Love in the Time of Cinema: The Global Tracks of Hindi Film/Songs
Doctor of Philosophy
The stylized, romantic song sequence -- or the form(ula) of "song-dance-romance" -- has remained the most visible, audible, and mobile aspect of Hindi popular cinema. Studies of Hindi film songs have taken the shape of either extended ethnographies of production practices or edited collections that hold together a number of case studies of the songs' circulation through various contemporary locations (two are titled GLOBAL BOLLYWOOD, for example). My sustained analysis of the work of Hindi film songs through various periods of the post-sound era instead looks at poetic expressions of romance as arguments, within contests over national culture, (world) cinema, and the modern pleasures of the popular. My first chapter focuses on PADOSAN (1968), an exceptionally self-referential film that stages a zealous -- but easily missed -- argument upholding the romantic enchantments of Hindi popular cinema. I show that the fixity of an authorial voice is destabilized by the songs' form, as voice and body are rent asunder through the practice of playback that in turn lends itself to practices of repetition, recombination, and reimagination. My second chapter zooms out to consider a longer genealogy of the "City of Love," a trope that emerged in the radical poetry attributed to medieval saint-mystics, but very quickly became synonymous with the seductive artifices of popular cinema upon repeated invocations within film songs. I argue that the cinematic City of Love delineates what is at once a public domain as well as an intimate space of engagement with popular cinema-as-modernity. My third chapter moves from the cinematic city to world cinema in the postwar, post-independence decades. I historicize the emergence of world cinema amidst questions of cinematic form and translation, and I track the movements of romantic Hindi film/songs in projects of cinematic diplomacy through instances of Indo-Soviet and Indo-Iranian coproduction. My final chapter cuts to an analysis of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, by which I establish the stakes of my project in the discrepancy between the visibility of globalized media among Anglophone audiences, i.e., the subtexts of Bollywood in SLUMDOG, and the extent to which this visibility has necessarily driven critical, historical understandings of such forms.