Our films, their films: Some speculations on writing indian film history

Document Type

Book Chapter




Faculty of Education and Arts


School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Shoesmith, B. (2008). Our Films, Their Films: Some speculations on writing Indian film history. The SAGE Handbook of Film Studies, 74. Available here


When I first began writing about Indian cinema as an Australian film scholar in the1970s, there was very little material available. There was, it seemed, Erik Barnouw and S. Krishnaswamy's Indian Film (1963; 1980), A Pictorial History of Indian Cinema (1979), a chronicle by Firoze Rangoonwalla, and SatyajitRay's Our Films, Their Films(l976). 1 The major film journals carried very little -the odd review and comment about the size of the industry. On the few occasions that I was brave enough to present a paper at a conference I was greeted with incredulity. Australian colleagues were puzzled as to why I would want to talk about a cinema nobody knew anything about and probably never would, which was totally under-theorized and culturally inaccessible. Indian colleagues were puzzled about the reasons why I wanted to talk about what they regarded as 'rubbish', whilst they recounted in great detail the plot line of every individual film I put forward for discussion and corrected any error I made with a command of detail that daunted me. In short,writing about Indian cinema for a foreigner, a gora, has always been problematic.