Raj Nath or Rauf Lala – Rishi Kapoor’s Resilient Journey Through Indian Cinema’s Transnationalism.
Author: Dr. Rajeev Kamineni
Author Intro: Rajeev Kamineni started his career in a bookstore almost three decades ago and then moved onto as area sales manager, director, executive director, chief officer, lecturer and head of program positions. He is a multiple award-winning lecturer with lecturing stints in Australia, South Africa, Singapore, Japan, India and Dubai. Apart from owning and operating businesses, Rajeev was actively involved in financing 35 movies and producing 14 movies in the Indian movie industry. With a lifelong passion for cinema, Rajeev has authored a book on Indian cinema published by Routledge, UK. He was also actively involved as an organizer and executive committee member of the Chennai International Film Festival (CIFF), India and he was a Judge for the Global undergraduate awards in Music, Film and Theatre category, is a judge for Australian Marketing Institute’s (AMI) marketing excellence awards. A PhD in entrepreneurship, commitment to the cause of Cinema as art and commerce, setting up a business school, a retail business and leading the diversification of a media company into commercial sports, has equipped Rajeev with the ability and skills to teach, research and mentor in the areas of entrepreneurship, media, arts and entertainment, retail, sports and education. Rajeev won the Best Business Plan award as part of a team representing Australia in the Moot Corp World Business Plan competition held at Austin, USA.
Analysing resilience in the movie industry is relevant because for many movie industry stakeholders, their business ventures in the movie industry are a result of their personal passion thereby intimately connecting the success of these ventures to their personal self-worth and personal well-being (Murnieks, Mosakowski and Cardon, 2014, Evans and Wall 2019). On a ground operational level, the pressure for an actor is very high especially in a context like the movie industry where success is defined by a body of work or several productions rather than one project hence increasing the pressure to sustain performance over multiple projects. However, as evident from the work of Baron, Franklin and Hmieleski (2016), it is possible that movie actors might experience lower stress compared to other job seekers because they choose that profession and exercise that option to be an actor, hence they might be better equipped and resilient to handle the stress and challenges of an acting career. Rishi Kapoor was a third-generation actor of the Kapoor family and he would have observed and interacted with his father, grandfather and uncles to gain a deeper understanding about the unpredictability of the Indian movie industry.
Tracing the movie journey of Rishi Kapoor, with an output of more than 150 movies spanning over five decades, this article examines the ways in which Rishi Kapoor exhibited resilience to setbacks and changes in the Indian movie industry. Two research questions are addressed: How did Rishi Kapoor stay resilient while experiencing the changing trends of Indian cinema? What attributes played a role and influenced the building of Rishi Kapoor’s individual resilience? In answering these questions, this article contributes to theory by providing insights into resilience in a creative field and the way resilience is developed and exhibited in an industry with a high degree of failure (Sparviero, 2015).
Rishi Kapoor (1952-2020) was born into a quintessential Indian cinema family and was even referred to as the first family of Indian cinema or cinema royalty. Being the son and grandson of legendary Indian movie personalities, Raj Kapoor and Prithviraj Kapoor meant that Rishi did not need an introduction to the audience. Audience took it for granted that he will act and can act. This was a boon and a bane also, boon because it saved Rishi from running the hard yards as an aspiring actor, bane because audience had already typecast him into an image and it will take him decades to come out of that image. Though charting the filmography of Rishi Kapoor will present us with a ringside view of Indian cinema’s journey during the past five decades, due to space and contextual restrictions, this article will focus on a select period in Kapoor’s career. That period can be book ended by two marquee box office events in Indian cinema.
A Tribute to Soumitra Chattopadhyay (1935-2020): The Father That I’ve Left Behind
Author: Dr. Michelangelo Paganopoulos
Author intro: Dr. Michelangelo Paganopoulos is a member of Global Inquiries and Social Theory Research Group, Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, Ton Duc Thang University, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. A Ph.D. in social anthropology, Goldsmiths University of London, 2012, he has a long-standing commitment to interdisciplinary research in the Arts and Humanities. Dr. Paganopoulos has worked as a lecturer and visiting tutor at Goldsmiths, University of London, and briefly took the role of Membership Officer of the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth. He has edited the volume In-Between Fiction and Non-Fiction: Reflections on the Poetics of Ethnography in Literature and Film (Cambridge Scholars) and written a number of articles and reviews on anthropology and cultural studies, including an extended and widely praised essay entitled "The Changing World of Satyajit Ray: Reflections on Anthropology and History" (2013/2020).
