The Security Aesthetic in Bollywood’s High-Rise Horror
Prof. Bishnupriya Ghosh, Department of English, UCSB
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
UCLA 10383 Bunche Hall
My talk considers the cinematic practice of spectral materialism in commercial Bollywood horror inaugurated by Bollywood virtuoso Ram Gopal Varma’s horror oeuvre (Bhoot 2003, Vaastu Shastra, 2004 and Phoonk, 2008). I focus on a constellation of films that circle the problem of recalcitrant squatters who return in spectral form to haunt the new residents of spanking new apartments in globalizing India. I argue that the immersive experience of horror activates a latent spectral sense of subaltern life-worlds “unhomely” to bourgeois elites ensconced in their luxury enclaves. Luxury home ownership is the hallmark of an elite cosmopolitanism; in the wake of frantic overdevelopment, of unpopulated gated communities and a surfeit of temporarily leased properties, we have witnessed the mushrooming of vast shadow cities (slums, temporary shelters, makeshift hovels). The bourgeoisie live in fear of the squatter or the evicted whose furtive presence registers on surveillance technologies (motion detectors, alarms, CCTV) mounted to secure property. If the global is now a spectral sense arising from the quotidian “technological unconscious” (as Nigel Thrift argues), then the cinema I theorize here re-establishes living continuities with those environments that the new apartment-owners perceive as (ideally) remote from quiet residential areas—far indeed, in the recesses of a congested “developing” world.
Bio: With a doctorate from Northwestern University, Bishnupriya Ghosh is Professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she teaches postcolonial theory and global media studies. Much of her scholarly work interrogates the relations between the global and the postcolonial; area studies and transnational cultural studies; popular, mass, and elite cultures. While publishing essays on literary, cinematic, and visual culture in several collections and journals such as boundary 2, Journal of Postcolonial Studies, Public Culture and Screen, in her first two books, Ghosh focused on contemporary elite and popular cultures of globalization. When Borne Across: Literary Cosmopolitics in the Contemporary Indian Novel (Rutgers UP, 2004) addressed the dialectical relations between emerging global markets and literatures reflexively marked as “postcolonial,” and Global Icons: Apertures to the Popular (Duke UP, 2011) turned to visual popular culture as it constitutes the global. Research is underway for a third monograph, The Unhomely Sense: Spectral Cinemas of Globalization that tracks the relations between globalization and cinematic/post-cinematic images.
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Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia