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Nation Misplaced: Film, Time and Space in South Asian Decolonization

Abstract: Histories and aesthetics of space intersected in South Asian decolonization. The contest for space has continued to be reflected in South Asian cinema from the 1950s to the present. Spatial politics and the aestheticization of spaces both reflect current politics and urban policies and also glance back at colonial and postcolonial histories of national fragmentation and nation-formation. In this essay the relationship of art and politics – of questions of artistic and political truth – is examined by comparing the cinemas of Ritwik Ghatak and Guru Dutt, prominent ‘art’ and ‘commercial’ filmmakers of the 1950s. In their films, I argue, cinematic representations of contested spaces provide the key to deciphering their aesthetic and political beliefs about decolonization and refugee experience. While Ghatak is generally seen as the testier, more radical oppositional chronicler of postcolonial South Asian national fragmentation and individual displacement, a lens such as Guru Dutt's commercial cinema offers an alternative reading of the exigencies of respatialization of a torn and decolonizing nation.

Nandini Bhattacharya
Taylor and Francis Online