In this issue, we have four articles, two delineating different aspects of Hollywood cinema, and two that focus on contemporary south Indian language films. The essays engage with popular and critically well-regarded films, and in one instance, a popular icon of American cinema.
It is not often that we have Indian scholars writing with authority on Hollywood cinema, and certainly there is a contemporary urgency and relevance to the two articles that look at different aspects of Hollywood cinema. Gawtham Jyotsna offers a scholarly reading of Stanley Kubrik’s film Dr. Strangelove, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which is a satirical and grim reminder of how close humankind is to annihilating itself through some men’s foolish will to power. What Jyotsna offers in his article is a reading of the film juxtaposing it with studies of the Cold War period. Abhishek Chatterjee traces the trajectory of an iconic Hollywood figure, Clint Eastwood from the start of his career to the present. Reading these films intertextually and sequentially, he not only looks at how the later films subvert the values embodied in the iconic figure of the Western genre, he also reads these radical changes in the context of larger changes happening in American politics, and suggests interestingly that irrespective of the abiding conservative values that Eastwood continues to uphold, the characters he plays and the films that he has directed in and acted have not remained immune to the shifts in American society and polity.
The two articles on south Indian cinemas, one each of Malayalam and Tamil cinema, offer a reading of individual films. Sooraj S.S. and Kavya Krishna’s article looks at a much celebrated Malayalam film Kumbalangi Nights (2019) to unpack the contrasting masculinities at play in the film, and how the women characters in the film subvert and problematize toxic masculinity. B. Geetha’s essay on the Tamil film Baaram (2020) adopts an interesting approach to the film via an interview with the film’s director Priya Krishnaswamy, not only to read the film from on the screen, but off it as well. Priya’s film and Geetha’s essay highlight an important ethical issue of contemporary times – how modern, nuclear families are dealing with their older and ageing members, and in the case of this film, deploying traditional and socially sanctioned ways to terminate their lives to relieve themselves of the ‘burden’ of caregiving.
If these essays are any indication, research on cinema or using cinema to study different aspects of the world around us is happening across many disciplines in Humanities and Social Sciences. We invite scholars working with cinema (films as source material), or working on cinema (cinema as an institution, industry or text) to contribute in the forthcoming issues of the Journal.
------ Nikhila H. (Editor, Film Studies)
The Palimpsest of American Subjectivity by Abhishek Chatterjee: 13-23