On a winter Sunday last November, the great actor, director and poet Soumitra (Chattopadhyay) Chatterjee left this world. He died due to Covid-19 complications at Bellevue Hospital in his hometown, the City of Kolkata. This short piece does not constitute an effort to write an essay regarding his immense body of work, one that expands for over half a century, or even to write an obituary in honour to his memory. Rather, it is a tribute to the actor Chattopadhyay focusing on his father figure screen persona, from his debut as the young father Apu in Apu Sansar (1959) to his final film as the estranged old father figure of Sassir in Rupkatha Noy (2013). Chattopadhyay’s work is too vast to reflect upon in a short piece such as this. Rather, with this tribute I only wish to highlight the impact of his charismatic and enigmatic persona as a father figure to an entire nation, his impact to the wider film world, and on a personal level to myself. In doing so, this tribute places Chattopadhyay within the cosmopolitan tradition of Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray, whose respective presences in world history are now re-emerging as more relevant than ever, as we rapidly witness the end of modernity moving towards the creation of a unified but unequal world society.
Soumitra Chatterjee – The Renaissance Bhadralok Of Bengal
Author: Darshana Chakrabarty
Author intro: Darshana Chakrabarty is a Graduate Student at the Department of English at Arizona State University specializing in Film & Media Studies. She did her Bachelor of Arts with English Honours from St. Xavier’s College (Autonomous), Kolkata, India, and Master of Arts in English Literature with concentration on Gender Studies from the University of Calcutta, India. She has extensive experience in teaching English Literature and Writing in High & Middle School around Kolkata. She taught English as a Second Language and First Language to Middle and High School students. She also worked as a freelance Creative and Content Writing Expert in different organizations in Kolkata. Her first book chapter is “Adaptation of Shakespeare in Bengali Theatre and Cinema” in the Handbook of Research on Social and Cultural Dynamics in Indian Cinema published by IGI Global. Her on going book chapter is “Deconstructing Femininity and Progression of Women in early 20th century Bollywood Films”, in Edited Collection: Cinematic Representations of Women in Modern Celebrity Culture (1900-1950), ed. María Cristina C. Mabrey and Leticia Pérez Alonso, Routledge (Research in Gender and History book series). Apart from book chapters, she has written several articles for journals.
For more than a month even the most atheists of Bengal have been praying for the recovery of the beloved legend Soumitra Chatterjee, hoping for a miracle. People's heart skipped a beat when on 15th November 2020, they received the news of the demise of the iconic personality, a news which they have been dreading to hear. Bengalis all over the world felt an insuperable sense of loss, a vacuum that is unbearable. Soumitra Chatterjee is a symbol of all the qualities that a progressive Bengali should encompass but is failing due to the hollow imitation of modernization of the west. He showed us the value of nourishing and respecting our own traditions and culture, yet have an insatiable zeal to know more, to embrace new ideas, have an open mind for liberal thoughts and, above all, faith in humanity. In spite of numerous personal disturbances including physical and mental health issues, he proved to every Bengali, every Indian at large, how to live a rich life. This article is a small attempt to capture Soumitra Chatterjee’s deep personality that goes beyond his role as an actor. Intentionally rejecting the path of stardom that every actor seeks, he chose a path less travelled, less popular, and perhaps that indeed made a lot of difference. With his collaboration with Ray, Chatterjee participated in the Indian New Wave films that gave Bengal a global recognition. The article is a peek into vast aesthetic spirit that is not just restricted to motion pictures. Bengal did not just lose a great actor that brought realism into fictional films, but also lost a gifted painter, a remarkable poet, a charming elocutionist, a brilliant thespian and, above all, a noble human.
