Accepted Paper:

Watching Bhojpuri Cinema with the 'Indecent Crowds' in Decrepit Single-Screen Theatres: Ethics of Space, Image and Spectatorship versus Aesthetics of Homosocial Masculinity  


Akshaya Kumar

Paper short abstract:

This presentation tries to comprehend the aesthetics of film-going in watching Bhojpuri cinema at the intersection of vulgarily and masculinity, in an abandoned space that is rejected as much as it rejects through its performative embodiment of a sensibility in tension with popular notions of cinema spectatorship.

Paper long abstract:

With the multiplex boom cutting across most big cities of India, we've also seen the rise of various regional cinemas, among them most rapidly that of Bhojpuri cinema. On one hand, the multiplex cinema has been celebrated by as a great opportunity for a new type of films at significant distance from the usual bollywood fare, allowing the young and diverse crop of filmmakers to experiment. On the other hand, it has been critiqued for its segregation-prone "cultural economy of urban leisure" attracting only "decent crowds". My proposed thesis is an attempt to theoretically locate the experiential expanse, in all its complexity, of the counterpart to 'multiplex experience'. The idea is to comprehend through its specificities, the nature of spectatorship that emerges in conjunction with the nature of space of exhibition.

Through an ethnographic study of the spectatorship performed in the decrepit single-screen theatres right in the middle of the city, this presentation recalibrates Bhojpuri cinema, often seen as a cinema of subaltern revenge, born out of the excesses of the multiplex. I shall make an attempt to grip this rebellion in terms of 'class as performance', and will highlight the complex relationships across cinematic image, sites of exhibition, architectonics of space, and spectatorial behaviour, thereby reassessing casually transacted notions of 'decency' and 'masculinity'. Most importantly though, I shall analyse how this homosocial masculinity comes to terms with the absence of the woman, by distorting her image on the screen. Watching Bhojpuri cinema, thus, reveals to us a rebellious aesthetic which can only be performed.

Panel P14
Social sense and embodied sensibility at the cinema: towards an aesthetics of film-going