The Hindi Film Biopic and the New Indian Cinema

Co-presented with the University of Sydney South Asia Research Network and the Australian Centre for Asian Art and Archaeology


Hindu Film image

15 September, 2011
Professor Rachel Dwyer

A genre that continues to be a staple of film industries around the world, the ‘biopic’ (or biographical picture) remains relatively under-examined and under-valued in contemporary film studies. This lecture looks at the genre’s place within a range of industrial and cultural contexts, offering some historical overview but focusing primarily on contemporary production, based on the analysis of selected case studies to investigate the aesthetic, ideological and/or theoretical implications of particular cycles, narratives and representations. Briefly tracing the history of the Indian biopic from colonial days, where it covertly promoted the ideals of the freedom struggle, the lecture concentrates on the new biopic cycle of the last decade.

India has been undergoing the most rapid social changes in its history after economic liberalisation in 1991. Emerging as a potential global power, there was a reconsideration of history in the context of a growing ideology of Hindu nationalism and the rise to dominance of the new middle classes, who form the main audience for producing and consuming film and film culture.

Topics to be explored include the selection of the subject, the use of sources, the key section of the lives to be portrayed and the selection of stars to represent these celebrities. This will be contextualised within the wider context of the new formations of Hindi cinema and its relationship to the broader setting of the ‘new India’.

Professor Rachel Dwyer

Rachel Dwyer is Professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She has published ten books, several of which are on Indian cinema. The most recent is Beyond the boundaries of Bollywood: the many forms of Hindi cinema, co-edited with Jerry Pinto (2011) and is currently writing Bollywood's India: Indian cinema as a guide to modern India.