Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 25-26 (Dec 1993) p. 55.


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The Epic Melodrama

Themes of Nationality in Indian Cinema

U^Ashish Rajadhyaksha

. . . statistics published by UNESCO in 1977 confirmed that ... in 48 countries during 1975, over 90 per cent of film consumption depended on imports. Only the United States, the USSR, Japan and India watch more nationally made films than foreign films. (Mattelart, Mattelart and Delcourt)

The scale of the Indian cinema, unique to the 'third world', unquestionably has had a major impact in determining the popular and urban mass culture of the country in this century, giving rise to a distinctive series of conventional attitudes to it. The S.K. Patil Film Enquiry Committee (1951), the first such in independent India, invokes the commonest while locating its history specifically in the second world war and the years that followed:

During World War II the cinema-going habit spread much further and faster among the population following a greater purchasing power among all classes, particularly the poor and lower middle-classes. . . . Within three months of decontrol [of wartime rawstock rationing] over 100 new producers entered the field, attracted by the prospects held out by the industry. . . . Within three years of the end of the War, the leadership of the industry had changed hands from established producers to a variety of successors. Leading 'stars', exacting 'financiers' and calculating distributors and exhibitors forged ahead. . . . Film production, a combination of art, industry and showmanship, became in substantial measure the recourse of deluded aspirants to easy riches. . . . Yet such is the glamour of quick and substantial returns which a comparatively small number of producers can secure. . . . that the industry has shown no signs of suffering from lack of new entrepreneurs who are prepared to gamble for high stakes, often at the cost of both the taste of the public and the prosperity of the industry. (Report 1951)

In addition to placing the film-industry equivalent of the well-documented

Numbers 25-26


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