“It’s about a boy. A boy from a village. He is poor, but sensitive…He wants to study. He has ambitions. Through his struggles and his education, he lets go of his superstitions, the conservatism he picked up in his village. He wants to navigate the world through his intellect, but also through his emotions and imagination. Small things move him, make him happy. Maybe there are seeds of greatness in him…He is not an escapist. He knows that the point of life is to live. And he wants to live.” This monologue by Apu from Apur Sansar (The World of Apu) (1959) (Ray), the very first film of Soumitra Chatterjee, perhaps sums up how the legend started off and kept astounding us with his work till his last breath. It is highly astonishing that the most impressionistic roles he played or films that he took part in were so much influenced by his real life that one finds it difficult to separate the reel from the real. Apu is Soumitra and Soumitra is Apu. Marie Seton, in her book on Satyajit Ray, Portrait of a Director, wrote, “In portraying Apu, Soumitra Chatterjee felt Apu to be the image of the contemporary Indian man in the process of becoming modern… He found half of himself in Apu” (Seton). He indeed grew up in a small village, Krishnagar, or as the inhabitants call it “Keshongar”, under the sophisticated nourishment of his highly educated family. They were not fiscally wealthy but were affluent in knowledge, intellect, culture, aesthetics, the embodiment of “Bhodrolok”. He moved to Kolkata, like the reel Apu, for pursuing Bachelors and Masters degree in Bengali literature. He believed that living in a big city influences and enlightens life, one comes in contact with eminent scholars and prominent personalities which enriches one’s wit and knowledge. Perhaps that is how he met Satyajit Ray and a deep relationship between them of a mentor and student resulted in the productions of films that brought Bengal to the global stage.
Women Dancing Desire: Saroj Khan and the En-fleshment of the Modern Filmi Heroine
Author: Arpita Bajpeyi
Author Intro: Arpita Bajpeyi is a PhD student in Dance Studies at York University, Toronto, and a Graduate Research Associate at the York Centre for Asian Research. Her research builds off of her background as a kathak dancer and a public historian (MA, Carleton University) to ask if this 'classical' form can be opened up to make visible the erasures that have enabled its practice and performance today. Alongside Sinead Cox, Arpita also co-directs Staging Our Histories, a not-for-profit organisation that acts as a platform for performing artists whose work explores history, memory, and the past. With Mridula Rao, Priyanka Chandrashekar, and Sammitha Sreevathsa, she also helps run "Speaking Sakhi," an online space invested in fostering conversations between artists about the politics, possibilities, and pedagogy of classical dance in India. Some of her writing has been published in Art India Magazine, Intermission, kaur.space, and Rungh.
This article examines four of Saroj Khan’s choreographies from 1999 to 2007 in which the heroine is coded as ‘traditional’ by her context and/or the plot of the film. Despite their framing within the film, this article argues that Khan’s choreographies emphasize the modernity of these heroines by allowing them to exert agency over their bodies as they pursue their desires within the liminal space of a song-and-dance sequence. The space offered by production numbers – neither wholly bound by the narrative boundaries of the film, nor entirely exempt from them – allowed Khan to create visuals which took precedent over the text of a given film. Having used this space with great success in the 1990s to re-imagine how the modern filmi heroine could move on screen, Khan was able to adapt her practice for films which restricted her repertoire options. Using classical dance, yoga, and folk repertoires along with filmi sensibilities, Khan was able to ensure the modernity of the heroines she choreographed in films like Taal (1999), Lagaan (2001), Devdas (2002), and Guru (2007). By choreographing these heroines to actively pursue and express their desires, these women confirm their modernity for contemporary audiences, and thus their own desirability as heroines.
Saroj Khan’s success in the 1980s came in using the ambiguous space of musical sequences in order to redefine the boundary of what were acceptable, and even desirable movements for heroines. As her career continued, Khan deployed her hybrid repertoire to en-flesh heroines as modern, even when the setting of a film was historical, or the heroine’s character was ‘traditional.’ Khan was able to demonstrate a heroine’s modernity while drawing upon ‘traditional’ movement repertoires, such as folk, classical, or yoga, by crafting choreographies that embodied the heroine’s pursuit of desire. Though these desires range from romantic and sexual to mobility and other ambitions, it is the bodily display of agency that qualifies these heroines as modern. If the ability to move through space has long been a marker of modernity in Hindi films (Mukherjee 2014, Mankekar 1999), then the modern heroine performs this by moving her body. And although women who dance desire have historically been socially marginalized, as with hereditary performing women and vamps, the modern heroine escapes this condemnation. She performs not out of obligation, necessity, or for immoral gain, as hereditary performers were accused of doing, nor to be objectified and punished as with vamps (Morcom 2013, Soneji 2012, Walker 2014, Rekhari 2014). Instead, the modern heroine’s pursuit of desire is embraced by the plot, and their movements are rewarded with subjecthood, even as they may serve the erotic gaze of the audience.
