Journal of Arts & Ideas, no. 32-33 (April 1999) p. 35.


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Love in the Time of Liberalization:

Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak

D Ajanta Sircar

Narratives, as Fredric Jameson has evocatively put it, are socially symbolic acts. The overarching narrative framing this paper is the translation of the socio-political idiom of nineteenth-century Western Europe into the post-colonial context. From this perspective, I have attempted a close reading of Mansoor Khan's Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (From Disaster to Disaster, 1988),1 a popular 80s Bombay melodrama, as the conflict-ridden negotiations of a postcolonial bourgeoisie of the philosophico-epistemic structures of the Enlightenment. Partha Chatterjee's (1994a) pathbreaking work has shown us that given the trajectory of nation-formation in the post-colonial world, it was crucially in the terrain of culture that the nation, as an imagined community in these spaces, was most powerfully articulated into existence. The significance of Bombay's cinematic idiom, from this perspective, lies in the fact that it represents the hegemonic vocabulary of the cultural terrain in India.

Yet, as the political project of Enlightenment 'modernity' is overtaken by an economic logic which disdainfully overrides the sovereignty of the classical nation-state, some of our most deep-seated assumptions of Tndianness', too, have come to be fundamentally questioned. Thus, as the century comes to a close, everyone is agreed that India is marked by decisive changes. What these changes signify, however, continues to be the subject of intense debate. As I will argue, this sense of urgency, this anxiety to construct coherent narratives from profoundly dislocating historical processes, manifests the attempts of the dominant ideology in post-Emergency India to suture the gaps in the Symbolic that have been precipitated as the new mode of commodification of labour-power generated by the global dominance of transnational capital interacts with the internal contradictions of the nation.

Contextualizing notions of 'romance' in Bombay within changing forms of the state in India, M. Madhava Prasad has argued that the emerging dominance of capital has also provided the conditions of possibility for a restructuring of the terrain of the social (SCH 210-216) ,2 Manifested in the desire for a space of 'the private' as constituted by 'the couple' of the nuclear family, Prasad has read the shift in Bombay cinema's trajectory, what he has called its

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