About the Series

Welcome to “Cinema Strikes!” a compelling podcast series based on the book John Ghatak Tarkovsky by Ashish Rajadhyaksha. This series explores the profound impact of cinema as a form of political resistance, sparked by the 2015 student strike at the Film & Television Institute of India—a pivotal moment that galvanised academic communities across the country. Episode 1, “The Cinema’s Expanded Afterlife,” travels through cinema’s history post-World War I to reveal how films have responded to and shaped political landscapes. This episode sets the foundation for understanding cinema’s role in societal transformations.

In Episode 2, “A Satyajit Ray Plastic Bangle,” we delve deeper into the technological advancements that have revolutionized filmmaking. Lightweight, portable equipment has democratized film production but also posed significant regulatory challenges, changing the dynamics between filmmakers and authorities.

The series concludes with “A Hacker Cinema,” where we explore the recent evolution of cinema into digital formats. This episode examines how the advent of streaming media and interactivity has not only changed how films are consumed but also how they are censored, offering new avenues for resistance and dialogue.

“Cinema Strikes!” invites listeners to reflect on the dynamic role of cinema in challenging and shaping public discourse. It highlights the ongoing struggle for creative freedom in the face of political adversity, celebrating the resilience and ingenuity of filmmakers who dare to voice dissent. Join us as we uncover how cinema continues to strike back against oppression and censorship, paving the way for a more engaged and democratic artistic expression.

More on the Series

In 2015, students of the Film & Television Institute of India took the cinema to the streets with a strike. One of the first of the agitations that raged across India’s universities at that time, it defined the right to make and show films as central to freedom on the campus. The names of Eisenstein and Pudovkin, John Abraham, Tarkovsky and Ghatak, recited in slogans and displayed on banners, evoked a history of political cinema that had set itself against the might of India’s political establishment.

The podcast, commemorating that historic struggle, is in a series of three episodes:

Episode 1, The Cinema’s Expanded Afterlife, tells a longer cinematic history of a technological and political transformation. The age of film was born more or less after the First World War, signalling a new age of mass democracy. Ever since then, filmmakers have been in the line of fire as the cinema, standing in for a new public domain, has seen battles take place on the street, in courtrooms, and of course in movie theatres.

Episode 2, A Satyajit Ray Plastic Bangle, explores the consequences of a cinema that has turned increasingly elusive to regulation. With lightweight equipment for both making and showing films allowing filmmaking an unprecedented mobility, new possibilities emerged along with new challenges for regulatory authority.

The third and final episode, A Hacker Cinema, looks at the recent histories of censorship, alongside the morphing of the moving image into streaming media, emphasising circulation, using memes, encouraging a new interactivity with its spectators, with significant aesthetic consequences on both filmmaking and the self-definition of a filmmaker.

Podcast recording, supervision and assembly: Gaurav Krishna & Ishan Gupta

Events

The Cinema’s Expanded Afterlife: A Performance in Ten Acts
Rashmi Devi Sawhney and Ashish RajadhyakshaWhat is cinema? The question has ‘sparked off political debate, threatened governments, heralded social change, and sent real life lovers to their death’ writes Justice Mukul Mudgal in an official government report. Not for nothing, he goes on to write, is it ‘the only form of art deemed fit to be regulated by an Act of Parliament’. Two film theorists perform a volatile answer to what should have been a simple question but turns out to be anything but. They speak to each other across a mammoth digital divide, using digitally-treated reconstructions of films old and new, some famous, most others unknown. It is a show-and-tell that explores why an answer to a relatively simple question has over the years led to violence, to bans and to attacks on filmmakers.Digital Projections: Design by Qareebi & Kinshuk

The Cinema’s Evacuated Subject
CS Venkiteswaran and Ashish RajadhyakshaHas the cinema, once an art form and medium of entertainment, become a particular kind of virality, an engagement with a modern public capable of the most extreme social consequences? Is there a new aesthetic practice at play? Are independent films, often made in extreme conditions, revealing a hitherto unknown aesthetic dimension to the moving image? The conversation will look at examples of cinema from different parts of India to look at practices that challenge several of our assumptions of how films engage with the audiences in times of struggle.

How We Began Standing Up to the National Anthem, and Other Stories of the Law
Lawrence Liang and Ashish RajadhyakshaThe story begins, as good stories do, from the middle: from a man named Shyam Narayan Chouksey who wanted the law amended so everyone stood up when Kajol sings the national anthem right in the middle of Karan Johar’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham – and has ever since forced us all to do so for all films shown publicly. The complicated history of how the law produces a theory of ‘medium’ to define the cinema, and on the way defines depravity, perversity, good and bad behaviour, takes us back to the origins of state legislation and forward into the present. The fear of the cinema, now extended into a fear of the internet, produces a continuous battle with severe consequences for filmmakers, for audiences, for the State – and not least, for the law itself.
In the Podcast

Archival (in their own voices)
Ritwik Ghatak, Mani Kaul, Kamal Swaroop, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Gurvinder Singh, Vinod Khanna, Prateek Vats, U.R. Ananthamurthy, Amol Palekar, Prakash Jha, Alankrita Srivastava, Vijay Tendulkar, Nakul Singh Sawhney, Paul Mason, Manuel Castells, Rohith Vemula

Performances (using voice cloning)
Miss Ida Dickinson (1928), Mahatma Gandhi (1946), S.K. Patil (1951), Justice Mukul Mudgal (2013), Additional Solicitor General, Government of India (2015)

In discussion:
Lawrence Liang, Sudhanva Deshpande, Abhijit Gupta, G. Arunima, Ravi Sundaram, Sahana Manjesh, Shilpi Gulati, Nandini Sundar

Texts cited:
Shreya Singhal and Ors. v. Union of India, 2015
Report of the Film Inquiry Committee (1951): S.K. Patil, Chairman
Indian Cinematograph Committee Report (1928)
K. A. Abbas vs The Union Of India & Anr on 24 September, 1970
K.M. Sankarappa vs The Union of India, Karnataka High Court, April, 1990
Public comments sought on the Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill 2021, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
The Cinematograph (Amendment) Bill, 2023
Report of the Committee of Experts to Examine Issues of Certification Under the Cinematograph Act 1952, 2013 (Justice Mukul Mudgal Chair)

Film soundtracks:
Jukti Takko Aar Gappo (Ritwik Ghatak, 1974)
Calcutta 71 (Mrinal Sen, 1972)
Agraharathil Kazhuthai (John Abraham, 1977)
Amma Ariyan (John Abraham, 1986)
Open Cafe v2.5 (Naveen Padmanabha, 2012)
Trimurti (Subhash Ghai, 1995)
Kavita Gherao (Bombay Film Republic, Ben Friedman/Ashish Avikuntak, 1998)
Muqaddar Ka Sikandar (Prakash Mehra, 1978)
Chello Show (Pan Nalin, 2021)
Om Dar-b-dar (Kamal Swaroop, 1988)
Celluloid Man (Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, 2012)

In collaboration with Centre for the Study of Culture and Society

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