Book looks at new Hindi cinema in neo-liberal India
New Delhi: A new book analyses a film form that began to emerge in Hindi cinema in early 21st century and is marked by realism, by focusing on urban life and culture of the new middle class, as well as pessimism, violence and fear.
"Dark Fear, Eerie Cities: New Hindi Cinema in Neoliberal India" looks at new Hindi cinema from different angles and through analysis of crime thrillers and horror films aims to answer some fundamental questions: why is there so much of pessimism, what impact does neo-liberalism have on the city and cinematic representations, etc.
Author Sarunas Paunksnis locates new cinematic developments in a much broader context of socio-cultural change in contemporary India, and traces the roots of imagining India 'darkly'.
The book, published by Oxford University Press, analyses the wide array of films made in the early 21st century to offer a philosophical and psychoanalytical critique of the transforming cinematic imaginary - from the pre-1990s feudal family ideal to the contemporary construction of the new middle class's subjectivities in the post-colonial context.
Keeping in mind the effects of globalisation, market liberalisation, and the emergence of new forms of media and its consumption, the book proposes a theoretical engagement with cinematic transformations.
Paunksnis, who teaches at Lithuania's Kaunas University of Technology, says the cinema discussed in the book can be seen as urban cinema - art, commodity and a site of cultural negotiation, complacency and critique deeply related to neo-liberal logic.
New Hindi cinema began to emerge in the early 2000s, and marked a departure from the dominant cinematic aesthetics in what is often called Bollywood, he claims.
These films focus on the dark side of urban life, on crime and on the insecurity one is bound to feel while living in a metropolis, he says.
According to Paunksnis, the film form he discusses in his book maps the unconscious of India after the economic liberalisation in the early 1990s, or what I call a neo-liberal India .
He says he began this project trying to understand why the change has happened, why the aesthetics started to gradually gain ground, and by 2018, became dominant in mainstream cinema in Hindi .
He argues that dark cinematic visions are central to the new Hindi film imaginary and unmask the dualism of the fa ade of livable present and the horrific, unseen interior .
The book has five chapters: Understanding Cinematic Transformations and Neoliberal Culture in India'; Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear: Imagination and the Other'; Haunting and Uncanny Cities of Neoliberal India'; Film Noir and the Dark Spaces of New Hindi Cinema'; and Screening Masculine Anxiety: Men, Women and Violence'.
Paunksnis says that economic liberalisation caused massive commoditisation in the cultural field as well as led to the emergence of new cultural formations, dreams and aspirations.
Liberalisation caused the emergence of Bollywood itself - an industry selling dreams and comprised of films, star culture, shifts in film production, financing, distribution and advertising. This period also saw the emergence of cable and satellite television, which, in tandem with Bollywood, has contributed to the emergence of new subjectivities, he writes.
The transformations, according to him, resulted in varied manifestations of the global , but more precisely hybrid cultural formations.
Middle classness is one particular sensibility that has emerged, he says.