indian words and are often whimsical. For example, somewhere an 'i' is used to indicate 'ee' as in the case of Gita Aur Sita, or 'aa' is used to stress a syllable as in Aan whereas Awara clearly deviates from that. Not daring to improve upon this state of affairs, I have followed the safer path using the spelling preferred by the filmmaker. I have provided a brief glossary which will explain certain Sanskrit terms used in the book. I hope that those unfamiliar with such terms will understand their legitimate use within the context of film criticism.
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