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Doing Women's Film HistoryReframing Cinemas, Past and Future$
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Julia Knight and Christine Gledhill

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039683

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039683.001.0001

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Revising the Colonial Past, Undoing “National” Histories

Revising the Colonial Past, Undoing “National” Histories

Women Filmmakers in Kannada, Marathi, and Bengali Cinemas

(p.151) Chapter 10 Revising the Colonial Past, Undoing “National” Histories
Doing Women's Film History

Rashmi Sawhney

University of Illinois Press

This chapter investigates the historical imagination of 1980s Indian women filmmakers seeking “companionship” with generations of women enduring or resisting convention in India's colonial past. Leveraging the emergence in the 1980s of an Indian women's cinema—and reflecting on the cinematic construction of gender debates in colonial India through its films, the chapter highlights the challenges they pose to establishing “national” narratives of gender or film history. Three films about gender and reform in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century colonial India are discussed: Phaniyamma (Prema Karanth, 1983), Rao Saheb (Vijaya Mehta, 1986), and Sati (Aparna Sen, 1989). Together these films present a constellation that supports the development of a feminist historiography of Indian cinema. The chapter also considers how literature on Indian regional cinemas, published in regional languages with little translation, has contributed to the marginalization of such cinemas in the construction of Indian film history.

Keywords:   gender, Indian women, Indian film history, women's cinema, colonial India, female filmmakers, women filmmakers, feminist historiography, Indian cinema, regional cinema

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