Understanding Indian Movies
Culture, Cognition, and Cinematic Imagination
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: University of Texas Press
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Introduction: Indian Movies and the People Who Love Them: Universality and Cultural Particularity in the Cinema
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For anyone interested in film, the importance of Indian cinema can hardly be overstated. It is the largest film industry in the world, and probably second only to Hollywood in global influence. Vijay Mishra points out that Indian films are seen "by an average of 11 million people each day" (1).
Chapter One: From Mythical Romances to Historical Sacrifices: Universal Stories in South Asia
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Humans think about and respond to categories by way of prototypes.1 This includes the category of stories. Prototypes are, roughly, standard cases of a certain group (e.g., birds). They do not provide necessary and sufficient conditions for membership in the group. However, they most often guide our thought about the group. Thus for most of us the prototype of a bird is more or less a robin.
Chapter Two: The Film and the World: Global Themes, Local Movies
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Needless to say, films not only present us with characters and events. They present us with larger, intellectual issues, most often political or ethical issues. I use the word theme to refer to the development of such issues in the course of a work. The themes of a film are what give it social force, and mark it as having a purpose beyond aesthetic pleasure.
Chapter Three: Once More, with Feeling: Human Emotions and Cultural Imagination
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Arguably, the most important concept in traditional Indian aesthetic theory is rasa. Usually translated as “sentiment,” rasa refers to the e emotional impact of a work on viewers, listeners, or readers. The centrality of rasa theory in Indian tradition suggests the centrality of emotion to the Indian arts, including Indian cinema. In this chapter, I start out with a general account of emotion, treating its universal principles, but also considering how these principles entail a certain degree of individual and cultural variation.
Chapter Four: “So, What’s the Deal with All the Singing?”: The Cognitive Universality of the Hindi Musical
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The first thing non-Indians say when they see a mainstream Bollywood movie is often something along the following lines: “So, what’s the deal with all the singing? Things are going along normally. Then, out of the blue, somebody starts to croon. The next thing you know, the entire village is engaged in an elaborate dance number. I don’t get it.” Moreover, this response is not confined to newcomers.
Chapter Five: Seeing Indian Style: The Brain and Its Visual Culture
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There has been a great deal of cognitive research on vision, much of which is directly consequential for the study of film. I will consider some of the most relevant material in two broad categories. The first concerns figures. The second concerns light, both color and brightness. More exactly, the first section takes up some of the main implications of research concerning figural vision, particularly as this bears on expectation and emotion. This relates most directly to editing, especially those aspects ...
Afterword: On Watching Indian Movies
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Why do we watch Indian movies? Or, more generally, why do we watch movies at all? Recently, Lisa Zunshine devoted a book to a cognitive exploration of why we read fiction. The question about movies is directly parallel. Zunshine’s answer has to do with our “Theory of Mind,” our ability to infer other people’s intentions and beliefs. Perhaps, she suggests, we enjoy the experience of our smoothly functioning Theory of Mind capacities (20).
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Page Count: 305
Illustrations: 69 halftones
Publication Year: 2008
Series Title: Cognitive Approaches to Literature and Culture Series