In India, ‘independent documentary film’ is a term that signifies a body of films that first appeared in 1975 during the Constitutional Emergency, a period when the repressive exercise of state authority threatened the democratic political foundations of the nation. The initial usage of the term ‘independent’ to denote a production category located outside of state structures is now a misnomer. In the post-economic reform landscape, independent filmmakers operate with greater flexibility and various interdependent and mutually cooperative forms of organisation between filmmakers, the state, international and domestic NGOs, private institutions and individuals are commonplace. My attempt here is to construct an ongoing critical dialogue between broader concepts of documentary studies and the situated perspectives that emerge from individual accounts and the analysis of films produced and circulated using diverse modes and architectures. Emphasising the historical significance of documentary as a space of oppositional representation, the accounts produce a grounded theory of independence structured in relation to institutions, industry practices, individual subjectivities and technology in post-reform India. Combining the study of independent film practice and textual analysis, the mixed methods study investigates how independent Indian documentary is a practice that not only produces political representation but opens up new material relations between culture, society and the individual.
Keywords: Cultural production, symbolic capital, independent film, relational, neoliberal, enterprise culture, practice theory, Bourdieu, Michel de Certeau, Anand Patwardhan, grounded theory, minor practices
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