From Mr. India to Kalank: A Retake of Modern Indian Dance with “Masterji” Saroj Khan
Author: Mita Bandyopadhyay
The author Mita Bandyopadhyay is a senior researcher in the department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur. Her area of interest is visual popular culture, with particular reference to Bollywood movies and the way the audience react to the movies, that is, cognitive film studies.
Modernity, whose epicentre was once the Western civilisation, has at present become ubiquitous; it being influenced by different cultures across the globe. Modernity experienced by people in diverse forms is the consequence of historical and cultural expansion of the particular regions or an art form. The focal point of the article is to validate this drift towards Modernity introduced into Bollywood dance sequence by the craftsmanship of “Masterji”, Saroj Khan. Discourse on modernity mapped through this article, emphasises the intertwining of the threads of the traditionally existing dance forms in India, to that of the newly weaved thread by Saroj Khan, which brings into visual sensation the overshadowing impact of the body, to mirror the desire of the female characters through the performance of the heroine, within the liminal space of song-and-dance number. Utilisation of this space for the onscreen movement of the heroine has often resulted in the choreography of songs which, in due course of time, has taken precedence over its narrative forms. In the course of discussion, an attempt has been undertaken to explore the contact zones of the hybridised style within the framing of the song and dance sequence. The dance sequences taken into consideration have entertained generations for decades and have become a part of the popular culture; years after they have faded from the list of new arrivals.
Saroj khan draws on her dance lineage mostly from the house of Kathak dancers, though, she did make deviation from the original style according to the needs of the narrative, music and lyrics and most important the consumers of her art. While the focus of her choreography strictly adhered to the classical dance, conveying emotion through the artful movement of the eye and the eyebrow, termed as “mukh abhinaya” and the rhythmic movements of the torso and the foot, Saroj Khan put efforts to make the dance lively and entertaining so as to be accepted by the vast section of the audience, for whom the original dance forms, be it the classical or the folk, lost its preference, owing to cultural change due to liberalisation and globalisation. Entertainment of audience remained the prime factor in composing a dance for a particular song; hence, the dance needed to be “filmi”. Once in conversation with Mohammed Khalid she had revealed, “Jab tak hai jaan, main zaroor nachungi aur nachvaungi. Once a filmi, always a filmi”. On being asked about “filmi”, she replied, “Commercial, what the people like!” (Seta)
Detailed observation on the stylistics of Saroj Khan will reveal her affinity to the mujra style, a form of dance based on Kathak, but deflect from its purely classical and devotional spirit, in being more humane and passionate in the expression of emotion. Mujra is a special dance form practised by the “tawaifs” in the “kothas” along with ghazals and thumris or any poetic rendition, to entertain the male audience, because the mehfils were frequented by the elite class male section of the society where the female dancers or the “tawaifs” gave a display of their feminine beauty and grace through their artistic dance moves.
Anand, Irrfan and Ivan Illich: To Death with Love
Author: Dr. Dev Nath Pathak
Author intro: Dr. Dev Nath Pathak is a founding faculty of Sociology at South Asian University, a university of SAARC in New Delhi (India) and has been writing on folklore, art, cinema, mediated communications, theories and philosophy. He co-edit a journal Society and Culture in South Asia, and is on the editorial board of Journal of Human Values. A few of his recent publications include, Living and Dying: Meanings in Maithili Folklore (2018), Another South Asia (2017), Culture and Politics in South Asia: Performative Communication (2017); Decoding Visual World: Intersections of Art, Anthropology and Art History in South Asia (2019), Against Nation: Thinking Like South Asian (2019). He was a visiting scholar at Brown International Advance Research Institute, at Brown University, a Charles Wallace fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, a visiting scholar at Indian Institute of Advance Studies, Shimla, and a scholar-in-residence at Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta. He is associated with Galp Lok, a YouTube based public intellectual forum.
