Wanted Cultured Ladies Only!
Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s
Awards and Recognition:
Received a Honorable Mention for the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SCMS) Best First Book Award, 2011.
Charting the rise of the film star in early Indian cinema
Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! maps out the early culture of cinema stardom in India from its emergence in the silent era to the decade after Indian independence in the mid-twentieth century. Neepa Majumdar combines readings of specific films and stars with an analysis of the historical and cultural configurations that gave rise to distinctly Indian notions of celebrity.
In tracking Hollywood's influence on India's conventions of stardom, Majumdar argues that discussions of early cinematic stardom in India must be placed in the context of the general legitimizing discourse of colonial "improvement" that marked other civic and cultural spheres as well, and that "vernacular modernist" anxieties over the New Woman had limited resonance here. Rather, it was through emphatically nationalist discourses that Indian cinema found its model for modern female identities.
Beginning with a history of the idea of stardom in India, Majumdar considers questions of spectatorship, gossip, and popularity as they pertain to two popular stars, Sulochana and Fearless Nadia, who occupied the highbrow and lowbrow ends of the spectrum of stardom in the 1930s and evoked very different fan responses. With the breakdown of the studio system in the mid-1940s, new configurations of stardom arose from the establishment of a star-based production system. To examine this "stardom racket," Majumdar analyzes the impact of star monopoly on textual and performance conventions through the half-century-long vocal dominance of playback singer Lata Mangeshkar as well as the 1950s actress Nargis.
"A brilliant, groundbreaking study that illuminates a heretofore little known era of Indian cinema. Its combination of rich historical research, rigorous analysis, and sophisticated critical insight marks the best, most effective film criticism."--Corey K. Creekmur, coeditor of Cinema, Law, and the State in Asia
"This enjoyable study is the only work of its kind on female stardom and Indian cinema. Majumdar examines a crucial turning point in Indian film history with the decline of the studio system, the rise of the star, and the coming of playback singing."--Rachel Dwyer, author of Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema
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