For the earliest attempts in Malayalam cinema seeking to evolve a poetic aesthetic, the paradoxical relation toward urban modernity that emerged among the middle class by the middle of the twentieth century—defined by antagonism as well as fascination—operated as the axis around which new spectatorial relations could be maneuvered. This article takes up for discussion two Malayalam films from the mid-1950s—Newspaper Boy (dir. P. Ramadas, 1955) and Rarichan enna powran (Citizen Rarichan, dir. P. Bhaskaran, 1956)—as cinematic experiments in conceiving the urban space from two influential ideological positions, and as attempts in adapting to modernist idioms of international cinema. Modalities of imagining the urban space, the author argues, attained crucial historical significance in aesthetics and politics: it enabled the cultural producers to aesthetically situate the films within global cultures of cinema, thus invoking and molding the contemplative viewer; politically, these films mark the earliest attempts to conceive the region's relation to modernity through the grids of imagining the urban.
Jenson Joseph; Contemplative Spectator, Universal Art, Contingent Realities: Aesthetic Trajectories in Two Early “Art Films” In Malayalam. positions 1 February 2017; 25 (1): 125–144. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-3710365
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