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Talking about cinema

montage: LIFE, POLITICS, CINEMA By Mrinal Sen, Seagull, Rs 1,200

This is a substantial collection of writings and interviews by Sen, who has been making films since the mid-Fifties. There are excellent photographs by Subhash Nandy, and the Bengali pieces are lucidly translated by Sunandini Banerjee. The book is also beautifully designed. Every page is a testimony to Sen’s intellectual agility. He also seems to enjoy being interviewed, talking at length about his own films. Nietzsche, Antonioni, Ray, the Marxist film theorists — Sen’s conversation freely skates across an eclectic intellectual range. The early Antonioni — of La Notte and L’Eclisse — is an abiding presence, as is the long shadow cast by Ray. The former must be an influence on Sen’s “international urbanity”, which his films try to reflect. But the very wordiness of this book — all this reading, viewing and talking — does make one wonder about the extent to which the quality of his films does justice to the intellectual and political ardour which seems to have gone into their making

Not worth the trees

Reflections on Meta- Reality; Meta-Reality; and From Science to Emancipation By Roy Bhaskar, Sage, Rs 495, Rs 695 and Rs 630 respectively

Leopards don’t change their spots. But philosophers do. Time was when Roy Bhaskar used to write for a journal called New Left Review, known for its advocacy of what one of its founders, Perry Anderson, called “Western Marxism”. Bhaskar’s approach to the philosophy of science then bore distinct traces of Marxist influence and if memory serves one right, one of his first books was published by New Left Books or its subsequent incarnation, Verso. If these three books are any indication, Bhaskar would rather forget that past. He is now engaged in what he calls “a philosophy for the present”, which he passes off as Meta-Reality. This is a bizarre kedgeree of various disparate philosophical traditions from the Vedanta to post-modernism. The net result is a lot of hocus-pocus pretending to be philosophy. It is a pity that so many trees have to be cut to produce the paper on which The Bhaskar Series is printed.

Some call it a Mutiny

THE INDIAN MUTINY 1857 By SAUL DAVID, Allen Lane, £ 20

One doesn’t know what to despair about more: the fact that a book such as this came to be written or the fact that it has been published by as distinguished a publishing house as Allen Lane. Most people will choose the latter since anybody has the freedom to write whatever he wants, but publishing houses are supposed to use discretion in what they print. Allen Lane has shown that on this matter it had little discretion, less knowledge and probably no proper refereeing system in place on matters concerning Indian history. From John Kaye in the 19th century to Christopher Hibbert (an Allen Lane) author in the 20th, the great rebellion of 1857 has been well-covered. David’s book in no way adds to this. He is hopelessly out of date with modern research. The fact that he insists on calling the event a Mutiny and concentrates on the sepoys only shows this. He lists the works of Eric Stokes, Tom Metcalf, Rudrangshu Mukherjee and Tapti Roy in the bibliography, but there is no engagement with their analyses. If this is revisionist history, then it is not clear what David is revising. He is merely rehashing what Kaye did, and did much better.

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