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Sengupta, Rakesh (2022) An Archaeology of Screenwriting in Indian Cinema, 1930s-1950s. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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The Euro-American scholarship on screenwriting has produced elaborate histories of the development of the screenplay form with reference to extensive archival collections of film scenarios and scripts. On the other hand, the archival absence of early Indian film scripts has largely invisibilised practices of screenwriting and retroactively contributed to stereotypical descriptions of Indian film industries as unorganised. As a process of imagination and marker of industrialisation, screenwriting is often privileged as the most cerebral, analytical and rational process of film production. The stark absence of screenwriting histories in film cultures of the Global South makes it the absent technique of non-Western cinemas. In the thesis, I critically engage with the archival absence as a heuristic to rethink South Asian screenwriting practices beyond the prescriptive model of manuals as well as Euro-American notions of screenwriting. It is an archaeological as well as a media archaeological project. As an archaeological investigation in the Foucauldian mould, it studies the contradictions of screenwriting practice and discourse in order to understand how perceptions of archival lack and technical backwardness vis- -vis screenwriting in India gained the currency of truth. As a media archaeological project, it collates a disparate and discontinuous cross-section of screenwriting artefacts, discourses and practices in the archival absence of a formally evolving pre-cinematic text. Despite its reliance on archival and ethnographic sources, my research does not attempt to construct a comprehensive, chronological history of screenwriting practices in Bengali and Bombay cinema. Instead, this critical history epistemically delinks screenwriting from universalist discourses, introduces regional specificities and cultural subjectivities, and presents an alternative non-linear model of film historiography beyond questions of archival absence and technical backwardness.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2022 16:34
Funders: Other

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