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Iconic imagination: Listening to, and looking back at, the piano in early Hindi cinema

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This article identifies and analyses a selection of Hindi films between 1942 and 1991 in which pianos are used for songs. The number of such films is not great and thus the piano is theorized as cameo – it arrives on-screen and in the soundtrack with a clear purpose in order to reference a set of symbols from outside the film’s narrative. Consequently, it represents not only a nostalgia for the recent colonial condition, but also a host of cultural ideologies associated with westernization. By compiling the list and analysing this set of films, we attempt to more clearly understand the symbolic meanings indexed through the picturization, and to contribute to a theorization of musical symbolization in film.
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Keywords: colonialism; instrument; piano; score; symbolism; westernization

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie University

Publication date: April 1, 2018

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  • Studies in South Asian Film and Media (SAFM) is the most promising new journal in the field. This peer-reviewed publication is committed to looking at the media and cinemas of the Indian subcontinent in their social, political, economic, historical, and increasingly globalized and diasporic contexts. The journal will evaluate these topics in relation to class, caste, gender, race, sexuality, and ideology.
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