The Nationalism Gallery: An Interactive Timeline of Hindi Cinema

 

“Cinema is an immense force which by the subtlety of its nature moulds the opinion of millions in the course of its apparently superficial business of merely providing entertainment.” 

Panna Shah, 1950

The relationship between film and its audience is not unidirectional. Just as film can shape what the audience thinks, it also reflects popular public discourse. Film is, therefore, a dialogue. 

In India, this dialogue has shaped what nationalism has meant for Indians since before independence. Films have been an important component in the nation-building process. Multiple imaginations of the nation have been projected on the silver screen, from the silent era newsreels, to popular television in the 1980s. 

Often, a number of (sometimes even oppositional) interpretations of nationalism have co-existed at the same time. In the following timeline, based on an article by Amit Ranjan, we have charted nine kinds of nationalism from the beginning of the 20th century to the early 21st century. Each era of film corresponds to the most dominant nationalism of the time. However, the attribution of a certain kind of nationalism to a period does not mean that it was the only nationalism that characterised it. There were several other films that were produced during these eras that contested the statist view of the nation.

Scroll through this timeline to see which ideas of the nation mainstream Indian cinema has privileged at different points in history. 

 

This timeline has been constructed from Amit Ranjan’s article, “Construing the Indian Middle Class Ideology: Changing Ideas of Nation and Nationalism in Hindi Cinema,” which explores how Hindi film stories revolve around affluent Indians and endorse the social, religious, and cultural values of the Hindu middle class. By doing so, such films are also trying to construct a new form of nation and nationalism that is not fully inclusive.

Curated by Titash Sen [titash@epw.in]
Creative Images by Parimal Chahande [parimal@epw.in]

 

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