By charting a genealogy of prem nagar in this article, from its literary antecedents through its cinematic iterations, the author shows that the referent for prem nagar in film songs is derived from a generalized experience of transit to and within the modern-industrial city on the one hand, and from the anticipations of romantic love in urban spaces, on the other; and, that the experience of popular cinema becomes inextricable from both. In other words, as Hindustani film songs incorporated the premodern, pastoral literary trope of prem nagar, this trope—the city of love—became reconfigured as an epithet for the romantic pleasure spaces of motion pictures and the milieu of urban life in which cinema was embedded. Those in search of the contemporary city of love (and the author will show that the prem nagar enters cinema as an ephemeral, miragelike destination for seekers who remain in perpetual transit) emerge as a collective of cinephiles, who are willfully entranced by the repetitious, rapturous songs—the seductive pleasures and utopian dreams—of Hindi popular cinema.
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Research Article| February 01 2017
Samhita Sunya; Moving toward prem Nagar: An Intimate Genealogy of the “City of Love” And the Lyrical Worlds of Hindustani Film Songs. positions 1 February 2017; 25 (1): 51–99. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-3710341
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