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Cinema at the End of Empire A Politics of Transition in Britain and India by Priya Jaikumar

Cinema at the End of Empire A Politics of Transition in Britain and India


Cinema at the End of Empire A Politics of Transition in Britain and India by Priya Jaikumar

How did the imperial logic underlying British and Indian film policy change with the British Empire's loss of moral authority and political cohesion? Were British and Indian films of the 1930s and 1940s responsive to and responsible for such shifts? Cinema at the End of Empire illuminates this intertwined history of British and Indian cinema in the late colonial period. Challenging the rubric of national cinemas that dominates film studies, Priya Jaikumar contends that film aesthetics and film regulations were linked expressions of radical political transformations in a declining British empire and a nascent Indian nation. As she demonstrates, efforts to entice colonial film markets shaped Britain's national film policies, and Indian responses to these initiatives altered the limits of colonial power in India. Imperially themed British films and Indian films envisioning a new civil society emerged during political negotiations that redefined the role of the state in relation to both film industries.In addition to close readings of British and Indian films of the late colonial era, Jaikumar draws on a wealth of historical and archival material, including parliamentary proceedings, state-sponsored investigations into colonial filmmaking, trade journals, and intra- and intergovernmental memos regarding cinema. Her wide-ranging interpretations of British film policies, British initiatives in colonial film markets, and genres such as the Indian mythological film and the British empire melodrama reveal how popular film styles and controversial film regulations in these politically linked territories reconfigured imperial relations. With its innovative examination of the colonial film archive, this richly illustrated book presents a new way to track historical change through cinema.


Jaikumar skillfully navigates treacherous theoretical waters to produce a book that is both historically rigorous and thoughtfully engaged in the study of form. . . . As the first book of a young scholar, Cinema at the End of Empire is impressive and promising. Jaikumar's self-avowed ambition to link form and history in a manner that actively resists universalization as well as notions of complete temporal rupture (p.37) is not merely gestured toward but convincingly deployed. -- Bulbul P. Tiwari, The Journal of Asian Studies [E]xtremely insightful and thought provoking . . . . [T]he montage of tantalizing glimpses that Jaikumar offers into a complex and fascinating but underexplored domain of Indian cinema and the creative and significant connections that she makes (between, as well as within, national film cultures) will no doubt catalyze other important and much-needed work on the film cultures of colonial India and, more generally, in comparative film studies. -- Manashita Dass, Screen Cinema at the End of Empire offers a sparkling account of the intertwined histories of British imperial and Indian colonial films. Challenging the frame of national cinema, it situates the cinematic representations of both empire and the nation in the conjuncture of late colonialism, and shows how films dealt with the pressures, anxieties, and challenges of decolonization. At once attentive to films and history, this is a truly remarkable book. -Gyan Prakash, author of Another Reason: Science and the Imagination of Modern India Cinema at the End of Empire adds immeasurably to the fields of film, cultural, and colonial studies. Priya Jaikumar produces a whole new set of fascinating insights into the cultural expression of the demise of colonialism. -Sarah Street, author of British National Cinema

About the Author

Priya Jaikumar is Assistant Professor in the School of Cinema-Television at the University of Southern California.

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Book Info

Publication date

3rd May 2006


Priya Jaikumar

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Duke University Press


336 pages


Films, cinema
Regional studies



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