Defreezing Notions of the Indian Mythological

  • T. Vishnu Vardhan


Stories from the Indian epics, especially the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha, were the initial narrative sources for filmmaking in India. These films, popularly known as mythologicals, played a decisive role in establishing the Indian film industries in the silent, as well as sound, eras. In the period between the making of the first Indian silent mythological film Raja Harishchandra (D.G. Phalke, India, 1913) and 1919, 25 films were produced in India and most of them were mythologicals. However, by the 1940s, the pan-Indian popularity of mythologicals declined and they continued as low-budget films, circulating at the margins of the Hindi cinema exhibition sector until the 1980s. Despite the national death of the mythological, Madras emerged as a major film industrial base with mythologicals as a dominant genre after the advent of sound in 1931. This popularity of the mythological in South India was much criticized by the ‘literary public’, but they continued to circulate as a dominant genre, unlike in other Indian regional cinemas. More specifically, the mythological had a rather long and significant presence in Telugu cinema as it remained a commercially viable genre until as late as 1980.1 Given the significance of the mythological in the history of Indian film culture, it is a matter of concern that this genre has neither been adequately historicized nor critically commented on by most of the histories and critical writings on Indian cinema until recently.


National Form Cultural Form Film Industry Indian Film Religious Sensibility 
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© T. Vishnu Vardhan 2011

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  • T. Vishnu Vardhan

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