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4 March 2008
Starring role for film student

One of the film world's most prestigious awards has been won by a student at The University of Nottingham.

Nandana Bose has won the student writing prize from the illustrious Society for Cinema and Media Studies, becoming one of only a few non-American winners.

A postgraduate student in the Institute of Film and Television Studies, Nandana’s essay looks at the stranglehold of right wing politics on the Indian film industry between 1992 and 2002.

Nandana travelled to Bombay, where she was given access to thousands of letters of complaint sent to the censor board during that time. These letters, many from members of right wing political groups, reflected the growing demands for greater stringency in censoring Hindi films in the 1990s.

Nandana said: “Film is such a way of life for people in India, and these letters to the censorship board give an amazing insight into the times, the way films were made and how much pressure was put on the censors.”

Censorship in Indian cinema has often been contentious and particularly in the 1990s when the powers of the censors increased due to new censorship laws. It was common for filmmakers to have to reshoot certain scenes according to the recommendations and excision lists in order to appease the authorities.

Controversial films like Fire, in 1998, sparked violent reactions from groups like the right wing extremist party Shiv Sena, who descended on cinemas in groups to physically stop the film from being shown.

The right wing pressure escalated and came to a dramatic head in 2000 on the set of the film Water. Just after filming started in Varanasi, as many as 15,000 protestors arrived on the set. Death threats were issued and the main set was burned down.

“Very often they would say they were protecting the ’public’,” said Nandana. “It revealed a blind spot when it came to cinema. They regarded audiences as impressionable, easily influenced and therefore a potential threat. That is why the censorship was so strict.”

Nandana will travel to Philadelphia in the US next month for the annual conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies, where she will receive her prize and deliver a paper to an international audience.

Nandana said she is really looking forward to it: “It is rare for a student outside the US to win this prize and it’s really a fillip for me. It makes me want to write more. It’s a real morale boost.”

Professor Roberta Pearson is Nandana’s supervisor on her PhD (The Cultural Politics of the Hindu Right and Hindi Cinema — 1992-2002): “This is an immensely prestigious award, which has previously jump-started the careers of some of the most eminent scholars in the field of film studies. I am delighted that the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has recognised the excellence of her research and writing. She is one of the best doctoral students in the Institute of Film and Television Studies, and we expect her to go far.”

 


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