Miracles, Mechanical Artifice, and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema
Keywords:Hindu devotional film, Prabhat Studios
This article focuses on the specific Indian cinematic form of the Hindu devotional film genre to explore the relationship between cinema and religion. Using three important early films from the devotional oeuvre—Gopal Krishna, Sant Dnyaneshwar, and Sant Tukaram—as the primary referent, it tries to understand certain characteristic patterns in the narrative structures of these films, and the cultures of visuality and address, miraculous manifestation, and witnessing and self-transformation that they generate. These three films produced by Prabhat Studios between the years 1936 and 1940 and all directed by Vishnupant Damle and Syed Fattelal, drew upon the powerful anti-hierarchical traditions of Bhakti, devotional worship that circumvented Brahmanical forms. This article will argue that the devotional film crucially undertakes a work of transformation in the perspectives on property, and that in this engagement it particularly reviews the status of the household in its bid to generate a utopian model of unbounded community. The article will also consider the status of technologies of the miraculous that are among the central attractions of the genre, and afford a reflection on the relation between cinema technology, popular religious belief and desire, and film spectatorship.
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