Bombay before Bollywood: the history and significance of fantasy and stunt film genres in Bombay cinema of the pre-Bollywood era

Thomas, K. 2016. Bombay before Bollywood: the history and significance of fantasy and stunt film genres in Bombay cinema of the pre-Bollywood era. PhD thesis University of Westminster Centre for Research and Education in Arts and Media

TitleBombay before Bollywood: the history and significance of fantasy and stunt film genres in Bombay cinema of the pre-Bollywood era
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsThomas, K.
Abstract

This PhD by Published Work comprises nine essays and a 10,000-word commentary. Eight of these essays were published (or republished) as chapters within my monograph Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies, which aimed to outline the contours of an alternative history of twentieth-century Bombay cinema. The ninth, which complements these, was published in an annual reader. This project eschews the conventional focus on India’s more respectable genres, the so-called ‘socials’ and ‘mythologicals’, and foregrounds instead the ‘magic and fighting films’ – the fantasy and stunt genres – of the B- and C-circuits in the decades before and immediately after India’s independence. Drawing on an extensive body of my own field research that has spanned more than three decades, the essays also indicate how the visceral attractions of these fantastical B- and C-circuit films migrated into Bombay’s mainstream A-circuit cinema of the 1970s and 1980s. The project draws on and analyses a variety of archival traces – from silent film fragments, shooting scripts, newspaper advertisements, memoirs, posters and publicity stills to full-length movies, gossip and my own ethnographic field-notes from the 1980s and early 1990s. The project’s central argument is that the B- and C-circuit ‘magic and fighting’ films were more significant than has previously been recognised: (i) they influenced the development of film form in India throughout the decades, and especially in the 1970s/80s ‘masala’ era; (ii) they engaged with modernity just as much as – but in different ways from – the A-grade socials in the pre- and early post-independence era. I conclude that alongside nationalist orthodoxies, this significant stream of Bombay cinema has always revelled in cultural hybridity, borrowing voraciously from global popular culture and engaging with transcultural flows of cosmopolitan modernity and postmodernity.

Year2016
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