Changes between Version 15 and Version 16 of Rebellious Tapori by Ranjani Mazumdar


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Jan 7, 2013, 8:19:41 PM (6 years ago)
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mingdom
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  • Rebellious Tapori by Ranjani Mazumdar

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    6 If a simmering rage drove the “angry man” and the “psychotic” in their explorations of the city, then the tapori (vagabond) speaks to a structure of feeling strongly rooted in the hybrid cultures of Bombay’s multilingual and regional diversity. Performance and performative gestures are crucial to the tapori’s agency. This performance deploys sharp street humor and an everyday street language, in addition to a deep skepticism toward power and wealth. Using the popular Bambayya language as his weapon against an unequal world, the tapori creates a space through insubordi- nation that endows him with a certain dignity in the cinematic city. Drawing attention to the self through linguistic and stylistic perfor- mances, the tapori creates a space where control is possible. Deploying an irreverent masculinity that contrasts with the dominating male pres- ence of the “angry man” era,1 the tapori stands at the intersection of morality and evil, between the legal and the illegal, between the world of those with work and those without work. Lacking a home but long- ing for a family, the tapori occupies the middle space between the crisis of urban life and the simultaneous yearning for stability. Part small-time street hood and part social conscience of the neighborhood, the tapori embodies a fragile masculinity that is narrated through a series of en- counters with the upper class and the figure of the woman. In performing and depicting marginal figures whose narrative predicaments seem to mirror their psychological states of marginality, we see a verbal and social alienation expressed in the tapori’s performance.  
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    8 This alienation  
     6If a simmering rage drove the “angry man” and the “psychotic” in their explorations of the city, then the tapori (vagabond) speaks to a structure of feeling strongly rooted in the hybrid cultures of Bombay’s multilingual and regional diversity. Performance and performative gestures are crucial to the tapori’s agency. This performance deploys sharp street humor and an everyday street language, in addition to a deep skepticism toward power and wealth. Using the popular Bambayya language as his weapon against an unequal world, the tapori creates a space through insubordi- nation that endows him with a certain dignity in the cinematic city. Drawing attention to the self through linguistic and stylistic perfor- mances, the tapori creates a space where control is possible. Deploying an irreverent masculinity that contrasts with the dominating male pres- ence of the “angry man” era,1 the tapori stands at the intersection of morality and evil, between the legal and the illegal, between the world of those with work and those without work. Lacking a home but long- ing for a family, the tapori occupies the middle space between the crisis of urban life and the simultaneous yearning for stability. Part small-time street hood and part social conscience of the neighborhood, the tapori embodies a fragile masculinity that is narrated through a series of en- counters with the upper class and the figure of the woman. In performing and depicting marginal figures whose narrative predicaments seem to mirror their psychological states of marginality, we see a verbal and social alienation expressed in the tapori’s performance. This alienation  
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    23 The Bombay film industry was born in the shadow of linguistic con- flict that carried on well into the twentieth century. The silent era did not have to deal with the language issue. It was only with the birth of the talkies in 1931 that language became central to the imagination of the Bombay film industry.3 While catering to large sections of the population in North India, the industry was located in the capital city (Bombay) of a non-Hindi-speaking region (the state of Maharashtra). What is inter- esting is the decision of the film industry to use Urdu/Hindustani as the language of Bombay cinema. This is all the more remarkable in the face of the entrenched position taken by Hindi-language elites, who advo- cated a Sanskritized rendering in opposition to Urdu. 
     21The Bombay film industry was born in the shadow of linguistic con- flict that carried on well into the twentieth century. The silent era did not have to deal with the language issue. It was only with the birth of the talkies in 1931 that language became central to the imagination of the Bombay film industry.3 While catering to large sections of the population in North India, the industry was located in the capital city (Bombay) of a non-Hindi-speaking region (the state of Maharashtra). What is interesting is the decision of the film industry to use Urdu/Hindustani as the language of Bombay cinema. This is all the more remarkable in the face of the entrenched position taken by Hindi-language elites, who advocated a Sanskritized rendering in opposition to Urdu. 
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    31 The Indian Talkie inherited its basic structure from Urdu Parsi Theatre and so the talkies started with Urdu. Even the New Theatres in Calcutta, used Urdu writers. You see, Urdu was the lingua franca of urban north- ern India before partition, and was understood by most people. And it was—and—still is—an extremely sophisticated language capable of portraying all kinds of emotion and drama. (cited in Kabir, 50) 
    32 Urdu was definitely the most important language for the Hindi film industry. Urdu’s accessibility for a huge mass of the North Indian urban population made it appropriate for the film industry to adopt it. The 
     29The Indian Talkie inherited its basic structure from Urdu Parsi Theatre and so the talkies started with Urdu. Even the New Theatres in Calcutta, used Urdu writers. You see, Urdu was the lingua franca of urban north- ern India before partition, and was understood by most people. And it was—and—still is—an extremely sophisticated language capable of portraying all kinds of emotion and drama. (cited in Kabir, 50) Urdu was definitely the most important language for the Hindi film industry. Urdu’s accessibility for a huge mass of the North Indian urban population made it appropriate for the film industry to adopt it. The 
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    5857It is difficult to trace how the Bambayya language actually emerged. Scriptwriter Sanjay Chel, who coauthored the script for Rangeela, offers an explanation based on a sense of the street and the nature of Bom- bay’s hybridity. Chel says: 
    5958People come here from all over India with their languages like Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali. All these languages merge to form a unique language of survival in the city, to stubbornly fight for existence in the city. This language is understood by all. This is a language of the street with its own texture. It may not be grammatical, but this Bambayya language 
     
