The clandestine cinema of Bengal: genesis, evolution and praxis
This thesis will investigate and analyse the evolution of a dissident Bengali cinema since the 2010s taking into consideration three filmmakers, Q, Pradipta Bhattacharyya and Aditya Vikram Sengupta. The films that these filmmakers make are deeply political where politics is regarded less around formal experimentation but around the structures of production, living up to Godard’s famous adage “not to make political films, but to make films politically” (Hoberman, 2005). The thesis aims at investigating the rise of this “Clandestine Cinema” through its social, political, and aesthetic contexts. The research takes into account class relations and class struggles as a vector in (cinematic) production.
Bengali cinema post-independence evolved with ideologies based on socialist and progressive discourses which influenced the aesthetics of realism till the end of 1970s. The formation of new social relations due to expropriation and depopulation of the land since late 1970s had profound effects. With rising unemployment and disintegration of the proletariat into the class of the lumpenproletariat, marginalization and disenfranchisement became the social realties. This paved the way for a new lumpen aesthetics which distinguished itself from realism. This study investigates these social relations and subsequent changes in aesthetics.
By the beginning of new millennium, neoliberal strategies and the rise of Hindutva caused further fragmentation of social relations which affected the production, distribution, and exhibition of Bengali cinema through deepening corporatization and control of discourse. The presence and practices of clandestine filmmaking are ignored and obscured. The concept of the clandestine will be examined through the exploitation of the productive class which have evolved historically, and how exploitation have led to the contemporary politics of alienation. This narrative of alienation creates a crisis which has deterred experimentation and the creation of new cinematic voices, a paradigm which was native and profound to the cinematic tradition of Bengal since independence. The films of the clandestine dramatize contemporary social relations and class struggles. But the Clandestine is not only a narrative of alienation, it also a story of struggle: struggle which subverts these forces of alienation.