Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 29 (Jan 1996) p. 3.


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Introduction

It so happens that barring one film, Rajkumar Santoshi's Domini (1993), all the films discussed in this issue are fromSouth India. Ravi Vasudevan addresses the controversial reception accorded to Mani Ratnam's Bombay (1995). Madhava Prasad foregrounds the other Ratnam hit (and subject of much debate in the pages of the Economic and Political Weekly), Roja (1992). Vivek Dhareshwar and Tejaswini Niranjana offer a challenging reading of Shankar's Kaadalan (1994), while S.V. Srinivas opens up a new, potentially rich area for film studies by presenting material on the fan clubs of Chiranjeevi in Andhra Pradesh.

Clearly, as we move towards the end of this century, the agenda is once again emphasizing the field of the popular. But a popular with differences; as Madhava Prasad reminds us, 'it would be a mistake to see these films as simply reflecting the changes that are underway.... These texts are works of ideology, not mirrors to reality.'

The shift, into a reconstituted popular, is not merely a theoretical privilege. As we can see, the popular in its narrow traditional mould the commercial release of a film, for instance, or the marketing of its stars underpins a vastly enhanced, ever-expanding field, which promises what Prasad in a different context called an 'ideological rehabilitation of its narrative elements' into a new, more effective, era. Of Bombay, Ravi Vasudevan pulls no punches when he says that 'There is ... an extraordinary unpre-cedentedness to this accumulation of anxiety-inducing images of a Hindu communal consciousness as far as the popular cinema is concerned.' In a more optimistic reading of the popular, Dhareshwar/Niranjana focus on a 'politics of resignification that centres around the body the caste body, the class body, the body politic....' In all these readings, the popular is seen as encoding a model for recent technology that negotiates vastly transformed notions of the 'global' and its reception in particular situations.

Around us this popular houses the Satellite-TV revolution and efforts to relocate 'national' boundaries around satellite footprints. The tools for relocating the national include cellular phone, local area networks, e-mail. And the popular also forms the context for major battles that have taken place in the courtroom, around orthodox laws about copyright, and even on the street, between rival cable operations. At least one, possibly more enlightened, initiative that had promised to intervene into the mediocrity of the 30-plus channels that have opened up during the past year, that of Business India's BiTV, has been severely impaired. It seems that the reason is the rival Hinduja group's HBO-type cable station 'In Mumbai' has received the support of Bombay's Shiv Sena-affiliated 'Cable' Scna. There is room, now, to contrast what the technologies of the

Number 29


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