Book: Grammar of the Cinematic Image, Rokhsar Vakharia

Flap text of the book

My question: does the cinematic image have a grammar? My hypothesis: that which is rejected leaves an indelible mark on what is selected. In exploring what makes the cinematic image ‘irreal’ (critical to both, the question and the hypothesis) an analysis of the film Yuva shows how the image is constructed on the basis of an infinite oscillation between presence and absence because each is marked by a trace of the other. In the cinematic image the trace reconstructs the notion of spectral time as the link between real time and filmic time crucial to creating the illusion of visual narrative coherence. Further, through an analysis of the film Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. I explore another relationship – between consumers in an advanced capitalist society. This relationship is mediated by images. The image now becomes a heterotopic site par excellence in the interface between consumer and image. The image is the extended space that was once the domain of the commodity. As an extended space it has become a heterotopic site characterized by excessive functionality wherein the most important function is not for it to be put to use as much as it is to be possessed.

Short self-introduction

I am currently in the final year of my PhD. and my area of work is Semiotics, from within the discipline of Sociology. My topic is ‘A Sociological Investigation of the Film Studio: Images, Networks and the System of Production’.

Situated at the intersection of Semiotics and the Sociology of Science my work takes me into the editing studios of commercial Hindi cinema (Bollywood) to understand the construction of the object that is the cinematic image. My ethnography, situated on the inside, looks at the interaction between five key players – the Director, Editor, the raw footage, the script and the editing table. What I have is two human and three non-human actors, each with a voice of their own, in intense debate on what it is that is being constructed. My point of departure is the dismembered and fragmented form that enters the studio as raw material and from here on how the visual is actually made.

In my book ‘Grammar of the Cinematic Image: A Sociological Investigation of the Irreal’ in exploring what makes the cinematic image ‘irreal’, I look at how in the juxtaposition of different elements crucial to narrative sequencing there is a systematic break-down in the presumed mimetic relationship between cinema and reality. The notion of ‘presence’ has been looked at as critical to this break and the notion of absence is dealt with as vital to welding the camera image to the narrative.

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