Urban love, celluloid illusion: A re-evaluation of Bombay middle cinema of the 1970s

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Critics and scholars have read films belonging to the genre of Bombay middle cinema as texts marked by consistent political and social ordinariness. This paper re-visits films portraying the ordinary lives of urban middle-class subjects of 1970s to present a more nuanced understating of their political and ideological position. I do acknowledge this general sense of ordinary passivity in these films; however, I argue that these films need to be interpreted in the context of the biopolitcal excesses enforced by the Indira Gandhi government. Instead of producing just stabilized, passive male subjectivity, these films actually encourage them to become miniaturized version of State’s totalitarian sovereignty. This paper specifically looks at a number of films directed by Basu Chatterjee, the most prominent and prolific filmmakers whose works belong to this genre, to argue that a number of these films are cultural reinforcement of State’s biopolitical strategies. The repetitive depiction of everyday spatio-temporality of “normal” citizens is not a mere apolitical representation of their lives; rather, they are staging of the male hero’s process of undergoing subjectivation and self-governance to adjust within the presence of pervasive presence of governmental dispositif. The paper further argues that one of the significant aesthetic strategies deployed by these films to underline its reality-status is to distance itself from big-budget popular cinema. Middle cinema performs an ideological interpellation of the (male) civil subject by recognizing and referring to popular cinema’s role as a fantasy apparatus in corroborating such stabilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)95-110
Number of pages16
JournalSouth Asian Popular Culture
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • Basu Chatterjee
  • Biopolitics
  • Bombay Cinema
  • Indian Emergency
  • Middle Cinema


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