Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA and RINA RAMDEV
*Disclaimer: Even as news pours in of Pahlaj Nihalani’s ouster as CBFC chief, consider this essay an earnest tribute to the man who is ‘alleged’ to have beeped sense out of Indian cinema. We repeat, merely ‘alleged’ – since we go on to prove otherwise.*
Let us start out with a basic methodological premise – that forms and effects of ideological mensuration cannot exhaust the life of cinema, or even be adequate to an understanding of the ways in which a film-text lives. To that extent, the ferocious debates around how much or how little of Lipstick Under My Burkha qualifies as feminist material have only generated a fair share of readings. While acknowledging the need and value of these aligned readings, we would also urge a look at cinema’s ‘coming into being’ as something more than an image or a text or a performative medium. Often, in our haste for neat hermeneutic closures, reading a film as cognitive-critical material could tend to a negation of the very relationship between the cinematic object and the everyday. The site of a film’s meaning is necessarily in excess of its narrative unfolding as viewing experience. It lies in the negotiations of its object-world – which includes the plot, the actors, the techniques of representation, the exhibition-settings, the infrastructures of distribution and marketing strategies, discourses around its production and release, celebrity-scandals or pre-release promotions, box-office statistics, publicity routines and review ratings, as well as non-audience expectations – with the other object-worlds of thought, feeling and belief. With that note of ‘methodological caution’, as one might call it, we would argue that a movie like Lipstick is also more than just a story of four women as desiring subjects, grappling with their own bodies to secure the most intimately ‘fundamental’ right to dream.
Continue reading Beneath the Veil – Lipstick Under My Burkha and Debates around the Uniform Civil Code (UCC): Debaditya Bhattacharya and Rina Ramdev
Guest post by DEBADITYA BHATTACHARYA
This piece has long been in the coming. Soon after the summer of student protests in India exposed the terror-apparatuses of the state and unleashed a new vocabulary of progressive political resistance, the students of a certain Central University of South Bihar (in Gaya) went on strike against the university administration in the early days of August. They however were not fighting to protect constitutional rights, because their daily encounters with the university had already come to rest on a structural suspension of many such rights. Like those of speech, of rational thought and scientific inquiry, of gender-equality, and of resisting what Vemula called the event of being reduced to one’s “immediate identity”. These students merely decided to fight for their right to a degree.
They had come together to demand statutory recognition for courses that they were enrolled in since 2013, but most sections of the national media at that time deemed the issue ‘sub-national’ enough to be granted space or audience. Reporters from the local print-media were – in what seems like accepted practice across public institutions in the country – barred entry into the university campus, and hearsay reports constituted the stuff of low-key news-briefs with little context or compassion. Those who attempted to organise public opinion by writing on social and alternative media spaces, were – in a classic division of interests that administrative bureaucracies are deft at provoking – urged by students themselves to withdraw. The reason was simple: each social media post or conversation around the issue was declaredly spied on by the university administration in order to ‘detect’ subterranean alliances and “outside support” (as if it were a terrorist conspiracy!), and students were individually targeted and intimidated for passing on internal ‘secrets’ to ‘outsiders’. I know of specific Facebook posts which had been taken print-outs of and convened surreptitious meetings over, where administrative heads and proctorial board members put their heads together to crush the germ of student dissent and ‘outsider’-mobilizations. The agitated students continued in their own ways, despite open threats of disciplinary action and reminders of exam-time tactics of penalisation. The Vice-Chancellor marched off to Delhi to strike bargains for an interim settlement-package with officials in the ministry, and returned to meet the striking protestors with as much of an assurance as threats of expulsion. Continue reading ‘Degrees’ of Democracy – Field Notes from a Central University in Bihar: Debaditya Bhattacharya