South Asian film is a vast field, but it is usually sidelined in discussions of contemporary film, despite the fact that it has made important contributions to political and art house cinema. For this reason, and in view of recent politicized national (and nationalist) debates about cultural production in South Asia (and across the globe), revisiting contemporary Indian and Pakistani cinema is more relevant than ever. For this purpose, we will engage with several popular movies of contemporary South Asian cinema and will discuss the various ways in which these films construct, problematize and challenge national narratives.
We aim to offer a space for discussion and the exchange of ideas between undergraduate, graduate students, and faculty while engaging political and historical questions from a cultural point of view. By focusing on film (without add. reading materials), we hope to make the reading group more accessible to students from outside the humanities and across departments at McGill.
The group will meet every other Wednesday for screenings and discuss the movie afterwards.
Garam Hava (1973) [Scorching Winds] (Urdu/Hindi w. Engl. sub.)
Set in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, the film deals with the plight of a North Indian Muslim businessman and his family, in the period post partition of India in 1947. Director: M.S. Sathyu. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garm_Hava
Manthan (1976) [Churning] (Hindi w. Engl. sub.)
The film is set during the White Revolution of India which started in 1970, and ushered in an era of plenty in milk production and distribution. Aside from the great measurable success that this project was, it also demonstrated the power of grassroots organization as it was entirely crowdfunded by 500.000 farmers. Director: Shyam Benegal. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manthan
Shatranj Ke Khiladi (1977) [The Chess Players] (Urdu/Hindi/Engl. w. Engl. sub.)
The film is set in 1856 on the eve of the Indian rebellion of 1857. The daily life of two wealthy men who are devoted to chess is presented against the background of scheming officials of the British East India Company. Director: Satyajit Ray. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chess_Players_(film)
Paromitar Ek Din (2000) [House of Memories] (Bengali w. Engl. sub.)
This film explores the dual themes of friendship and loneliness. Sanaka and Paromita are a mother and a daughter-in-law who, despite differences in age, background and temperament, build a strong bond. Director: Aparna Sen. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paromitar_Ek_Din
Ramchand Pakistani (2008)
The film is based on a true story of a boy who inadvertently crosses the border between Pakistan and India and the following ordeal that his family has to go through. Director: Mehreen Jabbar. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramchand_Pakistani
Peepli Live (2010) (Hindi w. Engl. sub.)
A dark comedy which focuses on the reaction of both the media and the Indian political establishment to ‘farmer suicides.’ Director: Anusha Rizvi. For more info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peepli_Live
***Saturday, April 8 (tentative)
Harf will organize an additional screening of the documentary Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir (2011) with one of the co-directors of the film, Prof. Henry Schwarz (Georgetown University)
Excerpt from the website: Over sixty million Indians belong to communities imprisoned by the British as ‘criminals by birth.’ The Chhara of Ahmedabad, in Western India, are one of 198 such ‘Criminal Tribes.’ Declaring that they are ‘born actors,’ not ‘born criminals,’ a group of Chhara youth have turned to street theater in their fight against police brutality, corruption, and the stigma of criminality — a stigma internalized by their own grandparents. Please Don’t Beat Me, Sir! follows the lives of these young actors and their families as they take their struggle to the streets, hoping their plays will spark a revolution. http://pleasedontbeatmesir.fournineandahalf.com/
For more information, please contact
Felix Fuchs, Editor at Harf – A Journal of South Asian Studies; PhD student (English) firstname.lastname@example.org
Zain Rashid Mian, Editor at Harf – A Journal of South Asian Studies; MA student (English) email@example.com