Death and dying are invariably experiences at the cross roads marked by socio-cultural changes much akin to other experiences pertaining human life. The death of an accomplished actor in popular cinema, Irrfan Khan, after suffering from cancer brings about many facets of realization. In the death and risk loaded pandemic year, 2020, it was even more crucial to reason with a fundamental question, are we ready to undertake an experiential journey to the doorsteps of death, an end of existence? This essay contextualises the fast changing cultural configurations of death and dying with a cursory recalling of lessons from scholarship. A critical rumination arises in conjunction with the words of Irrfan.
The cinema lovers who may have watched each acting performance of Irrfan could vividly imagine him saying those lines that he wrote in the letter. With his puffy eyes, duly moist, and lilt in his theatrical voice, he would whisper the message of the letter in anyone’s ear ready to receive the dynamics of ordinary and extraordinary. Irrfan’s enacted characters allow him to be imagined by his lovers as a polemicist, just like Ivan Illich, ready to deliver to us a fascinating criticism of ‘medicalised life’ of a patient diagnosed with a rare cancer.
There was more to it than a polemicist’s polemic, and an antihero’s heroic performance. And this invited a psychoanalyst for an interpretation of the subdued. A sense of ordinary prevailed when Irrfan narrated a dream sequence to describe his situation, in the letter. It was a dream that connected Irrfan’s two worlds, conscious and unconscious, physical and metaphysical, as he said, “I was travelling on a speedy train, had dreams, plans, aspirations, goals; was fully engaged in them. And suddenly someone taps on my shoulder and I turn to see. It’s the TC: ‘Your destination is about to come. Please get down.’ I am confused. ‘No, no. My destination hasn’t come!’ The suddenness made me realise how you are just a cork floating in the ocean with unpredictable currents, desperately trying to control it”.
Less of Dr. Sigmund Freud and more of Dr. Carl Jung was in the frame. Freud may take a walk to resolve the intricacies of eros, thanatos, and libido. Carl Jung stays on discerning the archetypes buried in a dream, joining dots that could lead to mythologies, of the past and the present.
The Legacy Of Saajan Fernandes’s The Lunchbox: The Art Of a Master-Thespian of Our Times
Author: Mousumi G. Banerjee
Mousumi is currently Associate Professor and Head, Department of English Literature, The English and Foreign Languages University, Regional Campus, Shillong. Her teaching career spans for more than eighteen years now. She has earned her Ph.D. from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. Her research areas include film discourse, postmodern theories and criticisms, Western philosophy, poetic text, language, and hermeneutics and women’s writing. She has extensively published in national and international journals, magazines and books and has acted as a resource person in various Institutions. Her books include Writings across Genres: Indian Literature, Language and Culture (2015), Daring to Write: The Two Creative Daughters of Victorian England (2015), and Emily Dickinson: Writing as a Woman (2017), and, currently, she has two on-going book-length projects: one on Gitanjali: An Exalted Manifestation of Buddhist Aesthetics (a research as a current Associate of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study [IIAS], Shimla), and the other on “A thought went up my mind today –”: An Inquiry into a Post-Kantian Transcendental Philosophy in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry. She has been awarded with the Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, 2019-2020, by the United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF), to pursue her postdoctoral research at Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts, for her work on the book on Dickinson.
