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Early Tamil Cinema With Deleuze: The Case Of Cintamani (1937)

Last few weeks had been quite hectic as I was trying to connect early Tamil cinema with Deleuze’s notions of movement-image. I was preparing a paper for Dr Stephen Hughes’ (SOAS) seminar on “Early Tamil Cinema” held in Chennai during Feb.17-18,2011. Working on this paper meant working against the “limit” of Deleuzean notions contained in his Cinema I and II books, as pointed out by David Martin Jones. David Martin Jones’ “Towards Another ‘-Image’: Deleuze, Narrative Time and Popular Indian Cinema,” (Deleuze Studies 2 (1) 25-48) points to the limitation of the supposedly eurocentric approach of Deleuze’s Cinema I and II books in examining the case of Indian cinema. Says he while concluding his paper, Popular Indian cinema’s plane of organisation is decidedly less linear in its reterritorialisation of the plane of consistency than the movementimage, especially in its Hollywood action-image form. Instead, it reterritorialises as a non-Aristotelian narrative of sequential episodes, a masala-image. For this reason it often appears closer to the time-image in places, even though it also bears a close affinity to the movementimage. It is characterised by a dual movement, a movement of world on the one hand, and a sensory-motor movement of characters on the other. These alternately mesh and unmesh as the narrative haltingly progresses through a series of spectacles, facilitating the exploration of different possible identities in various historical contexts.

I am of the view that David Martin Jones’ conclusion is probably flawed as he was tied to the flawed notion of “cinema of interruptions” by Lalitha Gopalan, among other things (such as his sample of films which can not be considered representative even in the case of the so called ‘bollywood’)

My analysis of one of the early Tamil films, Cintamani (1937), proves amply clear that Deleuze’s notions can be applied gainfully in the contexts of Indian cinemas.

Here is one gleaning from my paper in the making entitled “Singing Bodies and “Movement Images” in Early Tamil Films: A Deleuzian Perspective.”

“This scene occurs at 2:31:16 and deals with a rich depository of alternating perception images, action images and affection images as a Deleuzian montage. The scene opens as a long shot, typical of Deleuze’s perception images, of a street junction wherein people, sellers and a shepherd pass through. This is what Deleuze calls as the perception of the objective, total and diffused. What follows shortly thereafter is the subtracted slice of the subjective perception, where at a distance we see three familiar characters, Manoharan, Chetty and Meenakshi. The subtraction works at two levels, at the visual level, the long shot persists, but the aural dimension of the subtracted perception is made to come closer to us. Thereafter, we are shown the three at close quarters and find Meenakshi narrating her family’s plight. Here the action image takes over as the long form SAS. The situation unfolds even as the affection image of Cintamani enters the scene as the singing body. Here we do not see the typical close ups associated with the films analysed by Deleuze as examples of affection images. The affective qualities of the song serves as the reflective face of Cintamani. When Cintamani joins the group of three, the action image moves to its second phase. Manoharan makes possible the action and advises the gathered people about the losses he suffered because of his association with a dasi like Cintamani. Even before it gets over, simultaneously, we are shown the closeup shots of Meenakshi and Chetty as affection images. Thereafter, the affection image made possible by Chetty’s song follows. This is followed by another song by Cintamani which works as the affection image. The scene ends the way it started as the perception image in long shot, albeit with the voice of Cintamani as the aural version of another affection image.”

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