From Rajahs and Yogis to Gandhi and Beyond

Images of India in International Films of the Twentieth Century

Vijaya Mulay


6 x 9 inches, 554pp, 20 halftones. 2009

ISBN : 9781905422951 & 9781905422968

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Brahmins named Iftikar, Buddhist rites in Hindu Shiva temples, Indian maidens dressed like Arabian harem girls-right from the birth of cinema, international movies have been wildly inventive in their fantastical imagining of India. In fact, images of India in these films have always said more about the filmmakers than they have about India.


From the early twentieth century, when India was imagined as the fabulous, exotic, oriental Other, site for all sorts of fantasies; to the imperial and colonial mindset of the middle decades of the twentieth century; to postcolonial films and auteurs like Jean Renoir and Louis Malle who genuinely strove to understand a different culture and its values; to the globalized worldview with which the century ended—India as seen on the international screen has changed in intriguing ways, as this pioneering study describes and analyses.


Allowing us access to rare short films from the 1900s, British Durbar films, the precursors of the news-reel genre, and Empire adventure movies, this book also explores Melies, Lumiere, Louis Malle and Jean Renoir, moving on to the Raj films of the 1980s and international cinema of the late twentieth century. In the process, a wide range of movies is examined and discussed, and a trajectory of changing images of India abroad is traced over the course of the last century. 

Vijaya Mulay has been closely involved with the growth of cinema in India. A pioneer of the film society movement (she was the first joint secretary of the Federation of Film Societies of India), she has served on the Central Board of Film Censors, helped introduce educational film and TV through SITE and UGC, taught film appreciation at FTII and even made documentary films herself. She has been an active participant in the Indian cinema scene since the 1940s.


Film Theory
Culture Studies