The Subaltern Speaks: The Construction of Marginal Identities in Selected Films on Partition of India
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Recognising the excruciating pain and trauma the Partition of India has caused to the lives of the millions of people in the Indian sub-continent, the present thesis embarks on to study a hitherto unexplored area concerning Partition studies, e.g., construction of marginal identities in Partition films. The present thesis contends that the selected Partition films— that I taxonomise as Subaltern Partition Cinema—as a distinct voice from the mainstream Bollywood cinema, depict Partition history in a radically different way than that of the official, colonialist and nationalist historiographies, giving voice to the subalterns of Indian Partition; like women, Dalits, minorities, and refugees. Taking Rosenstone’s views on the relationship between film and history as a springboard, it considers cinema as a significant medium to engage with Partition history, and attempts to foreground how cinematic narratives and practices can be vital resources for rethinking Partition history. Subaltern Studies’ methodology has been used to demarginalise the subaltern experience in the selected film texts; an attempt is made to study the structure and dynamics of film language concerned with the representations of history, memory, violence (abduction, rape, killing), in the selected films. The methodology of the research work involves an in-depth mise-en-scene analysis and other formal aspects of film semiotics wherever possible. The thesis attempts to retrieve the subaltern historiography of Partition of India as it emerges from the selected films; v further, to see such subaltern revisionings of history as alternative forms of history and as counter-narratives to the perspectives of mainstream history. The analysis of the sufferings of the subaltern identities as portrayed in the selected films entails a critique of the communal nationalisms in South Asia. The post-Partition Hindi cinema can be seen as a site of cinematic heterotopia to dispel the dominant nationalistic perceptions about 1947 perpetuated by the conflicting terrains of the elite nationalist histories of the two nation-states. The study of the representations of history in the films like Gandhi and Jinnah points out the highly discursive nature of Partition history as well as cinema’s potential in the promotion as well as destabilisation of the received history. The study also points out how the refugee experience in the cinema of Ritwik Ghatak can be seen as a cinematic displacement of his latent angst against the idea that the East Bengal and the West Bengal constitute two different cultural or national identities and could be divided on the basis of religion. Partition films should not be seen as capturing the exact picture of the past that must be faithful to the contemporary reality. But these films must also be considered as creative reconstructions, constructions or deconstructions of the past to the extent the specificities of the medium allow.