had acquired the status of the privileged form of representation of an industrialized, modernizing nation- state, and the means by which the key hegemonies informing the post-war and post-Swadeshi idea of a 'national' culture were expressed. The triumphant mercantile class of investors who replaced the studio system soon after the war also symbolized for directors like Raj Kapoor or Guru Dutt the state of a nation that specifically excluded their utopia. The conditions of the industry itself proved paradigmatic for the state of a nation reduced to a smash-and- grab fly-by-night cultural adventurism; but it also allowed, for the first time, a sense of Indian nationhood for which the epic melodrama acted as a cultural vanguard.
Choudhury, Ashim ( 1975), Private Economic Power in India.
Desai, A. R. ( 1948), Social Background of Indian Nationalism.
Report of the Indian Cinematograph Committee, 1927-8 ( 1928).
Rajadhyaksha, Ashish, and Willemen, Paul (eds.) ( 1994). The Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema.
Sivathamby, K. ( 1981), The Tamil Film as a Medium of Political Communication.
Chinese cinema before the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949 was not only pre-revolutionary but also post-colonial. Primary source histories, written with the constraints of either Chinese Communist Party or Kuomintang Nationalist orthodoxy, and later works derived from them, have stressed the former and downplayed the latter. Yet it was precisely this paradox that animated the celebrated canon of resistant films from the two 'golden ages' of the 1930s and 1940s, which are claimed as heritage by both the mainland and Taiwan-based governments.
Shanghai was the Chinese cinema capital throughout this period. The first film screening in China occurred there on 11 August 1896 as an 'act' on a variety show bill. A great cosmopolitan entrepôt at the mouth of the Yangtze, Shanghai's growth and development was entirely the outcome of China's reluctant encounter with the west and the 'modern'. It was at once on the outermost margins of east and west, and also the central nexus of exchange between them; the point where they met, clashed, intermingled, hybridized, and, above all else, traded.
From Shanghai, the foreign cameramen-showmen fanned out along the trade tributaries, bringing the cinema to the other major littoral cities and the imperial capital, Beijing, in 1902. Right up until 1949, the cinema flourished where foreign penetration was most complete, and foreign films and foreign distribution and exhibition networks dominated the industry. Initially, the Japanese (in Manchuria) and the Germans showed greater skill in penetrating the interior, but by the 1930s 90 per cent of product shown was foreign and 90 per cent of that American.
This utterly foreign pedigree positioned cinema as an exotic, rather expensive form of entertainment. Within the exhibition hierarchy, foreigners and cosmopolitan Chinese paid the most to see the latest foreign films and less well-off Chinese paid less to see older releases. It was in this lower echelon of marginal profitability that local production inserted itself in the 1910s and 1920s and planted the seeds for the remarkable hybrid that was to develop soon afterwards.
The Fengtai Photography Shop in Beijing became the unlikely home of China's first films, when its owners started to record local opera in 1905. However, they soon realized greater opportunity lay in Shanghai and moved there in 1909. Most Shanghai production companies in this initial period were joint ventures with foreigners, and it was only in 1916 that the Hui Xi Company became the first wholly Chinese concern.
Hui Xi's first effort, Wronged Ghosts in an Opium Den, does not survive, but the film was a notable success, still playing seven years later. An examination of its plot and the earliest surviving film, Romance of a Fruit Pedlar ( 1922), indicates affinity between the cinema and the 'mandarin duck and butterfly' vernacular literature that also boomed in the cities at this time. These melodramatic and sentimental tales dramatized the disjunctures and contradictions of life in the modern, westernized city. If they were tragedies, decline and misfortune were inexorable, but if they were comedies, the wondrous device of coincidence would intervene. The scion of a rich Confucian family would fall in love with a poor mill girl, incurring the wrath of his parents, but then a long-lost relative would die, bequeathing her a fortune.
In the case of Wronged Ghosts, a family is ruined by the quintessential symbol of western imperialism in China: opium. Romance of a Fruit Pedlar is a gentler comedy, presenting the efforts of a greengrocer to woo a doctor's daughter in the rough and tumble of an urban streetscape full of conmen and gambling dens. The film mimics Hollywood silent comedy with much mugging for the camera