Screened in 1913, Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra is regarded as the first Indian feature - length film. One hundred years later, celebrations ranging from special film festivals and productions to exhibitions commemorating Indian cinema’s success and rich history have emerged in India and abroad. However, despite India’s reputation as the world’s leading producer of films each year, Indian cinema remains understudied in terms of its diversity. This national cinema is often represented by its “regional cinemas” in the film festival circuits or by its frequent branding as “Bollywood”—a name that obscures and overshadows India’s other important film industries. With this in mind, Synoptique has decided to join the celebratory fray with a special selection of texts about the diversity of film cultures in India. We invited scholars and graduate students to submit articles that addressed questions of "national" Indian cinema within the context of art film circuits and transnational/national/regional film industries; and, essays that revisited the selection and promotion of celebrated film cultures and the (re) discovery of forgotten ones. 

As such, this special issue of Synoptique features articles that prompt an expansive approach to the study of Indian cinema, and it begins by focusing on the overlooked phenomenon of Indian female stardom. In “Size Zero and Dirty Pictures: The Contemporary Female Star in Bollywood,” Tupur Chatterjee analyses the discourses on female stardom and women's image in post - liberal reforms India by contrasting the star personas of Kareena Kapoor and Vidya Balan. Ramna Walia’s “Recycle Industry: The Visual Economy of Remakes in Contemporary Bombay Film Culture” looks at three contemporary cases: Don (Farhan Akhtar, 2006, 2011), Devdas (Sanjay L. Bhansali, 2002) and Dev D (Anurag Kashyap, 2009) and explores how recycling mechanisms in the Bombay film industry structure contemporary film remakes by building upon the spectatorial knowledge of the original films. Sujith Parayil’s “Visual Perception and Cultural Memory: Typecast and Typecast(e)ing in Malayalam Cinema” studies the figure of the popular Malayalam film actor Kalabhavan Mani to examine the political valence of the social and cultural signs and strategies used to represent subalterns and dalits on - screen. 

Kaushik Bhaumik’s interview with the Desire Machine Collective explores the relation between militarization in Kashmir and its cinema halls, as well as the place of Kashmir in Bombay cinema. Next, Aparna Frank presents an interview with Kumar Shahani, the renowned Indian avant - garde filmmaker, and a critical review of Shahani’s famous film Maya Darpan (1972) that analyses the formal features of the film and the radical approach of the filmmaker to his art. As part of our effort to expand the corpus of scholarly writings about Indian cinema, we are pleased to present Suzanne L. Schulz’s translation of Amritlal Nagar’s essay “Seven Years of Film Experience,” about his work and vision of the film industry during the 1940s. Lastly, we conclude this special issue of Synoptique with Parichay Patra’s review of Politics as Performances: A Social History of the Telegu Cinema, S.V Srinivas’ most recent book on the social history of Telegu cinema and performative politics.

Catherine Bernier, Guest Editor

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