January, February, March 2019
Bollywood as National(ist) Cinema
-Jerry Pinto

I have come to realize that we are all the same, all of us here—our interests, our political stances, our take on the nation—so we are pretty much talking to one another, which is a bit of a problem. But it is not as much of a problem as what I witnessed at the Kumaon Literary Festival where there was an attempt to bring together various viewpoints through a debate on nationalism. So there was Hindol Sengupta who represented a certain version of nationalism; there was Tarun Vijay who is a spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party and therefore must assume certain attitudes; and there was my ex-student Rana Ayyub who has written and self-published  Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover-Up .
  The problem is simple: Do we preach to the converted or shout at the unhearing?
  In about 10 minutes, the debate had degenerated into a shouting match and it was quite obvious that nobody had anything to say to anybody else. And that no one was listening. This is the real source of terror, the real source of our problem: we have not been able to maintain a space for dialogue, for listening and receiving. We have relied too long on the academy as the space for the formation of history. History is being made right now, today, in newsrooms across the country. History is being made on television which can be scary, since truth is often the first casualty of TRPs.
  But that’s not what’s terrifying. What’s terrifying is that history is being made by the twitterati, in editing studios where soundtracks are overlaid on recorded events. That distorted reality is then widely circulated. And since we are now in a space where we only hear and believe what we want to hear and believe, the correctives are ignored.
  The old formula for instant history, over the last 50 years of our society used to be: ‘I read it in the newspapers.’ As journalists, we were aware that we were responsible for the making of history. Then it became ‘I saw it on television’. Large corporations know they could be sued and so they try and be as seemly as possible. But what about the independent troll who puts out a video that goes viral? ‘I saw it on Twitter,’ say his followers and the result is that history is made by those who have a desire to represent not what happened but what they think happened. They know they are biased. In fact, they are proud of these biases. And they are prouder still of introducing these biases into their work.
  And then there is the other narrative. We also learn about our history from extramural sources, from what we hear outside the world of academia for the history textbooks are easily forgotten. The world is very clearly divided into people who remember what they studied in school—that’s 1 per cent of the universe—and the rest who forget.
  I know you believe that you remember what you studied. But should I ask you what the cosine of an angle is or what (a+b) raised to the power of three is equal to—you would look at me blankly. It is no less shocking that you should not remember a binomial expansion than it is that you should not remember who Tipu Sultan was. As History teachers, you may have a greater investment in Tipu Sultan—but Mathematics is a modality of engagement with logic—if that slips you by, then logic slips you by. Because up to that time, the only thing allowing you to think about logic is the mathematics that is taught without logic. If you do not remember that Lithium has a valency of 1 or 2 and so you do not know whether Lithium Carbonate is LiCO or Li 2 CO 3  how have you excused yourself? How have you said that they should all remember their History—but it is okay for me to forget my Chemistry? Or to forget my Mathematics? Are we guilty of prioritizing certain forms of knowledge? Perhaps we do it unknowingly but here it is: They should know their History but I can forget my Botany.
  Why is it that after so many years of education in school, most Indian school children are unable to write a simple letter? I have two young neighbours. One went to medical college and became a pathologist—which means she not only did a medical degree but also went on to do her MD. And the other is an engineer and teaches in an engineering college. Recently he had to write a letter to his principal, requesting for a day’s leave to get a visa. But he could not write that letter, so he came to me. If an engineering professor cannot write a leave application, we should acknowledge that our system is a failure...
Here's your mic...
While India stands on the verge of the establishment of a Bharatiya Shiksha Board , it might be timely to take a look at Jerry Pinto’s ‘Bollywood as National(ist Cinema)’ for a take on subtle(r) yet potent forms of promulgating ideology.

From the evolving ideas and demands of the ‘nation’ as reflected in popular hindi cinema and Bollywood’s function in shaping the ‘right’ kind of citizen, to what decides the route a narrative takes–Pinto covers a wide range of ideas as he traverses newer spaces of history ‘production’.

As regular practitioners of the formidable task of teaching history to adolescents, what do you think?
How do you perceive the power of popular media in shaping mindsets? What is your opinion on Pinto’s argument on the limitations of learning in our school system?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on any aspect of this talk that interests you.

Let the adda begin!

To join the discussion group , log in to your History for Peace account. Not a member yet? Sign-up here.
What could Kuch Kuch Hota Hai , globalization, Jodha Akbar and 'love jihad' possibly have to do with each other? To find out, click here and here .
We bring you a Resource Window !
D ear T eachers ,
 Film's potential as an educational tool cannot be stressed enough. While we're definitely with Scorsese on this one, we also know what your schedules are like (yes syllabi clamps, mandatory administrative responsibilities and unending piles of answer sheets, we see you).

So this new year, we set ourselves a resolution we fully intend to fulfil. Scouring the maze that is the worldwide web, we've curated for you a window into varied material to get you going.

Not convinced? No need to simply take us at our word, here's an article three of your peers penned down about their take on the practical usage of films in the classroom.

The responsibility of the teacher(of history particularly, many argue) goes far beyond classrooms and school syllabi. How does the student perceive the world around them? What is their attitude to difference ?

Teaching Tolerance translated this concern to a compact body of 'film kits' on issues of social justice, available for all here .

Journeys in Film has been working for more than a decade on using film to bring critical issues to the forefront. From lighthearted fictional personal stories of feisty geriatric Holocaust survivors to those that highlight the political biases which often determine what narratives qualify as 'history', their curriculum guides cover a wide range of popular cinema.

While this pool of resources is focused on racism and is somewhat USA-centric, the National Council of Teachers of English has an excellent list of resources reflecting their belief: There is No Apolitical Classroom.

An initiative to promote film education within curriculum, Film Education lists a thought-provoking, comprehensive set of questions to keep in mind when designing discussions around films (feature films, documentaries, newsreel, et al.).
Note: Now that you've (hopefully) taken a look into (or is it out?) our resource window , mail us at [email protected] to tell us what you think/how you feel about our new year resolution. Looking forward.
' N ow more than ever we need to talk to each other, to listen to each other and understand how we see the world, and cinema is the best medium for doing this.'

-Martin Scorsese

(attempting at trendiness is a close second new year resolution)
A Kolkata-based travelling cinema that takes films about children and young adults to children and young adults. They also do school visits on invitation.

Sounds interesting? Learn more here .
Attention IB teachers!
The Film Foundation (USA) has put together 'Democracy on Film'- an eight module curriculum titled Portraits of America: Democracy on Film , available for free distribution.
Scroll down this page to contact them for your copies.
Notice any common thread running through the contents of the resource window aside from overall theme, intent and choice of medium?
Well we did. Glaringly visible in its absence was local or Indian content on film as education resource.
On that note, we'd like to announce a call for submission of lesson plans and ideas around the theme of film as educational resource.
Write to us at [email protected]
We gladly welcome links to any existing resources closer home that we may have missed.

We're happy to announce that our H istory f or P eace project will be launched in Chandigarh with a two day conference on 3 & 4 May 2019 . The speakers include Prof. Romila Thapar and Prof Krishna Kumar amongst others. Details and full programme will be shared very soon.

The annual conference in Calcutta will be held this year on 26, 27 & 28 July . Mark your calendars today!
A l ittle o f t his an d t ha t
The worldwide web is dark and full of terrors someone famously said. Or thereabouts.
In our traipses around it we found you some related, not so terrifying food for thought. We present to you a poem featuring Shammi Kapoor , a bunch of Hollywood flicks from the '30s and a classroom experiment , in no particular order.
How dark could it get?