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Sight and Sound in Popular Historiography: Construction of a National Imaginary in Jodha-Akbar

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Title: Sight and Sound in Popular Historiography: Construction of a National Imaginary in Jodha-Akbar
Authors: Shahid, Taimoor
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: University of Hawaii at Manoa Center for South Asian Studies
Citation: Shahid, Taimoor,"Sight and Sound in Popular Historiography: Construction of a National Imaginary in Jodha-Akbar." Paper presented at the Center for South Asian Studies 30th Annual Symposium, "Sensing South Asia," April 17-19, 2013.
Abstract: Many scholars have argued that Bollywood should be viewed as India’s “national” cinema, reflecting its policies, ambitions, self-understanding, and its vision for future. However, most of this analysis has taken narrative, as the privileged medium for nation-building, as the centre of its analysis. Taking this as my point of departure, I contend that Gowarikor’s Jodha-Akbar (2008), Bollywood’s last Muslim Historical, uses image and sound rather than the narrative as a two-pronged fundamental device for constructing a national imaginary that formulates Hinduized Muslimness as normative and equates unadulterated Muslimness with evil. All the villains in the film, for example, are portrayed as “devout” Muslims through a) their appearance (beard, turban, robe, head-scarf etc) and b) their Arabized vocabulary and pronunciation of the gutturals, in strong contrast with beardless “good” Muslims who cannot pronounce their gutturals. In another instance, a bhajan, a Hindu devotional song, serves as the final adjudicator in a debate between a Muslim “‘alim” (who is a co-conspirator against the state) and the Emperor. These and other numerous mediations in the sensory use sight and sound to create national “lieux de mémoire”: heterotopic sites of cultural memory which can be visited and revisited by the public. This collapse of history into experiential memory, that serves the identity-forming needs of the nation-state, relies heavily on the sensory as formative, which calls for a move away from cinema-as-narrative and towards cinema as aesthetic, sensory experience. This brings the aesthetic—open to sensory perception—into the idiom of the national which has been associated strongly with narrative as in Benedict Anderson’s seminal take.
URI/DOI: http://hdl.handle.net/10125/30718
Rights: Shahid, Taimoor
Appears in Collections:2013 South Asia Spring Symposium Presentations



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