MUMBAI, October 18, 2010 - Indian cinema has long been noted for its melodrama, both as a strength and a weakness. Ravi Vasudevan, Professor at the Center for the Study of Developing Studies, explored this phenomenon through a discussion of his new book, The Melodramatic Public: Film Form and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema, at an Asia Society India Center and Jnanapravaha program.
Vasudevan's book analyzes melodrama as both a narrative architecture and expressive form, which connects the public and the private, the personal and the political. In this way, Vasudevan says, melodrama can draw audiences into complex passages of historical change. The Melodramatic Public also explores the emergence of the category "Bollywood" in the light of changing state policies, industrial organization, digital technologies, and the ever-widening reach of Indian films worldwide.
Vasudevan's presentation considered many aspects of films, such as the use of parallel architectural spaces and camera angles, to decipher how different films engage their audiences. He elaborated on elements such as the convergence between public and private roles as a common feature of melodramatic Indian films. He used a range of characters in different settings to demonstrate how melodrama, even as it stands as a counterpoint to realism, poses important questions that are enhanced precisely because they are presented in melodramatic ways.