Reel India – Understanding Indian Cinema

Projects / May 1, 2014

Thursday 1st May and Friday 2nd May, 2014

The October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3AL

On Thursday 1st May and Friday 2nd May, 2014, SACF held a course for the Bagri Foundation on Indian cinema titled: Reel India – Understanding Indian Cinema. This was held at  The October Gallery, 24 Old Gloucester Street, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 3AL.

This unique short course has been designed to introduce audiences to the vast cinematic heritage of India, from historic roots to unprecedented growth. It aimed to  convey how Indian Cinema is unique within world cinema and, as it passes its landmark 100 – year anniversary, deserving of far more global recognition. 

The course was divided into sections or periods:


Day 1, Session 1:  The First Steps:  Silent Era to the Talkies

Indian Cinema was born on July 7th, 1896 barely six months after the technology first appeared in the West. Despite this, it soon developed a form that was distinctly Indian. This opening talk will chart the emergence of cinema in India- from foreign curiosity to captivating new art form.

Day 1, Session 2 : Boom and Bust: The Rise and Fall of the Studios

In 1931 Indian Cinema reached its next landmark – the release of its first talkie, Alam Ara. This was followed by the rise of the Studio System in the 1930s and 1940s.  The Session examined the period in depth and looked at the significance of music at this time as well as its lasting centrality on Indian cinema.

Day 1, Session 3: The Classic Touch: Post-independence and the Golden Age

With political independence as its starting point, this period looked at influential films of the 1950s and 1960s- the so called Golden Age of Indian Cinema. The directors of this era drew on diverse cultural sources including classical Indian literature, art, and music, and created epic productions such as Mughal-e-Azam, Mother India, and Guide.


Day 2, Session: Let’s Get Real: India’s New Wave’ Cinema

In the 1950s, Satyajit Ray’s realism put Indian cinema on the global film map. In the 1960s and 1970s, Ray’s cinema as well as other factors led to the New Wave movement and films such as Ankur, Manthan, and Bhuwan Shome.

Day 2, Session 2: Going Big: The Era of Romance, Action, and Superstardom

This session contrasted two Indian superstars of the 1970s- Rajesh Khanna as the fresh-faced heart-throb and Amitabh Bachchan as the rugged action hero. The Session discussed the contexts from which they emerged and examined their arrival.

Day 2, Session 3:  Into the Future: : The Beginning of Independent Cinema

In the final talk, participants were being led into the bold new world of independent cinema. Changes undergoing by the industry with reference to significant directors such as Anurag Kashyap, Sujoy Ghosh, and Vishal Bhardwaj were discussed.

ADMISSION: £15 per day
For reservation email –
Further details at:

About the speakers

Lalit Mohan Joshi, a respected film historian, critic, and former BBC broadcast journalist. He is the co-founder of the South Asian Cinema Foundation (SACF).
Kusum Pant Joshi,
 a social historian, researcher, and writer.
Raza Ali Abidi is a journalist and broadcaster with a long career working with the BBC Urdu Service. Has many short-stories to his credit and has a deep understanding of Hindi film music.

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