SOAS University of London

South Asia Section, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Cinema and Society in South Asia: Key Issues

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 of 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 1

This module offers students an introduction to a vital aspect of contemporary Indian culture. It is designed to give a coherent overview of the development of popular cinema within India, with an emphasis on Hindi films produced in Bombay. The module looks at central issues in the study of Indian cinema, focusing on the variety of cinemas in India in terms of ‘art’ and ‘commercial’ cinema, of ‘regional’ and ‘national’ cinemas. It pays particular attention to the evolution and nature of different film genres, the role of film music and language and the question of film style.  All films are in shown with English subtitles.

This module is available to students as an open option.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

  1. acquire a broad knowledge of some of the key issues in the study of Indian cinema: melodrama, genre, stardom, music and an introduction to Indian cinema beyond Hindi film
  2. develop the ability to consider these films critically, from the perspective of film studies, with reference to film and critical theory, and in terms of the historical and cultural context in which they have been created
  3. analyse the films looking at visual, aural and narrative concerns as well as locating them within Indian society
  4. engage with the films directly, and assess them in terms of essential readings from both secondary sources and theoretical texts
  5. practise these skills in the short essays before writing one long essay on a topic of their choice (in consultation with the convenor)
  6. discuss the films in class, and debate relevant topics with other students 


This module will be taught over 10 weeks with a three hour film screening, a one-hour lecture and a one-hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

1. Melodrama, realism, genre

Amar Akbar Anthony

2. Music and dance


3. The star

Kabhi kabhie

4. Genre: Romance:


5. Genre: The Islamicate film



7. Language and national cinema

Mother India

8. Mother India


9. ‘Regional’ cinemas


10. 'Art’ cinema

Gangs of Wasseypur 1

11. Summary

Mughal-e Azam

Method of assessment

  • A reaction paper of 500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 3, term 2 (10%) 18 October; a reaction paper of 500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, term 2 (10%) 1 November; a reaction paper of 500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7, term 2 (10%) 15 November;
  • an essay of 3000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 10, term 2 (70%) 2 December.

Suggested reading

  • Barnouw, Erik and S. Krishnaswamy (1980)  Indian film.  2nd edition, New York:  Oxford University Press.
  • Chakravarty, S.S. (1993)  National identity in Indian popular cinema, 1947-1987.  Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Dwyer, Rachel (2005)   100 Bollywood films.  London: British Film Institute.
  • Dwyer, Rachel  (2014) Bollywood’s India: Hindi cinema as a guide to contemporary India.  London and Chicago: Reaktion Books; Picture abhi baaki hai: Bollywood as a guide to modern India New Delhi: Hachette
  • Dwyer, Rachel  [2014]  Bollywood.  (Four Volumes). Routledge Major Works Collection: London: Routledge [publication Sept 2014]
  • Ganti, Tejaswini (2013)  Bollywood: a guidebook to popular Hindi cinema.  London: Routledge.
  • Gopal, Sangita and Moorti, Sujata (eds) (2008)  Global Bollywood: travels of Hindi song and dance. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. (The introduction is very useful.)
  • Vasudevan, Ravi (2010)  The melodramatic public: film form and spectatorship in Indian cinema.  Ranikhet: Permanent Black.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules