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Satyajit Ray, Rabindranath Tagore, and The Home and the World : Indian Nationalist History and Colonial/Postcolonial Perspectives in Film and Fiction

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In the history of British imperialism in India (1757-1947), Bengal occupies a special place. Earliest exposed to post-Enlightenment culture of European modernity primarily through Western education, Bengal was the vanguard of most literary, artistic, and radical political and social movements in India for at least one hundred years. The western educated colonial Bengali elite or the bhadralok,1 who usually led the movements was, as a group, highly politicized and ardent nationalists. This elite was also sensitive to the orientalist claims of India's classical past, and was especially mindful of Bengal's cultural aspirations and achievements, in which literature and the arts enjoyed a privileged place.2 Indeed, the average Bengali's traditional passion for literature and politics even today (generally speaking) colors the attitude to the sister arts, especially cinema. Such an attitude is inscribed in the culture's tacit recognition of the symbiotic weave between literature, politics, and film. One consequence has been that since the "talkie" period of Indian cinema (which began roughly around the early 1930s), the Bengali art film has been particularly dependent upon literature for its themes, characters, and plots. The novels of such eminent late nineteenth and early twentieth century Bengali writers as Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Saratchandra Chatterjee, and Rabindranath Tagore, along with popular contemporary fiction, have often provided (and continue to provide) sources of fictional material for the Bengali filmmakers.
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Keywords: Bengal; British imperialism; Indian cinema; The Home and the World; colonial perspectives; fiction; postcolonial perspectives

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Georgia Southern University

Publication date: 1998-03-01

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  • Asian Cinema is a seminal journal, which has been published since 1995 by the Asian Cinema Studies Society under the stewardship of Professor John Lent. From 2012 Asian Cinema will be published by Intellect as part of our Film Studies journal portfolio. The journal currently publishes a variety of scholarly material - including research articles, interviews, book and film reviews and bibliographies - on all forms and aspects of Asian cinema. The journal's broad aim is to advance understanding and knowledge of the rich traditions of the various Asian cinemas, thereby making an invaluable contribution to the field of Film Studies in general.
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