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SOAS South Asia Institute


Bollywood’s India: Hindi Cinema as a Guide to Contemporary India
Bollywood’s India: Hindi cinema as a guide to contemporary India 

Author: Dwyer, Rachel 
Reaktion Books/Hachette, 2014

Bollywood’s India explores the nature of mainstream Hindi cinema, now best known as ‘Bollywood’ and explains why it favours non-realistic depictions of everyday life in India. Rachel Dwyer argues that Hindi cinema’s interpretations of India over the last two decades are the most reliable guide to understanding the nation’s changing dreams and hopes, fears and anxieties.

Her book shows how escapism and entertainment function in Bollywood cinema, and what that reveals about Indian life and society. It looks at the ways in which Bollywood has imagined and portrayed the unity and diversity of India--what its people believe and feel; their views on religion, caste and politics; life at home and in public. The book is based on twenty years of watching, teaching and writing about Hindi films, working with filmmakers and discussions with critics and fans. Featuring 80 striking images, the book has much to say to scholars and students of Indian cinema who are curious about the ways in which aspects of Indian life and culture are shown on screen, as well as to the general reader and fan of world cinema.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe:Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860
Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852-1860

Authors: Taylor, Roger and Branfoot, Crispin 
National Gallery of Art and Prestel Publishing, 2014

This volume on Captain Linnaeus Tripe, who photographed extensively in India and Burma in the mid-19th century, offers brilliant pictures that display the unusual combination of a surveyor’s eye and an artist’s passion.

Captain Linnaeus Tripe (1822–1902) occupies a special place in the history of 19th-century photography for the outstanding body of work he produced in India and Burma (now Myanmar) in the 1850s. Introduced to photography by those who saw it as a pastime, he recognized that it could be an effective tool for conveying information about unknown cultures. Under the auspices of the East India Company, he took many photographs of Buddhist and Hindu architecture and dramatic landscapes not seen before in the West. His military training gave his work a striking aesthetic and formal rigor and helped him achieve remarkably consistent results, despite the challenges that India’s heat and humidity posed to photographic chemistry. This sumptuous volume features photographs from Tripe’s two major expeditions: to Burma in 1854 and to southeast India in 1857. Essays explore the evolution of his practice and the importance of the sites he recorded, while maps and a chronology provide an overview of his life and travels.

 Richard Widdess - book cover - Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City. Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Dapha: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City
Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal
Author: Widdess, Richard
Ashgate, 2013

Dāphā, or dāphā bhajan, is a genre of Hindu-Buddhist devotional singing, performed by male, non-professional musicians of the farmer and other castes belonging to the Newar ethnic group, in the towns and villages of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The songs, their texts, and their characteristic responsorial performance-style represent an extension of pan-South Asian traditions of rāga- and tāla-based devotional song, but at the same time embody distinctive characteristics of Newar culture. This culture is of unique importance as an urban South Asian society in which many traditional models survive into the modern age.

The book describes the music and musical practices of dāphā, accounts for their historical origins and later transformations, investigates links with other South Asian traditions, and describes a cultural world in which music is an integral part of everyday social and religious life. The book focuses particularly on the musical system and structures of dāphā, but aims to integrate their analysis with that of the cultural and historical context of the music, in order to address the question of what music means in a traditional South Asian society.

Edward Simpson - book cover -  The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India (London: Hurst).

The Political Biography of an Earthquake: Aftermath and amnesia in Gujarat, India
Author: Simpson, Edward
Hurst, 2013

For those so-minded, the aftermath of an earthquake presents opportunities to intervene. Thus, in Gujarat, following the disaster of 2001, leaders were deposed, proletariats created, religious fundamentalism incubated, the state restructured, and industrial capitalism expanded exponentially.

Rather than gazing in at those struggling in the ruins, as is commonplace in the literature, this book looks out from the affected region at those who came to intervene. Based on extensive research amid the dust and noise of reconstruction, the author focuses on the survivors and their interactions with death, history, and with those who came to use the shock of disaster to change the order of things.

Edward Simpson takes us deep into the experience of surviving a ‘natural’ disaster. We see a society in mourning, further alienated by manufactured conditions of uncertainty and absurdity. We witness arguments about the past. What was important? What should be preserved? Was modernisation the cause of the disaster or the antidote?

As people were putting things back together, they also knew that future earthquakes were inevitable. How did they learn to live with this terrible truth? How have people in other times and places come to terms with the promise of another earthquake, knowing that things will fall apart again?