    8584This narrative of contrasts and compressed spaces has been central to the way Bombay has been imagined in literature and cinema and has informed the city’s cultural imagination throughout the twentieth cen- tury. The portrayal of Bombay’s affluence is exaggerated to highlight its darker and uglier side. For poet Nissim Ezekeil, Bombay “flowers into slums and skyscrapers” (cited in Patel and Thorner 1995, xix). For Marathi poet Patte Bapurao, the city appears like a stage of oppositions, such as the Taj Mahal Hotel and the workers’ chawls,7 speeding modern cars and helpless pedestrians (cited in Alice Thorner, xix). The popular song “Ye Hai Bombay Meri Jaan” (This is Bombay, my love) from the film CID (Raj Khosla, 1956) evokes a phenomenology of the city in which, in the midst of buildings, trains, factory mills, and the ubiquitous crowd, there exists a subculture of gambling, crime, and claustrophobia. This is a space purged of humanity; the crowd moves mercilessly, pushing aside those who cannot keep up with its pace. This diversity and plurality of experience, language, and class produces an acute sense of the city’s hybridity. To this, one can now add the rapid proliferation of high-tech products, visual images, and the simultaneous aestheticization and decline of the streets. 
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    8889Yet brutal contrasts combined with hope have also fueled the creative imagination. Referring to Sudhir Mishra’s film Dharavi, Amrit Ganghar 
     
    120121Abstracted from location and specificity, the street in Awara (Raj Kapoor, 1951) is invested with the power to locate and address anybody in the nation. The well-known 1950s song “Awara Hoon” from Awara shows Raj Kapoor (who acted in, as well as directed, the film) walking down a street singing. The location of the street is not specified as the song invokes a universe of images, transcending into an imagined space of the “national.” During the decade of the 1950s, cinema deployed differ- ent methods and metaphors to condense the nation in its images; the use of the street in Awara is clear evidence of that.8 In the tapori films (Rangeela, 1995; Ghulam, 1998), the metaphor of the “street” as “nation” transforms into the “street” as Bombay. The modern tapori emerges from the maze of Bombay’s streets using a unique language and gestures wherein performance becomes his sole identity. 
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