Announcing “Celluloid Classicism”

“A striking achievement, Celluloid Classicism deepens and broadens conventional histories of South Indian performance. Meticulously researched and conceptually rich, Krishnan’s work illustrates the aesthetic debt modern bharata natyam owes to South Indian cinema while also demonstrating cinema’s reliance on local dance and theatre traditions.” —Janet O’Shea, author of At Home in the World: Bharata Natyam on the Global Stage

Celluloid Classicism provides a rich and detailed history of two important modern South Indian cultural forms: Tamil Cinema and Bharatanaṭyam dance. It addresses representations of dance in the cinema from an interdisciplinary, critical-historical perspective. The intertwined and symbiotic histories of these forms have never received serious scholarly attention. For the most part, historians of South Indian cinema have noted the presence of song and dance sequences in films, but have not historicized them with reference to the simultaneous revival of dance culture among the middle-class in this region. In a parallel manner, historians of dance have excluded deliberations on the influence of cinema in the making of the “classical” forms of modern India. Although the book primarily focuses on the period between the late 1920s and 1950s, it also addresses the persistence of these mid-twentieth century cultural developments into the present. The book rethinks the history of Bharatanaṭyam in the twentieth century from an interdisciplinary, transmedia standpoint and features 130 archival images.

HARI KRISHNAN is associate professor of dance at Wesleyan University. His research interests span a range of topics, including queer subjectivities in South Asian and global dance performance, colonialism, post-colonialism and Indian dance, and the history of devadasi (courtesan) dance traditions in South India. He is also the artistic director of Toronto-based dance company inDANCE, and as an award winning dance-maker, is commissioned internationally for his bold and transgressive choreography.