From starry-eyed fans with dreams of fame to cotton entrepreneurs turned movie moguls, the Bombay film industry has historically energized a range of practices and practitioners, playing a crucial and compelling role in the life of modern India. Bombay Hustle presents an ambitious history of Indian cinema as a history of material practice, bringing new insights to studies of media, modernity, and the late colonial city.
Drawing on original archival research and an innovative transdisciplinary approach, Debashree Mukherjee offers a panoramic portrait of the consolidation of the Bombay film industry during the talkie transition of the 1920s–1940s. In the decades leading up to independence in 1947, Bombay became synonymous with marketplace thrills, industrial strikes, and modernist experimentation. Its burgeoning film industry embodied Bombay’s spirit of “hustle,” gathering together and spewing out the many different energies and emotions that characterized the city. Bombay Hustle examines diverse sites of film production—finance, pre-production paperwork, casting, screenwriting, acting, stunts—to show how speculative excitement jostled against desires for scientific management in an industry premised on the struggle between contingency and control. Mukherjee develops the concept of a “cine-ecology” in order to examine the bodies, technologies, and environments that collectively shaped the production and circulation of cinematic meaning in this time. The book thus brings into view a range of marginalized film workers, their labor and experiences; forgotten film studios, their technical practices and aesthetic visions; and overlooked connections among media practices, geographical particularities, and historical exigencies.
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
In viewing cinema “as an ecology of practices and practitioners” Debashree Mukherjee’s Bombay Hustle – Making Movies in a Colonial City provides a significant and timely contribution to our understanding of how these apparently disparate forces mesh together to form what she describes as a cine-ecology, distinct from the more imprecise ‘film industry’.
Bombay Hustle goes beyond film criticism and film history to contribute to urban history as well. It is a well-researched, well-written work of history weaving together elements of gender, class, caste, and aesthetics to situation the 1930s as a period that deserves more attention from film enthusiasts and scholars alike.
Bombay Hustle offers a key intervention in histories of infrastructure and ﬁlm production. This intervention extends beyond the particularity of South Asia and applies to any major cine-ecology.
The book’s transdisciplinary approach to the film industry and the film workers allows it to forge new connections and meanings in the study of media practices in colonial Bombay.
[This] book will garner the attention of and engage scholars from many subfi elds: history of cinema, popular culture, biomedia studies, and urban history. This book presents new modes of watching cinema and seeing the city through its material and human histories.
With Lennonesque poetic charm, Mukherjee’s intimate tryst with this enthralling world of multiple entwined imaginations opens new windows, and persuades its readers: ‘Imagine, there’s more to see’.
This is a stunningly ambitious account of the speculative economy, production practices, and urban milieu of the Bombay film industry during cinema’s transition to sound. Mukherjee brings an embodied knowledge of the city and a material historian's keen sense of objects, institutions, and energies as she breathes life into a web of stories about the film studios, entrepreneurs, stars, aspirants, film crews, and extras of early Bombay cinema. A deeply innovative and poetic account of the tangle of film practitioners, technologies, and techniques in India’s late colonial period, this book is a revelation of new archives, histories, and modes of thought. It is a sensational addition to the fields of South Asian studies, film history, labor history, new materialism, affect studies, and actor-network theory.
Meticulously and inventively researched, Bombay Hustle offers a methodological model for media historians with its staggering and creative array of sources. Offering an experiential feel for the precarious, open-ended, and speculative terrain of Bombay film production, it also simultaneously takes the reader on a spatial tour of the city itself.
Bombay Hustle is a brilliant excavation of the entangled ecologies of Bombay and its cinema during the 1920s-1940s. It uncovers the improvised traffic between the technological apparatus, speculative finance, the urban environment, storytelling, sound technology, cine labor, actors, bodies, symbolic values, politics, and ideologies, showing how these intertwined practices made the city and its talkie cinema the signs of colonial modernity. The interpretation is as dynamic and creative as the hustle of Bombay and its cinema.
This is an incredibly astute and original contribution to media studies and media theory. It brings together social theories of the modern and the urban, media production and labor, sexuality and gender, and science and technology to understand the formation of a Bombay subjectivity as indivisible from the development of the film industry.
A brilliant achievement! Bombay Hustle bristles with energy, coupling impressive research with imaginative, skillful writing. For anyone interested in what "talking pictures" meant in colonial India, this book is required reading. It's also a game changer, a rare gift to the field. By conceiving film history as a "cine-ecology"—an entangled web of urban space, studio structures, weather, bodies, silhouettes, desires, gossip, policies, and finances among other objects and forces—Mukherjee hustles her way around tired historical models. At its core this study is a capacious invitation, a call for a new generation of film and media scholars to foreground the transfer of energy between human and non-human, between on-screen and off-screen, and between archival absence and embodied experience. I haven't been this inspired in a very long time.
This book should be a must-read for scholars of South Asian cinema and cultural studies.