Dr. Usha Bande reviews Jasbir Jain’s Interpreting Cinema (Published by Rawat Publications, 2020) and explains how this book takes up a problem, negotiates its representation in films and traces the social, historical, cultural and political genealogy of the issue at hand.
Film criticism, as an academic discipline, is not merely a positive or negative evaluation of a film; instead, it is an act of ordering and organizing, of identifying and observing patterns that make the cinematic experience meaningful and comprehensible. Jasbir Jain in her remarkably ground-breaking work Interpreting Cinema: Adaptations, Intertexualities, Art Movements examines Hindi cinema vis-à-vis other narrative media such as literature, painting, music, photography and television, and explores films from the angle of art and craft, technology and science, tradition and sensibility. Giving special attention to how the questions of class, caste, religion, gender, race and ethnicity enter into a film narrative, the focus of the book travels from directing to cinematography, from editing and music to symbolism, plot development, aspects of production, and the audience response.
Jasbir Jain, a reputed academician and retired professor of English employs examples from literature and literary theory; she also refers to Western film theorists like Dudley Andrew, Andre Bazin and others where necessary but does not depend inordinately on theory or theorist. In a simple, jargon-free style she critiques the deeper implications of cinematic narratives. Interpreting Cinema contains 16 chapters, each of moderate length, a small postscript, and a ‘Preface’ which is partly a statement of the complexities of evaluating the multiple art of film medium and partly an account of the genesis of these essays written over the years and is dedicated to the memory of Girish Karnad, ‘an intellectual who had the generosity to share and the sensibility to reach out to others.‘