East Meets West: Indo-British Cinematic Encounters

Documentaries / Oct 7, 2014

Year : 2014

The documentary East meets West: Indo-British Cinematic Encounters (1930-1951) for the first time highlights the rich cinematic collaboration between Britain and India. It covers the era between the twilight years of the British Raj when Indians were struggling to free themselves from the shackles of British colonial rule, to the period just after India won freedom in 1947.

It throws light on a host of actors, novelists, story and scriptwriters, directors of feature and documentary films, producers, editors, lyricists, musicians, dancers, cinematographers and set designers. It includes South Asians [such as Merle Oberon, Sabu, Dewan Sharar], Britons and others who by working together, became linked with Indo-British cinema in UK. While some are well known, others are little known, unknown or have even been almost completely forgotten.

Interspersed with analysis of Indo-British films by some of UK’s leading experts on cinema, it takes viewers on a fascinating journey.  Among the films that will fall under their critical gaze are: Himansu Rai’s Karma (1933),the first Indian talkie completed and launched in London, Alexander Korda’s The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) that gave a break to Anglo-Indian actress Merle Oberon and placed UK on the world’s film map, Korda’s The Elephant Boy (1937) that launched the career of another Indian, Sabu, Britain’s only child star, his Empire film The Drum and hisoriental films: The Thief of Bagdad and Black Narcissus that took Sabu to dizzy heights. It ends with Jean Renoir’s film adaptation of English novelist Rumer Godden’s The River (1951) thatled to the coming of India’s Satyajit Ray who placed India on the international film map.

On the way, viewers will be introduced to powerful ideas of Orientalism, imperialism, racial discrimination and biases against miscegenation and those of mixed race that influenced people and impacted on films of those times.

The above findings are part of the research which ensued in the project – A Hidden Heritage: Indo-British Film Collaboration (1930-1951)

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