Refuting the Expanded Cultural Critique: The Construction of Wajid Ali Shah’s Alterity

  • Reena Dube
Chapter
Part of the Language, Discourse, Society book series (LDS)

Abstract

Like the Bengali landlord in Jalsaghar, Wajid Ali Shah, the last Nawab of Awadh, is an overinscribed figure in colonialist and nationalist historiography. He is the referent of all Lakhnavi tall tales. In main-stream postcolonial films, folk tales, and popular memory he is cited for the high achievement in Awadhi culture.1 At the same time the figure of Wajid Ali Shah appears in these cultural texts as a figure of contradiction, teetering between perfection and ludicrousness.2 He is acknowledged as the patron of indigenous arts and crafts, a ruler in whose reign these knowledges and innovations achieved unparalleled excellence. Simultaneously he is held responsible for causing the defeat of the Muslim dynastic nawabs of Awadh in his hedonistic pursuit of pleasure. Thus the Manichean perception of Wajid in the popular imagination contains elements of the colonialist as well as nationalist critique.

Keywords

Europe Posit Arena Tempo Abate 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 3.
    Wajid Ali Shah was trained in classical music and was so talented that he innovated new raginis. See Abdul Halim Sharar, Lucknow: The Last Phase of an Oriental Culture, trans. and ed. E. S. Harcourt and Fakhir Hussain (1976) 138. Wajid Ali Shah’s penname was Akhtar under which nom de plume he wrote over forty works, mainly poetic compositions in various genres, and prose of a scholarly nature. He composed over four hundred thumris, or light classical compositions, under the name of Kadar Piya. Finally he is credited with innovating a style of the classical dance of North India, the Kathak dance.Google Scholar
  2. 6.
    Amaresh Misra, “Satyajit Ray’s Films: Precarious Social-Individual Balance”, Economic and Political Weekly (16–23 May 1992) 1053. For a more insightful analysis of the film see Suranjan Ganguly, “Poetry into Prose: The Rewriting of Oudh in Satyajit Ray’s The Chess Players”, Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Vol. 30, No. 2 (1995) 17–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 8.
    Andrew Robinson, Satyajit Ray: The Inner Eye (1989) 250;Google Scholar
  4. Ben Nyce, Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films (1988) 170.Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Gilles Deleuze, Cinema 2: The Time-Image, trans. Hugh Tomlinson and Robert Galeta, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press (1989) 216.Google Scholar
  6. 17.
    Third World cinema has also been referred to by some as “third cinema.” The term goes back to a conference held in 1986 in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, to debate the concept of Black and Third World films as third cinema. Out of this conference emerged an important collection of essays titled, Questions of Third Cinema, ed. Jim Pines and Paul Willemen (1989). The book made an important contribution to the ongoing theoretical and critical debate about third cinema in terms of the questions regarding oppositional critical practice, theory, and aesthetics posed by independent Black filmmakers and Third World films. Some of the issues raised are: (i) the nature and elitism of theories emerging from “Third World” film cultures; (ii) the validity of theoretical work based on Western critical traditions; (iii) the need to avoid essentialist paradigms in evaluating the processes of struggle against cultural imperialism; and (iv) critical evaluation of concepts such as ethnicity, nationalism, cultural nationalism, and populism versus globalism and cosmopolitanism. See also Gabriel H. Teshome, Third Cinema in the Third World (1982). While I am in broad sympathy with the project of third cinema and the theoretical issues raised by this debate, my own critical interest lies not only in the avowedly oppositional cinema text but equally in the mainstream and the popular cinematic text.Google Scholar
  7. 18.
    See Frederic Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society” in The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture, ed. Hal Foster (1983) 111–125.Google Scholar
  8. 29.
    Ben Nyce, Satyajit Ray: A Study of His Films (1988) 167.Google Scholar
  9. 30.
    Eisenstein advocates that film montage must proceed by alterations, conflicts, resolutions, and resonances so that the activity of selection and co-ordination gives rime its real dimension. See Sergei Eisenstein’s Film Form, trans. Jay Leyda (1949).Google Scholar
  10. 31.
    In strictly technical terms depth of field refers to the range of distances before the lens within which objects can be photographed in sharp focus. In other words depth of field controls perspective relations by choosing what will be in focus. See David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art: An Introduction (1993) 194. Deleuze explains that depth of field appears wholly necessary “in connection with memory” (109). It is the depth of field which substitutes the scene for the shot, the image ceases to be flat or double-faced, that is depth of field adds a third side to it (84–85).Google Scholar
  11. 34.
    Satyajit Ray, The Chess Players and Other Screenplays, ed. Andrew Robinson (1989) 39–40.Google Scholar
  12. 41.
    In Anti-Oedipus Deleuze and Guattari refer to the contradictory aspects of our subject construction in capitalism where “our intimate colonial education” works like a desiring-machine obeying “a binary law,” producing us as subjects and teaching us to desire our own repression, giving us faith and robbing us of our power and authenticity. These lessons are especially pointed for the postcolonial viewer who is born of this forked history and whose identity is a subject effect of the internalization of this disciplining. Deleuze and Guattari make the connection between this historical inscription of desire and the social reproduction of subjects, “social production is purely and simply desiring-production itself under determinate conditions …[social production] is the historically determined product of desire.” Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Robert Hurley et al. (1983) xx, 5, 29.Google Scholar
  13. 43.
    Bishop Heber in Bishop Heber in Northern India Selections from Heber’s Journal, ed. M. A. Laird (1971) 188.Google Scholar
  14. 50.
    Outram was no stranger to unmasking corruption in the native courts. Before Colonel James Outram was Chief Commissioner and Acting Resident of Lucknow he was British Resident at the court of Gaikwar in Baroda, Gujarat. The court gained notoriety for “chicanery and corruption” which, according to Cave Brown, was exposed by the “the dauntless Outram, the late Resident there.” Outram was nicknamed the “Bayard of the East” by Charles Napier (see John Cave Brown, Indian Infanticide: Its Origins, Progress, and Suppression (1857) 30).Google Scholar
  15. 53.
    Satyajit Ray, The Chess Players and Other Screenplays, op. cit., 44. My own interpretation of Ray’s Outram is strongly opposed to Ashish Nandy’s inference that, “Both Wajid and Outram are torn men” (Ashish Nandy, “Satyajit Ray’s Secret Guide to Exquisite Murders”, op. cit., 213). On the friendship between the nawabs of Awadh and the British residents, see Rosie Llewellyn-Jones, A Fatal Friendship: The Nawabs, the British and the City of Lucknow (1985).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Reena Dube 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reena Dube

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations