Seeing Believing (Selected Writings on Cinema)

Seeing Believing (Selected Writings on Cinema)

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Book Specification

Item Code: IDC345
Author: Chidananda Das Gupta
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9780670082063
Pages: 304
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.9” X 5.8”

Book Description

From The Jacket
One of India’s most influential film critics and film historians, Chidananda Das Gupta has been writing in cinema since 1946. He been witness to and has written about almost every development in Indian cinema since Independence, including the film society movement which he initiated, the establishment of various institutions to facilities film-making like the FTII, the NFAI and the NFDC, the popularity of mainstream cinema and the rise of the New Indian Cinema, among others.

Seeing Is Believing brings together some of Chidananda Das Gupta’s finest writings on the subject of cinema over the last sixty years. In these highly informed and thought-provoking essays he addresses diverse themes like the origins and history of the parallel cinema in our country; the national film awards; the unique interface between politics and film in India; the portrayal of women, sex and violence in our films; and the quintessentially Indian contribution to movies – the song. The collection to includes definitive studies of the work of five of the nation’s finest film-makers – Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Adoor Gopalakrishnan ad Shyam Benegal.

Consistently erudite and engaging, Seeing Is Believing windows to the journey of Indian cinema over the last six decades.

About The Author
Chidananda Das Gupta, born in Shillong in 1921, co-founded the Calcutta Film Society when he was twenty-six. He has a lifelong involvement with the film society movement which influenced subsequent generations of Indian film-makers, critics and discerning film audiences. In 1960, he founded the Federation of Film Societies of India.

An authority on cinema, Chidananda Das Gupta has spoken on the subject at diverse forums and has written articles in various celebrated journals, including Cinemaya, Iconics and the British Films Institute’s Sight and Sound. He has been editor of the Indian Film Review and the Indian Film culture. He is the author of Talking about Films, The Painted Face: Studies in India’s Popular Cinema and The Cinema of Satyajit Ray and other books. He directed the acclaimed feature film Bilet Pherat (1972) and a number of documentaries, including Portrait of a City (1961) and The Dance of Shiva (1968). He was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Osian Film Festival, 2004.

Chidananda Das Gupta lives in Calcutta.

I wrote my first piece of film criticism sometime in 1946, a year before India’s independence, also a year before we started the Calcutta Film Society. Political independence and the beginnings of film appreciation are thus fused in my memory. Indeed there was more than a trace of messianic fervour in our attitude to film. A new cinema, we thought, would come inevitable with a new political life, and film would emerge as an art and a social force. A country like India, with its honeycomb of identities defined by language, religion and a host of other criteria, would need social engineering of some scale to weld itself into a nation, and cinema would be the ideal force to supply the motivation. Needless to say, cinema as it existed in colonial India failed to meet the requirements of the situation as we saw it. Nothing but a new cinema would suffice. The thoughts of the leaders of the country were not radically different from ours, for within four years of Independence the central government set up a high-powered Film Enquiry Committee in 1951 with a cabinet minister at its helm. The Committee concluded that ‘that film industry was incapable of reforming itself’ and proposed far-reaching changes through new institutions.

My own writing was inevitably coloured by these predilections. Cinema had been born in the industrialized West, I argued, and had achieved its heights there. The course of Indian cinema would be linked to industrialization in what was now predominantly an agricultural economy. The form Indian popular cinema had acquired was a distortion. It would correct itself as the country industrialized itself. For formal growth, we should look to the West, and for understanding the working of popular Indian cinema of the time we would have to take recourse to sociology.

By and large India’s art cinema has derived its inspiration from the west – America storytelling, Russian revolutionary innovations, Italian neorealism, French New Wave, and so on.

For a hundred years Bollywood has expressed, experimented with and explored social concerns affecting a country caught in the throes of change. This perception is far removed from the equation of popular cinema with pure entertainment. This book brings together many of my writings of this nature. Thus the chapter on cinema and politics (‘Cinema Takes Over the State’) analyses the unique way, unparalleled in the world, politicians have used cinema consciously and deliberately in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. It explains how this experience is deferent from that of Ronald Reagan in the United States. Social concerns have also paralleled the political throughout India. These are amply reflected in ‘Cinema Takes Over the State’, ‘Seeing Is Believing’, Why the Films Sing, and other chapters. Some of the films are so involved with social problems that it is hardly possible to describe them as entertainment. No wonder sociologists have been increasingly drawn into discussions on popular cinema. Indeed, their deliberations on social concerns of this cinema have been singularly unrelated to their artistic aspirations. It is odd to find that the so-called art cinema should wear social problems on its sleeve while pure entertainment should conceal its social concerns in a secret chamber of its heart.

Sixty years is a long time, and an active scribe can turn out a considerable amount of writing during this period. The problem is often one of making a representative selection. I am immensely grateful to Kalyan Ray for helping me in this task. Like many commentators on cinema Kalyan is a professor of English literature (I myself began life that way). I am no less indebted to Diya Kar Hazra of Penguin Books for steady interest in bringing this effort to fruition.


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Book Categories

Introduction vii
1. Of Margi and Desi: The Traditional Divide 1
2. Seeing Is Believing 24
3. Why The Films Sing 33
4. Cinema: The Realist Imperative 44
5. Woman, Non-Violence and Indian Cinema 57
6. Precursors of Unpopular Cinema: A Parallel View of Indian Film History 73
7. A Word on Awards 98
8. Film As Visual Anthropology 107
9. The Crisis in Film Studies 117
10. How Indian is Indian Cinema? 132
11. Cinema Takes Over The State 145
Notes on Five Directors
12. Satyajit Ray: I. The First Ten Years 193
II. Modernism and Mythicality 205
13. Ritwik Ghatak: Cinema, Marxism and the Mother Goddess 220
14. Adoor Gopalakrishnan: The Kerala Coconut 241
15. Mrinal Sen: Loose Cannon 250
16. Shyam Benegal: Official Biographies, Personal Cinema 266
Notes 280
copyright Acknowledgements 285
Index 286

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