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Unbridling the Western Film Auteur

Contemporary, Transnational and Intertextual Explorations

Edited By Emma Hamilton and Alistair Rolls

According to Jim Kitses (1969), the Western originally offered American directors a rich canvas to express a singular authorial vision of the American past and its significance. The Western’s recognizable conventions and symbols, rich filmic heritage, and connections to pulp fiction created a widely spoken «language» for self-expression and supplemented each filmmaker’s power to express their vision of American society. This volume seeks to re-examine the significance of auteur theory for the Western by analysing the auteur director «unbridled» by traditional definitions or national contexts.

This book renders a complex portrait of the Western auteur by considering the genre in a transnational context. It proposes that narrow views of auteurism should be reconsidered in favour of broader definitions that see meaning created, both intentionally and unintentionally, by a director; by other artistic contributors, including actors and the audience; or through the intersection with other theoretical concepts such as re-allegorization. In so doing, it illuminates the Western as a vehicle for expressing complex ideas of national and transnational identity.


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11. The Indian Western: Revisiting Sholay and the Dacoit Film as Transnational Exegesis (Omar Ahmed)


Omar Ahmed 11 The Indian Western: Revisiting Sholay and the Dacoit Film as Transnational Exegesis Abstract In the early 1970s the Italian Western had reached the point of genre saturation, exploring most of the genre-bending vagaries possible. In India, around about the same time, a cycle of rural Dacoit (bandit) films were borrowing extensively from the idioms of the Hollywood Western, continuing a transnational dialogue with popular American genres. This cycle of 1970s Dacoit films, initiated by the success of Mera Gaon Mera Desh [My Village, My Land] (1971), would culminate in the apotheosis of Sholay [Embers/Flames] (1975), the most beloved of Indian ‘Masala’ films.1 In some ways, the lack of contemporary scholarly engagement with a film like Sholay assumes all potential readings have been exhausted. In 2015 Sholay celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with a theatrical re-release of the film, which makes not only the film, but also the Dacoit film ripe for reconsideration. While this reading will use Sholay as a text, oft-neglected Dacoit films such as Khote Sikkay [False Currency] (1973) and Kuchhe Dhaage [Fragile Threads] (1973) will be re-asserted into the conversation, re-mapping the Dacoit film. One of the other major focuses of this new reading will be to not only draw upon the existing discourse of Dacoit films but also to trigger new ways of thinking about the Dacoit film as a refashioning of both the Hollywood and Italian Western genres, all with the aim of posing related questions about the difficulty of applying the auteur...

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