Stills from Kaante and Chicago: Theme for academic discourse
The American dream is not always beautiful, as Kevin Spacey — or rather Lester Burnham of American Beauty — is testament to. And that was the topic of debate at a two-day seminar on ‘Contemporary Hollywood and globalisation’ at St Xavier’s College.
Organised by the mass communication department in association with the United States Educational Foundation of India at the college auditorium last weekend, the show was inaugurated by Father Mathew, principal, followed by a speech by Dr Sumit Mullick, regional officer of USEFI, a keynote address by the chief guest Ansu Sur and mixed media presentations created by the students.
At the plenary session, Father Gaston Roberge presented his views on ‘Globalisation: Birth of a Nation, Part II’. Globalisation, as we see it, is not a new phenomenon, he said, referring to the classic The Birth of a Nation (1915) by D.W. Griffith. While racism has been the issue showcased in many contemporary films, nowadays, it is terrorism that grabs more screen space.
Session I featured a talk by host students Abhinanda Mukherjee and Sweta Jaiswal on the characters of Charles F. Kane and Lester Burnham. The Citizen Kane star represents a successful man, insecure and unhappy despite having everything, still battling a strong “yearning to elope with memories of his childhood”. Lester, on the other hand, is in search of the elusive idea of “ultimate happiness”.
The presenters set out to prove that despite a generation gap between the characters, American values have not changed much.
The next speaker, taking a session on the “myth of the Great American Dream” was Somdatta Mondal of Visva Bharati University. Mondal felt that Hollywood has become a cultural icon for Americans, which for years has lured and fascinated them. Films, ranging from the Birth of a Nation to the recent musical Chicago, may aim to act as a social mirror, but fail in their attempts as they do not represent the American reality in its diversity, added Mondal.
In the day’s second session, Biren Das Sharma from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute spoke on the subject ‘Beyond the limits of the Body’ while Gopalan Mullick concentrated on the construction of ideas in Hollywood. Xaverians Meghdeep and Ritabhadra talked about the persistence of the Lonesome Westerner, who has lived beyond the demise of Westerns as a genre. The day ended with a screening of Malcolm X.
‘Americans, Africans and Hollywood’ was the first session of Day II, with Shamik Bandopadhyay discussing the stratified layers of their films.
The next session, on ‘The culture and images of paranoia’, started off with a talk by Bishan Samaddar on ‘9/11 and after: Reaffirming faith in the American system’, in the context of movies such as Signs. Venkatesh Chakaravorty, a film critic from Chennai, held forth on the reading of “class” in Hollywood, in the absence of the classical European forms of aristocracy, and multinational capitalism and global consumerism. A light interactive session chaired by filmmaker Ashok Vishwanathan explored the connection between Reservoir Dogs and Kaante. Emerging trends like animation and the impact of multiculturalism followed before a final session on “Hollywood and other cultures” moderated by Raju Raman of Max Mueller Bhavan.
— Harsh Vardhan Sonthalia,
St Xavier’s College
lStudents of mass communication from Symbiosis have organised a seminar-workshop on ‘Marketing Strategies of Alternative Cinema’ on February 27. The session, from 12 noon to 6 pm at Nandan III, includes talks by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Gautam Ghosh, Samik Bandopadhyay and Arijit Dutta, as well as a workshop conducted by Ashok Vishwanathan.
Writers on campus
Students of the Institute of Engineering and Management, Salt Lake, before they took the stage during their three-day annual fest that kicked off on Saturday. Picture by Pabitra Das
From R.K. Narayan to Manil Suri — Indian literature in English has considerably evolved over the past four decades. This was the theme for a seminar hosted by Presidency College English department on February 22. Professor P. Lal, in his inaugural speech, emphasised the role of women poets, reading extracts from Sarojini Naidu and many lesser-known poets. Makarand Paranjpe of Jawaharlal Nehru University delivered the Harendralal Memorial Basak Lecture on R.K. Narayan’s Guide and the connotation of the word ‘guru’ in the novel. He also focussed on the juxtaposition of humour and traditional belief in his works. His brilliant discourse enthralled the gathering and prompted the audience to raise a number of questions.
