How Hindi cinema has reflected the Indian public's self-understanding and posited new possibilities for national and individual identities
Realism and Fantasy in Hindi Cinema
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Popular Hindi films offer varied cinematic representations ranging from realistic portraits of patriotic heroes to complex fantasies that go beyond escapism. In Dream Machine, Samir Dayal provides a history of Hindi cinema starting with films made after India’s independence in 1947. He constructs a decade-by-decade consideration of Hindi cinema’s role as a site for the construction of “Indianness.”
Dayal suggests that Hindi cinema functions as both mirror and lamp, reflecting and illuminating new and possible representations of national and personal identity, beginning with early postcolonial films including Awaara and Mother India, a classic of the Golden Age. More recent films address critical social issues, such as My Name is Khan and Fire, which concern terrorism and sexuality, respectively. Dayal also chronicles changes in the industry and in audience reception, and the influence of globalization, considering such films as Slumdog Millionaire.
Dream Machine analyzes the social and aesthetic realism of these films concerning poverty and work, the emergence of the middle class, crime, violence, and the law while arguing for their sustained and critical attention to forms of fantasy.
"Dayal does an excellent job of bringing together diverse films, theorists, and critics on such issues as cosmopolitanism, secularism, terrorism, gender, and sexuality, often linking his analyses with contemporaneous historical events to provide fuller context. The most exciting aspect of Dream Machine is its new engagement of psychoanalytic theories of fantasy and the production of ‘Indianness’ in transnational Bollywood cinema. This is a fascinating book."
"Bollywood embraces an astounding range of cinematic genres yet seems determined to stay rooted in family issues, tales of star-crossed romance, and, of course, musical numbers thrown in seemingly at whim. Hindi cinema has a reputation for being designed primarily to please the largest possible number of audience members, and Dream Machine, which tracks the Bollywood production juggernaut—arguably the world’s most prolific film factory—examines an enormous amount of material, from 1947 to the present. Many of the films Dayal discusses in this dense, deftly structured volume have not been seen in the West.... The copious citations throughout the text demonstrate Dayal’s unquestionable scholarship. Summing Up: Recommended."
"Dayal carefully embarks upon detailed textual analysis of [Hindi] films, showing the complicated relationship between realism and fantasy in Bombay cinema...to represent the irreconcilable hidden contradictions of Indian society..... Dayal’s book clearly provides a wide range of films that address various different sociopolitical themes and subjects.... [Dream Machine] offers interesting theoretical backings as well as new insights to understand several popular films."
"Dayal proposes to investigate Indian identity both in the nation and abroad through Hindi cinema.... [H]is readings of selected films do offer some interesting insights into how they can be read in terms of their 'Indianness'."
Part I: Postcolonial Hindi Cinema: Bad Subjects and Good Citizens
Part II: Reimagining the Secular State
Part III: Diasporic Cinema and Fantasy Space: Nonresident Indian Aliens and Alienated Signifiers of Indianness
Conclusion • Transnational Translations: Mobile Indianness
Samir Dayal is a Professor of English and Media Studies at Bentley University in Massachusetts. He is the author of Resisting Modernity: Counternarratives of Nation and Masculinity in Pre-Independence India; a co-editor, with Margueritte Murphy, of Global Babel: Questions of Discourse and Communication in a Time of Globalization; and the editor of the Cultural Studies Series, which includes Julia Kristeva’s Crisis of the European Subject.