This article investigates the indigenization of cinema, from production to reception, within the broader social, political, and cultural domain of early- to mid-twentieth-century East Bengal/Pakistan. As an attempt to fill certain gaps in South Asian film studies, Raju’s essay locates the early encounters of the East Bengal population with film through multiple public spheres. Raju demonstrates how cinema was a site of contest between various social groups from the 1900s through the 1960s in East Bengal. He challenges the dominant mode of nationalist, empirical-teleological historiography to interpret the absorption of cinema in the East Bengali cultural milieu. He further argues that the cultural adoption of the film medium may be seen through overlapping public spheres for different publics during the first six decades of the twentieth century in East Bengal, where and when the nationhood was always in mutation. This article thus elaborates how colonial rulers, non-Bengalis, as well as Bengali Muslims of colonial East Bengal appropriated cinema in different ways and later in postcolonial East Pakistan how both urban and rural Bengali Muslims indigenized film to construct their preferred identities. It identifies such events related to appropriation of cinema as and within various public spheres: from transnational and colonial to cultural-national and rural-vernacular. In this way Raju attempts to understand the specific processes of cultural appropriation of cinema, a Western technological medium in a largely Islamic and agrarian society of South Asia.

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