A panel discussion was held on the contribution of Bengal to Indian writing in English with Professor Tapati Gupta as moderator. Rosinka Chaudhari, Samir Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Chandreyee Niyogi and Prof Sudeshna Chakrabarti presented papers on works of luminaries such as Derozio and Rishi Aurobindo. However, novelist Amit Chaudhari stole the limelight along with Prof Krishna Sen, through an insightful and informal chat on present trends in Indian English literature, as well as speculating on its future. He was flooded with questions from the audience and he capped off the summit by answering queries on his work, the influence of Calcutta on his novels and the problems faced by an author.
Across the city, on February 17, an author returned to his alma mater. Kunal Basu read excerpts from his recently launched book, The Miniaturist, at a seminar organised by Jadavpur University’s film studies department. The ex-student of the mechanical engineering department interacted with students, responding to questions from all corners of the room.
Head of the department Sanjoy Mukhopadhyay — and an “old college friend” of Basu from their days in the mechanical engineering department — introduced the writer. “He belongs to the 70s generation of JU — an avant garde intellectual who from an engineering background went into films and literature,” said Mukhopadhyay of Basu.
— Aritro Ganguly
& Anisha Baksi
All for a song
The new English syllabus at Jadvapur University has introduced the concept of “reading” songs for their textual element. This concept was reversed when some of us were introduced to the concept of learning poetry through music. Lee-Alison Sibley conducted a workshop at Jadavpur University as part of a UGC sponsored refresher course for teachers on this new approach to poetry. The workshop covered three categories — poems that had been set to music, poems, which had been adapted for music and popular songs with a strong textual element.
In the first category, we were entranced by Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot, set to music by Lorreena McKennitt. Sibley emphasised the timeless appeal of poetry and music here, as a poem written in the Victorian Age was considered of enough relevance to be set to music by a Canadian composer of the 21st Century. With the help of the other poems, including Heart we will Forget Him by Emily Dickinson and Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, Sibley proved how music could be more effective than even the most powerful and evocative reading of the poem.
The second section Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman, adapted for music by Lorrena McKennitt and Richard Cory written by Edward Arlington Robinson and adapted for music by Paul Simon, we saw how some songs had been adapted to make a stronger impact. Finally the last section on ‘Poetry as Music’, a song from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night set to music by Thomas Morley, Suzanne by Leonard Cohen, and Mr. Tambourine Man by Bob Dylan proving once again the timeless link between music and poetry.
For the students, the workshop was informative as it shed light on non-conventional approaches to our subject.
— Sreejita Deb
Horizon 2003, the annual fest organised by the Institute of Business Management (IBM, affiliated to Jadavpur University) kicked off on February 22 at the Indoor Stadium, inaugurated by the chief guest, vice-chancellor A.N. Basu.
After a cultural show, a symposium on “Industrial vision of West Bengal – in the next decade” was held. The speakers were MLA Saugata Ray and Moloy Sengupta, chairman of Ferro Sicrap Ltd. Individual and industrial vision was the subject of his talk, while Prof. Suman Mukherjee, director of J.D. Birla Institute and Birla High School and former faculty of XLRI and IISWBM, spoke about social education and entrepreneurship.
“Is creativity in advertising alive'” was the question at the debate. Arijit Roy branch manager of Rediffusion DY&R and Priya Kumar, faculty of advertising at St Xavier’s College spoke for and against the motion. Then Mamonda took the stage. The non-teaching staff of IBM played the flute, while lab assistant Ashishda showed off his skills with recitation. In the evening, new Bangla band The Rain-Maker performed their originals.
Day II started off with a business quiz and antakshari, both bagged by the hosts. Arka, another upcoming rock act, belted out pop hits, followed by Sahar.
— Anisha Baksi