Indian Film Noir
Indian Film Noir
Any responsible claim for the existence of Indian film noir must waver with critical uncertainty. Nevertheless, while crime stories, as elsewhere, have been an unsurprisingly common component of Indian popular cinema, contemporary critics have, if only in passing, increasingly attributed a ‘darker’ aspect to a portion of India’s vast corpus of films, thereby affiliating these recently retrieved examples with Hollywood and other commercial national cinemas, in effect constructing a comparative perspective that retrospectively ‘corrects’ the absence of popular Indian cinema from most historical accounts of world cinema until the 1990s. A cycle of popular Hindi films, almost all set in (then) contemporary Bombay, regularly featured many of the characteristic elements of Hollywood film noir, including heroes (most consistently embodied throughout the period by the suave star Dev Anand) who skirt the border of legal and illegal activity; like their counterparts in American film noir, these are men who are streetwise but can confidentially negotiate swanky nightclubs featuring alluring femmes fatale (often explicitly Westernized through signifiers such as clothing, smoking, and the use of English) as well as the semi-illicit temptations of alcohol and gambling. Even somewhat earlier, since the mid-1970s, representations of Bombay’s criminal underworld and the glamorous if doomed lives of gangland ‘dons’ and ‘goondas’ (gangsters) had become staples of Hindi cinema. The latter half of the decade was especially dominated by a series of films featuring superstar Amitabh Bachchan in his wildly popular ‘angry young man’ persona.
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