One of the spectatorial pleasures of K.M. Madhusudanan's Bioscope (2008) was its revelatory glimpse into Indian Cinema's silent film corpus, by way of Dadasaheb Phalke's 1918 Hindi "mythological" Shri Krishna Janma (Birth of Lord Krishna). Bioscope screened at the 2008 3rd i South Asian Independent Film Festival, where I wrote it up, and initiated a volley of emails between myself, New Delhi journalist Jai Arjun Singh (Jabberwock), and Anuj Vaidya, Associate Festival Director for 3rd i, anticipating a seminar on the history of Indian Silent Cinema. Short of a year later, that seminar has finally arrived.
This coming Friday, July 24, 2009, 3rd I and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival will co-present a lecture by Anupama Kapse: "Snakes, Sirens and Vamps: A Short History of Early Indian Cinema." Kapse's lecture, illustrated with clips, and with live musical accompaniment by Robin Sukhadia for select clips, will provide a welcome opportunity "to see rare excerpts from some of the earliest films from the subcontinent, including: Kaliya Mardan (1919), by India's film pioneer D.G. Phalke, about the exploits of a young Krishna; Gallant Hearts (1931), 'a fast and furious comedy-action-adventure film, filled with court intrigues, rowdy sword fights, and fantastic locations', modeled after The Thief of Baghdad (1924); films from the legendary Bombay Talkies studio; and early sound films like Achut Kanya (1936) and Aadmi (1939)."
Anupama Kapse will provide an introduction to each film, and lead her audience through a short history of early Indian cinema, from the silent era into the arrival of sound on the Indian filmscape. All films will be presented in a digital format; since most of these films have not been restored, and the quality of some of the clips duly reflect the archival nature of the prints.
Kapse's doctoral thesis, The Moving Image: Melodrama and Early Cinema in India, 1913-1939, examines the genres of Indian silent cinema through a melodramatic lens. She is currently co-editing a collection of essays, Border Crossings: Silent Cinema and the Politics of Space (with Jennifer Bean and Laura Horak, forthcoming Indiana University Press), inspired by last Spring's UC Berkeley symposium "Border Crossings: Rethinking Silent Cinema." Prior to joining the PhD. program in film studies at UC Berkeley, Kapse taught at Gargi College, University of Delhi, India, where she was Assistant Professor of English. She has lectured widely on silent cinema in India and works on film history, gender and the visual culture of "Bollywood." This fall, she will be joining Queens College as Assistant Professor in media studies.
Bollywood film music fanatic Robin Sukhadia completed his Master of Fine Arts at the California Institute of the Arts. He has been studying tabla under Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri at CalArts and the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, California for the past seven years. His special focus on the musical traditions and rhythms of South Asia informs his approach to musical arrangement and composition on a wide range of concert, film and album productions. For the past five years, Robin has traveled internationally on behalf of Project Ahimsa, an organization committed to empowering impoverished youth through music education. In 2008, Robin presented a three-part talk, "Bollywood Sound & Image: A discussion with Robin Sukhadia", as part of 3rd i's ongoing Speaker Series.
"Snakes, Sirens and Vamps: A Short History of Early Indian Cinema" will take place Friday, July 24, 2009, at the Mission Cultural Center (2868 Mission Street); $8-$10 (tickets at the door only).
Cross-published on Twitch.