2020 would perhaps be remembered as one of the most dreaded years of human history, but what we can be content about amidst all the hardship and suffering that have come down upon the world during the past year is that, this magnitudinal calamity has been confronted by man with his greatest fortitude and might. Our country has remained one that had, and presently has, numerous people being beaten down by the fatal pandemic and, along with the nation, cinema, like every professional field, has come to be affected in ways probably as it had never been before. This is an unprecedentedly novel experience for all millennial citizens around the world, and coincidentally as all this happened, we suddenly came to lose an illustrious array of actors and artists whose work we all have grown up seeing, enjoying and appreciating. Now, that we remain on the threshold of a global change, in terms of a whole new world emerging out of the deadly virus and the effect/s it may have on human life, it is high time that we look back, consider and be inspired by the extraordinary legacy that these artists have bequeathed us with. It is with respect to their legacy that the tradition of film criticism and production of quality cinema will have to be promoted and evolved. For the purpose of this paper, I would attempt to reflect on a film named The Lunchbox (2013) – for us to bring to mind the reminiscences of an actor par excellence, Irrfan Khan – a film that had touched the hearts of millions and that sincerely speaks of man’s struggle to earn a livelihood. Khan, by the sheer brilliance of his acting, became the face of every single human individual of the modern-day world who has to pass through a self-corroding ordeal for survival, and his character in the film, Saajan Fernandes, became the epitome of strength and will that man is inwardly capable of, to break the shackles of his mundane existence and champion the cause of love and self-emancipation. This is one of those films that leads us to think long after it has been experienced and to have an idea of what a good piece of cinema is and does. It will remain as one of the most honored and archived works of Khan which will live on as long as we do.
Irrfan Khan’s presence in the film is seen after 06:06 minutes of laying the background of the narrative. Khan is seen seated at his office, as Saajan Fernandes, an apparently cool and composed person at work with an experienced head on a pair of old shoulders. The boss, Mr. Shroff, comes, thereafter, and introduces Sheikh to Fernandes, which the latter visibly feels a bit perturbed and surprised about, yet manages to exhibit some courtesy in meeting the former, who is going to join office after Fernandes retires. Khan’s immensely expressive eyes deftly bring out the irritability that he feels in meeting the new man. He does not speak much but his non-verbality communicates more meaning to the audience than any dialogue could have done at this point. When Sheikh asks him about how he feels, now that his ‘golden years’ are to begin, Fernandes ironically uses the expression ‘fantastic’ thereby making his perturbation all the more vivid – something that Sheikh could not, at that moment, perhaps grasp, but that becomes more or less clear to the viewer. Fernandes continues to work nonchalantly, and when Sheikh asks him whether the former would start the training, he schedules 04:45 pm as the meeting time which happens to be just fifteen minutes before the close of the office. In the subsequent scene, during the time for lunch, Khan, as Fernandes, is seen to meticulously look at the misplaced box, that comes to him, with an expression of curiosity and unusualness, suspiciously smell the food, and apprehensively taste it in disbelief, albeit with all the calmness that he has in his disposition. It was an unexpectedly pleasant bewilderment that he felt, and went on to enjoy the food contained in it. After lunch, Fernandes is seen to have gone back to his work and, when the clock showed 04:45 pm, he glances at Sheikh, talking to a presumably office person at some distance, with a perceivable misgiving – an act that Khan again performs by virtue of some powerful language of his eyes – and almost stealthily walks out of the office in a bid to avoid Sheikh. When he returns in a train, Khan worthily acts out the intense tire and exhaustion of the day’s work, and this too without any verbal language. His histrionic skills are brilliantly portrayed in the scenes where he is shown to solitarily and restlessly standing in his balcony with a cigar and eyeing at the house opposite to his character’s, that is Fernandes’s, where he finds a family having dinner and, perhaps, remembering his own happy days when his wife was alive. Next morning, he again meets Sheikh and continues to remain indifferent and disinterested in what the latter has to say. He suggests Sheikh to come after lunch. It is now that Fernandes surprisingly finds a letter, for the first time, looks around inquisitively, and began reading what is documented in the paper. Later, his ostensible insouciance for Sheikh continues until one day the latter reveals that he is an orphan. Fernandes feels a little considerate and finally gives him the responsibility to work on the concerned claims files and submit them to the office. They become a bit friendlier since then. This transition from an apparent unconcern for Sheikh to becoming one of his trusted acquaintances is enacted by Khan with exemplary equanimity and poise. At one point, with the customary placidity in his comportment, he defends some serious office errors committed by Sheikh and, that is how, comes to save the latter’s job, though later he admonishes the new incumbent for committing the very damaging mistakes that are all too very embarrassing to his reputation, as well, as an experienced hand in office. Another aspect of Khan’s skill as a thespian, in the role of Fernandes, is brought forth when he is found struggling with his own inner self in relation to Ila who happens to be much younger to him. He enacts an uncanny joyfulness at the prospect of meeting her. But, when the time came, he just watched her, from far, with curious and admiring eyes and considered to stay away due to a consciousness, that he had about his age and, that ultimately precludes him from meeting her face-to-face. Hence, there are some remarkable moments of silence that go verbally unexpressed but get a more pronounced representation through some rare display of histrionic dexterity. Khan’s voice-acting is also worthy to be mentioned here which he carried out with due appositeness to help the audience feel the age of the character.
