SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

“Art that leads to action”: Progressive Writing and Marathi workers in Bombay, 1940-60

Ninad Pandit, London School of Economics and Political Science

Date: 24 November 2015Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 24 November 2015Time: 6:30 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: G51

Type of Event: Seminar

While Hindi-Urdu progressive writing in Bombay succumbed to the pressures of the film ‘industry’ right from the first-known film script by Premchand, Marathi writers turned to the city’s Marathi working class in their search for new subjects. These socially-conscious writers, especially influenced by the distinct cosmopolitanism of the city, discovered creative ways of rewriting the role of Marathi workers in building the city’s industry and society. This paper will argue that Marathi progressive writers and public intellectuals drew upon key concepts of Urdu progressives—a rejection of sentimentality and the search for literature that “creates the power to act”—to account for new forms of labor and labor relations in Bombay’s industrial society. As the city’s working class was appropriated by the nationalist movement in the 1940s, these progressive writers began to craft an idea of “Marathi socialism” with Marathi workers as the last bulwark against capitalism, and posited that a territorial expression of such workers would be tantamount to a victory for socialism. Facilitating this myth was a longer history of Marathi literature and theater, but at the core of Bombay’s nativist turn was the most progressive literary movement in India.

Organiser: Dr. Eleanor Newbigin

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