February 19, 2020
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Bollywood High

Refreshingly accessible as well as insightful take on the iconic moments in Hindi cinema.

Bollywood High
Cinema India—The Visual Culture Of Hindi Film
By Rachel Dwyer By Divia Patel
Oxford University Press Pages: 240; Rs 650
Books on Indian popular cinema tend to swing between two extremes. They are either simple-mindedly anecdotal, or hagiographical. Or else, jargon-infested academic studies. This book on the visual culture of Bombay’s commercial cinema—from almost its inception to present times—is refreshingly accessible as well as insightful. Perhaps it is the combination of writers: Dwyer teaches Indian studies at the University of London, and Patel, an expert in Indian art and design, is an assistant curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

The authors take the reader through the evolution of the look, feel and substance of Bollywood, visiting along the way iconic moments in Hindi cinema, placing their observations in the context of Indian society at large. Dwyer brings to the book her knowledge of the history of Indian cinema, its roots in theatre and its debt to mythology. Her observations on the song-and-dance sequences are perceptive. She also examines the role costumes and sets play in the creation of fantasy and in conveying deeper meaning.

Patel’s focus is on the development and aesthetics of film publicity and all its components. She writes about the role promotional material plays in the construction of a star image. The two writers also analyse how both cinematic devices and advertising manipulate our responses and emotions. Invaluable for film buffs is the inclusion of film posters and booklets.

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