It’s ironic and exciting to remark that this issue, Projectorhead Nine, is technically the first of 2013. Our mammoth last issue, the biggest that Projectorhead will ever publish in our lifetime is essentially four issues published and culled over six months. Issue Nine follows the same format, albeit with a tighter focus, we hope. You, dear reader, might notice something different this time. Yes, we have a new layout.
Our magazine has always looked to change its approach and adapt as and when necessary. When I took over as editor, I hoped to make the content more diverse, more in-depth, basically just more. In stretching wide instead of going deep, Projectorhead drifted from the focus and energy that my predecessor Gautam Valluri brought into the magazine. In reading the old back issues of the magazine for archiving the new layout, I came to a deeper understanding of the direction that Projectorhead can and will take.
Essentially our magazine is going to have three aspects. We will have a blog that has become chatty of late and will publish new material every week, shorter pieces. The second aspect is what you are reading. The bi-monthly edition, where we try to give a sense of direction to film analysis and culture from our humble outpost on the margins of international cinephilia. The third aspect is something that is still in the process of taking shape, but the outlines are clear enough to discuss.
The subject is the 100 Years of Indian Cinema. Or to be specific, 100 Years since Dadasaheb Phalke made Raja Harishchandra, his oldest surviving film in viewing condition. We are hoping to get as many contributors as possible. Two of the pieces published in this issue, Srikanth Srinivasan’s Andha Canon and a reprint of Adrian Martin’s article on Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghey Dhaka Tara, serve as a prelude to our central theme, “Can we form a canon for Indian cinema?” This is a theme we hope to pursue well into the coming months and years, since it is at the heart of Projectorhead and any discourse in India that centers on film as an art form. Canon’s a dirty word in some circles, for good reasons, and we hope to center this discussion merely as a debate, a question rather than an actual answer. Though in the process, I hope we end up with a list of titles, preferably new and obscure, that will enlarge our understanding of film and Indian history.
Projectorhead hopes to progress towards developing serious scholarship in Indian film writing. Devdutt Trivedi’s The Other Akerman, perhaps his single greatest article to date, explores the the radical theoretical implications of Chantal Akerman’s groundbreaking film, News from Home. Zinia Mitra meanwhile writes about the late Rituparno Ghosh and the way his films tried to subvert and challenge Indian masculinity. Much as I appreciate both pieces, I can’t help but wonder why there isn’t a third approach, what David Bordwell once described as “middle-level research”. Devdutt’s article is based on a solid knowledge of film theory and Indian classical music, while Zinia argues from the presently unfashionable but always relevant discipline of gender studies. What Indian cinema needs is on-the-ground scholarship of film production with a solid understanding of various institutional factors that go behind the production and exhibition of a film.
This understanding, represented by Bernard Eisenschitz’s seminal biography of Nicholas Ray (which I was happy to review for this issue) is the kind of writing that we need to see more of, an exploration of directorial style based on nuts-and-bolts craftsmanship, free from cultural and topical sentiment. Cultural and topical sentiment is the subject of three of our long film reviews. Kaz Rahman, director of Deccani Souls and old Projectorhead contributor, gives a belated second look to Ben Affleck’s Argo, a well made film rife with all the guilty liberal wrong assumptions and bad faith. Anuj Malhotra examines Wong Kar-Wai’s The Grandmaster, a semiotic exploration of kung-fu as measured against the reality of 30s Shanghai. I complete the trinity, with my third piece in a single issue, an exploration of what Ship of Theseus does and doesn’t mean vis-à-vis contemporary cinema.