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About this book

This book asserts the existence of the "Eastern" as an analytically significant genre of film. Positioned in counterpoint to the Western, the famed cowboy genre of the American frontier, the “Eastern” encompasses films that depict the eastern and southern frontiers of Euro-American expansion. Examining six films in particular—Gunga Din (1939), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Heat and Dust (1983), A Passage to India (1984), Indochine (1992), and The English Patient (1996)—the author explores the duality of the "Eastern" as both assertive and seductive, depicting conquest and romance at the same time. In juxtaposing these two elements, the book seeks to reveal the double process by which the “Eastern” both diminishes the "East" and Global South and reinforces ignorance about these regions’ histories and complexity, thereby setting the stage for ever-escalating political aggression.

Table of Contents

Frontmatter

Chapter 1. Introduction

Abstract
The study connects films featuring the East, many of them based on literary texts, to the historical passing of world cultural dominion of the Anglophone world, from Britain to the United States. The study pays attention to the role and representation of the East in this process. The East as, Edward Said has said, is the site of Europe’s oldest and richest colonies and among other things, the twentieth century has seen radical changes in its relationship to the rest. How do the prominent image makers of the twentieth century, Hollywood and its British twin, Pinewood, reflect this process?
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 2. The Western and the Eastern

Abstract
The first chapter examines the genesis of the “Eastern” in relation to the “Western.” Looking at the progress of the “Western,” the chapter identifies elements that might have been co-opted into the “Eastern.” The relation of historical event to film narratives, an emerging paradigm consisting of the “Western” hero, the American landscape, the development of background soundtracks to indicate the nature of the foe, the impersonation of “natives” by mainstream actors, the shifting role of the Wild West, all have their counterpart in the Eastern, which this chapter outlines. Postcolonial theory is brought to bear in examining the new “orientalism” whereby the new East is constructed by filmmakers building on earlier centuries’ travel tales and colonizing narratives and discourses discussed by Said. A related question emerging from theory is how film as a medium deflects and problematizes the hegemonic gaze by suggesting alternative modes of viewing. How does the film medium manifest the “forked” tongue in Home Bhabha’s terms of colonial cinema? The agency of the other, the Eastern subject is explored through concepts such as mimicry. At the same time, subaltern theory enables us to recognize the silences of the eastern subaltern.
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 3. Treasure and Thugs: The East as Mystery and Disorder

Abstract
The Moonstone (1868) and Gunga Din (1892) were both written in the heyday of Empire and first filmed when that Empire was still in place, albeit threatened by World War. The Moonstone was the first detective novel that drew upon colonial mysteries for suspense. It depicted the East as a sinister mystery seen in the domestic framework of the English country home. Kipling’s Gunga Din, is of the same broad period of Victorian hegemony. However, by that time, the perceived roguery of East India company fortune hunters was replaced by the Crown. The film adaptions of both novels give cinematic mileage to the East as a place of mystery, violence, lawlessness, superstitious madness, and inscrutability. Its religion is shown as bizarre and corrupt and violent, and its subalterns are loyal to the colonizer rather than their own leaders.
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 4. The Eastern Desert and the Lone Hero

Abstract
This chapter yokes together a sixties film and a nineties film, Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The English Patient (1996), based on texts nearly seventy years apart (the former, Seven Pillars of Wisdom (1926) and the latter, Michael Ondaatje’s novel of the same name (1992). Both films feature the initially disinterested, hard-bitten hero in the adventure travel film who is transformed by love—one for a people, another for a woman. Both feature the desert as a theater for the lone adventure hero, similar to the Wild West. In one the figure is located in the military, in the other unprotected by military. Both films feature the hero bonding with Arabs: Lawrence unifies Arab tribes; Almassy communicates easily with them and is helped by the Bedouin. The Arab is constructed in specific ways: loyal, warring, tribal, but undoubtedly the other in both films. Ondaatje’s novel, unlike the other, features a love interest. In the desert the character is at home—seen in his knowledge of the language, his navigating of sandstorms and the danger of desert; in this the films capture the romance of the old traveler’s tale.
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 5. The Colonial Gaze, Modernism, and the Trauma of the Tropics

Abstract
In the novels Passage to India (1924) and A Handful of Dust (1938), modernism’s encounter with tropical entropy, environmental danger, and existential nightmare is typified in the European man/woman’s encounter with the East. Film versions of these novels were made in the eighties and nineties. This chapter reads these novels and their film adaptations to explore the role of the tropics and its construction as discourse in the crisis of modernity. Both E.M. Forster and Evelyn Waugh are modernists concerned with the journey into the proverbial heart of darkness. The liberal agnostic Forster and the Anglo-Catholic Waugh betray their specific biases in what they locate in other spaces. This chapter focuses on entropic spaces, be they the Marabar caves in India or the Kaieteur falls in Guyana. This chapter asks, what is the colonial gaze of the tropics and what is insertion into a modernist consciousness?
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 6. The East and Love in the Time of Decolonization

Abstract
Indochine (1992) and Heat and Dust (1983) depict the East as love, foregrounding interracial connection, as in Graham Greene’s The Quiet American (1955). Points of comparison are Princely India/French plantocracy; a woman who crosses over; forbidden love; fugitives; an allegory of racial connections; the East being a place to explore love between colonizer and colonized; power, sexuality, and desire, all prohibited in the home; and the white woman in the tropics living out her fantasy of sensuality. After looking at the lone male pioneer and the disintegrating couple, in the last chapters, the scene now shifts to women. The East was a place where the white woman had an overdetermined position, as a memsahib, often seen as more close-minded than her husband. In these two films made in the period after the Vietnam War, the colonial woman in the tropics is at center stage.
Nalini Natarajan

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Abstract
The conclusion reads three films made in the new millennium, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011), Bride and Prejudice (2004), and Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (2004). In examining Salmon Fishing in Yemen, this chapter asks how global culture informs the film, through the portrayal of new economies, the war in the Middle East, and the different representations of the Arab world, infused both by oil issues and terrorism. The film is thereby compared to Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and The English Patient (1996), referring to the role of desert in the oriental film imaginary, as discussed in Chapter 2. The chapter goes on to examine how the global hotel industry, the south Asian marriage market, and love and courtship in the age of globalization inform Bride and Prejudice. Finally, in Dirty Dancing, the theme of dance as a marker of modernity and the opposition between country club culture versus Latin urban couple dance/club culture are investigated against the background of Castro’s revolution in Cuba.
Nalini Natarajan

Correction to: Romance and Power in the Hollywood Eastern

Nalini Natarajan

Backmatter

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