Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 23-24 (Jan 1993) p. 17.


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Cultural Creativity in the First Decade

The Example of Satyajit Ray D Geeta Kapur

INTRODUCTORY ARGUMENT1

It can be argued that the national movement, as it 'demobilizes' itself, gives over the task of bourgeois cultural transformation to the state enjoining the artists to cooperate with its new institutional structure. Given this status, it is possible to argue further that artists, like their intellectual counterparts, perpetrate a set of self-deceptions during the period of transition to a national state; that they can be seen to use a kind of ethnic identification with extant (and idealized) traditions while gaining the upper hand through a rational-liberal discourse which is the basis of actual economic and social power in their society. An overlapping projection of (past) authenticity and (future) progress provides a formula for a democratic impulse but it may be at the cost of the very people on whose behalf freedom was won. Both aspects of the projection have a euphoric dimension that confuses the present subaltern identity of the people in question.

Superficially the intellectuals 'always face the dilemma of choosing between "westernizing" and a narodnik tendency', says Ernest Gellner, "but the dilemma is quite spurious: ultimately the movements invariably contain both elements, a genuine modernism and a more or less spurious concern for local culture. By the twentieth century, the dilemma hardly bothers anyone: the philosopher kings of the "underdeveloped world", all act as westemizers and all talk like narodniks!1

In Nehru's effort to situate nationalism within the domain of state ideology3 there was, as we know, a concerted effort at the very inception to engage in planned development, an attempt at creating a new framework of institutions which could embody the 'spirit of the age': humanism, science, progress, and their synonym, modernity. A 'statist Utopia', Partha Chatterjee calls it.4 Even a glance at the public institutions set up for promoting the arts in the first years after independence will show that the cultural policy favoured a centralized and integrationist functioning.5

Culture was sought to be institutionalized precisely in order to carry out an

Numbers 23-24


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