S. P. BALASUBRAMANIAM
Mystical, Magical, Musical Maven – A Tribute to S. P. Balasubramaniam
Author: Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha
Dr. Nandini Lakshmikantha is a Professor and a former Director working for Manipal Institute of Communication, a constituent unit of Manipal Academy of Higher Education. She has been a DAAD Scholar and a visiting professor to Hochschule Bremen University, Germany. She has delivered public lecture series on India's issues, including Indian cinema at Hochschule Bremen and Hamburg University. In 2017, she was invited by the Universities of Louisville, Kentucky, and Florida State of the United States of America to deliver lectures on Health Communication and Bollywood Blockbusters respectively.
Among the many lives lost due to the deadly COVID, one name that made the entire country mourn without any geographical discrimination was Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubramaniam. Popularly known as SPB, or Balu among the closer circles, he strode the Indian film industry like a colossus for more than 50 years, with his magical voice. SPB, who mesmerized the audience with his singing abilities, was also a much-sought dubbing artist, actor and director. As a result, the awards and acclaims of the highest order from all spheres of life have adorned this multi-talented legend from the beginning of his career. It is indeed a matter of pride for the entire Indian film industry that Indian government has bestowed Padma Vibhushan, the highest civilian award, to SPB posthumously for the year 2021, in respect of his enormous contribution to the Indian film industry.
This paper follows the qualitative method while compiling various interviews and articles written on SPB - a man with a golden voice.
The year 1964, brought the desired golden moment to this much talented young man. A friend had enrolled him in a prestigious singing competition by paying the required amount of fees. Probably, Bala was clueless regarding the shift in life's gear when he sang his prize-winning song in the competition organized by Madras based Telugu Cultural Organization. This competition was judged by famous musicians of the day – S. P. Kodandapani, Dakshinamurthy and Ghatasala. SPB chose to sing the melody of "Nilave Ennidam Nerungathe", sung by PB Sreenivas in the Tamil movie Ramu (1966). The song drowns the listener in pathos and provides the singer ample opportunity to emote. SPB won the accolades. S P Kodandapani took a keen interest in developing this young man with a golden voice into a playback singer for the movies. In 1966, SPB sang his debut song for Sri Sri Maryada Ramanna (1967), a Telugu film by his mentor, S. P. Kodandapani. The song "Emiyee Vinta Moham" was sung along with three other singers. Within a week after his debut in Telugu, he sang his first song in Kannada for the movie Nakkare Ade Swarga (1967) starring Kannada comedy stalwart T. R. Narasimharaju.
It was and is not an easy task to get songs in the film industry for two important reasons. Firstly, the number of movies made were very less and secondly, the established heroes, MG Ramachandran, Sivaji Ganesan and NT Rama Rao, with their foundations in theatre, demanded singers who lent their voices, to suit their mythological characters. The high-pitched singing of TM Soundararajan, Sirgazhi Govindarajan and KV Mahadevan was the norm in Telugu and Tamil music industries. Similarly, in Kannada, it was the period of Ghantasala and P B Srinivas. Since P B Srinivas was considered Rajkumar's singing voice, who played the lead role in most of the movies made in those days, making his presence felt, for this newcomer was indeed a challenge.
SUSHANT SINGH RAJPUT
Manny and Mansoor: Hints at the Potential of Non-Normative Masculinities on Screen
Author: Bhaskar Choudhary
Bhaskar Choudhary is a graduate of the Young India Fellowship 2019-20, a postgraduate liberal arts diploma program from Ashoka University. He had pursued a Bachelor in Arts with a Psychology Major and minor in English Literature and Political Science from Jai Hind College, Mumbai University. He is an avid reader and potential scholar deeply interested in discourses pertaining to feminism and masculinity.
