ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Cine-Political Look at South Indian Stars and Stardom

Cine-Politics: Film Stars and Political Existence in South India by M Madhava Prasad (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan), 2013; pp 224, Rs 625 (hardback).

The challenges in “Indian” film theory or film theorising in the Indian context are multifold. On the one side, are the vibrant historical trajectories of cinema made in India in various languages (often termed “regional” or “vernacular”). They are histories emanating from the enchanting encounter between the magic of cinema and local society/culture, its performative traditions, leisure economy, urbanisation and economic development. Their complex interplay contributes to the evolution of their audience base, exhibition networks and industrial structures, and, in turn, to their thematics, narrative modes and styles, generic variety and star system. On the other hand, all Indian cinemas also carry certain “pan-Indian” or “national” features moulded and marked by certain trends and forces. They are not just limited to the “great” narrative traditions, iconographies and thematic concerns, but also extend to the legal architecture that rules over them, the ebb and tide of sociopolitical movements that hold sway across the country, and the changes and shifts in economic policies at the national level. All these give a certain “Indian” character to films made across the country – as art works, entertainment industry products, and technological artefacts.

Any writing on Indian cinema is a balancing act between these two, and most film writings and theorising in the Indian context tend to slant towards either of the two. In the process, they lose either the dynamics of locality or the national dimensions, and, invariably, the complex relationship between the two. Madhava Prasad’s Cine-politics traverses these specific yet interlinked and complex terrains not by underplaying one at the expense of the other, but by effectively combining and bringing the two into a stimulating dialogue and interrogation. It looks at a very enigmatic phenomenon – the rise of stars and the stardom in south India (that of M G Ramachandran (MGR), N T Rama Rao and Rajkumar) and its political dimensions by focusing on three south Indian states, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

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