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“Salaam Mumbai”: Pasts and Presents of Exchange and Collaboration Between Indian and Iranian Cinemas
May 6, 2022 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EDT
Dr. Claire Cooley is a postdoctoral fellow at Tufts University. Her research and teaching focus on film and media industries in the Global South, South-South media flows, Sound Studies, and Critical Infrastructure Studies. Her work has appeared in a range of publications including Film History, Jump Cut, and Spectator. Her current book project tells the interconnected history of cinema in the Middle East and South Asia from the turn of the 20th century to the 1960s.
With turns to transnational, regional, and similar frames in film studies, the first Persian language film The Lor Girl (1933) made in India in collaboration between Iranian expatriate Abdolhossein Sepanta and Parsi film studio owner Ardeshir Irani have been the subject of a flurry of recent scholarship. Facilitated also by the mere availability of The Lor Girl on YouTube, these studies have been helpful in expanding and challenging our definitions of Iranian Cinema and its geographies, genres, technologies, chronologies, and networks. Less attention has been paid, however, to Iranian-Indian co-productions Subah-O-Shaam (1972, dir. Tapi Chanakya) and Salaam Mumbai (2016, dir. Ghorban Mohamadpour). In this presentation, I draw on these films by Sepanta, Chanakya, and Mohamadpour to chart a history of interaction between Iranian and Indian film industries. In doing so, I will ask: what were the circumstances that led to the creation of these films? How can comparison of these films and the historical conjunctures of their production expand our conceptions of co-production? Why, despite the long history of exchange, have they been discursively constructed in promotional material and other texts in the amnesic language of firsts? Through consideration of these questions, I demonstrate how, despite the ahistorical framing of exchange, comparisons of The Lor Girl, Subah-O-Shaam, and Salaam Mumbai allow us to hear continuities across ruptures in film history, such as the 1979 Revolution in Iran and the Bollywoodization of Indian cinema.