He has written on the theme of gender and masculinity on Feminism in India, an online intersectional feminist media platform and other portals such as the Youth Ki Awaaz and the Armchair Journal.
He is a Digital Campaigner at Colaboratory, a collective of artists aiming to shift public discourse on societal themes such as period poverty and mental health. He is also working as an intern at Grasp-Media, a student-run journalistic organization that aims to counter the sensationalism prevalent in mainstream media.
Bollywood has conventionally presented a very monolithic image of men as emotionally stoic and numb creatures who manage to miraculously cope up with all psychological setbacks and traumas with a ceaseless amount of resilience and indomitable spirit. The image of male perfection which films concoct to cater to our fantasy as viewers, paints the picture of an ideal man as one in absolute control of his emotions and perfectly able to enact the role of the saviour and hero, under dire circumstances. The very stability of our socio-cultural and political order relies upon the myth of male stoicism and perfection.
Sushant Singh Rajput, in two of his films, Kedarnath (2018) and Dil Bechara (2020) enacted roles that carried a potential for subversion from the mainstream norms of masculinity that command the man on screen to be in action at all times, and which reinstate the classic binary that associates ‘active’ with ‘masculine’ and ‘passive’ with ‘feminine’.
Kedarnath (2018), a film set within the communal socio-political context of the Uttarakhand valleys, depicted the male protagonist in a state of emotionally rich and suffused passivity within the hetero-romantic relationship. The tale was unconventional as it projected an outright display of female agency and pursuit of desire. It also depicted a male experience of hurt, hope, loss, dejection, love and desire through tender inclinations, unlike the typical representations where the man channelizes all his frustration into violent or aggressive actions to cope up with any experience of setback or disappointment.
Dil Bechara (2020), on the other hand, depicted a male protagonist who desperately tried to enact the role of a male saviour for his heroine, by repressing his feelings of hurt and fear and projecting a very carefree, happy-go-lucky version of himself in order to amuse the heroine, assuage her apprehensions and rekindle the will within her to live life with happiness. However, with the approach of the climax, his pretensions broke loose as his fear of approaching death and doom ruptured and revealed his absolute vulnerability. The plot-line, despite reflecting the paradigm of a conventional romance, revealed fissures within the prototype of the conventional manly hero, and hinted at the possibility and need for a shift in the representation of men and boys.
Both these roles enacted by Sushant Singh Rajput implicitly carry the potential of a shift in focus from prowess to actual vulnerabilities within depictions of masculinities on screen.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s performances in the films Kedarnath (2018) and Dil Bechara (2020) are telling enactments of the possibility that the image of male stoicism and perfection, bolstered by films and mainstream media, is built upon a flawed premise. Romantic storylines in films have traditionally been constructed upon a binary: where active is associated with ‘masculine’ and passivity with ‘feminine’.
Even though the appropriation of feminist sentiment and criticism by the mainstream cinema has led to some deviations from the prototype of the passive feminine in recent times, the same cannot be said about the portrayal of male emotional stoicism and perfection that has perpetually been emboldened and instituted upon a pedestal for glorification.
Images and archetypes of masculinity have historically been moulded within the traits of immense physical and mental prowess and invincibility. The realization that unrealistic and overdone portrayals of male perfection and heroism instigate unhealthy patterns of fantasies, desires and behaviours among the populace, from the standpoint of mental health and emotional well-being; is seldom ever reflected within Bollywood cinema, which has largely been a zone of brutal machismo glorified on screen. Rugged, stoic and invincible masculinities, and toxic conceptions and brands such as that of the imagined ‘Angry Young Man’ have largely been the norm in the Hindi film industry.
Art impacts life, at times through subtle moments on screen, where a display of a particular emotion could be enmeshed within layers of hints that carry a potential for subversion from the mainstream norm, and provide relief from certain performative pressures that are otherwise omnipotent and pervasive.
You can read the essay by clicking on the above link. It is available for open access. The essay, discussing the Physics and Philosophy in Sushant Singh Rajput's instagram is authored by two professors from IIT Patna and is a wonderful tribute that the living can bestow towards the deceased.
Buy the Full Volume of Artists & Afterlives (Amazon India link here, available in other countries too.)