Leave Disco Dancer Alone (Indian Cinema and Soviet Movie-Going After Stalin)

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Item Code: IDK405
Author: Sudha Rajagopalan
Publisher: Yoda Press, Delhi
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8190618601
Pages: 241 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.4" X 5.4"
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Book Description

About the Book:

'The Ultimate outcome of sociatism is melodrama so it is no wonder that Indian films became so popular in the Soviet Union after the Statin era that one could consider them a separate Soviet film genre. This fascinating book offers not only an analysis of the dynamic of the film industry and consumption in the USSR but also shows deep understanding of Soviet sensitivity and imagination.

Evgeny Dobrenko Department of Russian and Slavonic
Studies, University of Sheffield

'Fresh and sophisticated, well-written and accessible, this highly original book not only makes an important contribution to the global history of Indian cinema, it also illuminates Soviet social and cultural history during the Khrushchev and Brezhnev eras.'

Denise J. Youngblood
Interim Chair & Professor of History, University of Vermont

In this important new book, Suddha Rajagopalan explores the consumption of Indian popular cinema in post-Stalinist Soviet society. In doing so, she highlight the enthusiastic response Indian popular films and their stars received from the Soviet audience, as well as the discursive and institutional context in which this consumption occurred from the mid-fifties till the end of the Soviet era in 1991. The death of Stalin in 1953 was followed by the introduction of important changes in government policy in the Soviet Union, including a relative liberalization of leisure and culture which revealed the state's resurgent interest in addressing popular tastes. The renewed import and screening of foreign entertainment films in the Soviet Union was one of the most visible outcomes of this change. Drawing on oral history methodology and archival research in Russia, and archival research in Russia, the author analyses the ways in which Soviet movie-goers, policy makers, critics and sociologists responded to, interpreted and debated Indian cinema in the Soviet Union between 1954 and the end of the eighties. Complemented by contemporary press and archival photos which capture the rapturous reception given to actors like Raj Kapoor, Nargis, Shashi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Mithun Chakraborty as well as Soviet film posters announcing films like Awara, Betaab and Chandni, this engaging book, which is also the first monograph on Indian cinema abroad among non-diasporic audiences, is a must-read not only for students and scholars of film history and cultural studies, but every such lay reader who has grown up on a regular diet of popular Indian cinema


The idea for the doctoral research on which this book is based stemmed primarily from personal experiences and 'popular knowledge' in India about the Soviet Union. Fifteen years ago in a Moscow metero, a group of musicians approached me and asked if I would sing for them. Their request was a song from a classic Indian popular film of the fifties. I was happy to oblige, and the result was an impromptu song session on the Moscow underground. The incident was unexpected but the request for an Indian film song came as no surprise to me. Growing up in India, one of the first things I had ever learned about the Soviet Union was that movie-goers there admired Indian popular films.

In India, we have always found the Soviet interest in Indian films most curious. The success of these films with their seeming 'flights of fantasy' seemed to be a paradox in a society where arts were meant to be edifying, and where entertainment from abroad was tightly controlled. My parents' generation remembers Soviet movie fans turning up in thousands on the streets of Moscow and St. Petersburg to greet Indian stars in the fifties and sixties, and I recall the great delight with which I heard that Raisa Gorbacheva's favourite actor was an Indian film star. I remember an old India Today issue which reported that Soviet fans camped outside the hotel where Indian actor Mithun Chakraborty stayed while he was in the Soviet Union. Sightseeing tours planned for visiting Soviet delegations in India even included stops outside film stars' homes and film studios in Bombay.

My interest in this dimension of Soviet popular culture has been consistently stimulated by personal experiences in that country. These experiences were a product of the friendly ties and bilateral cultural relationship India and the Soviet Union shared, which spawned events, festivals, and language centres in India. During my stint at the Russian language centre in Bombay and on my first visit to Moscow 15 years ago, many people from the region demonstrated a deep interest in India, which they attributed to their familiarity with Indian popular films. The identification of many with films from India and their own view that our cultures were 'related' was a source of endless fascination and the subject of much discussion with people in the region for the next several years.

The outpouring of admiration for Indian films and their stars seemed undiminished even in the late nineties, as demonstrated by new magazines for Indian melodrama fans in Russia. Indian films were now available on video in Russia and other CIS states soon after their theatre release in India. I met with the secretary of a new film club 'Novaia India' (New India) in Moscow, and browsed with delight through the hundreds of application forms the club had received between 1993 and 1998. During early field trips, I also received two enthusiastic letters from Indian film fans in Russia-one from Dagestan and the other from Volgogrod province. Natal'ia Chernikova in Verkhniaia Dobrinka in Volgograd province has always watched Indian films appreciatively and has a large collection of videos at home, which she offered to put at my disposal for my research. Zuhra Ramasanova in Makhachkala likes to dress up like her favourite Indian film star and dreams of going to India one day; how can I help with your research, she asked. I was encouraged by the spontaneity with which people I met talked to me about the subject. Often, the conversation needed no preamble; in fact, people assumed because I am Indian I would want to talk to them about films from Bombay. I grew up on a diet of Indian popular films, loved and knew them well, and was happy to discuss film gossip with the people I met. Ultimately, research into audience reception of Indian popular cinema in the Soviet Union seemed, quite simply, to be the 'natural' thing to do.


List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgements xiii
Indian Films and Movie-going after Stalin 1
I Indian Films in the Soviet Past
Memories Articulated
II Import/Facilitation
Ambivalent Accommodation
III Cultural Mediation and Disengagement 98
IV Public Voices
Conclusion 171
Appendices 181
References and Select Bibliography 212
Index 233
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