I’m so happy to share that my article “Calcutta 1908: Apocalypse Now” has been published in the latest issue of the peer-reviewed scholarly journal Democratic Communiqué as the featured critical commentary.
Can theatre and film help spark an armed revolt? I believe they can, and that they did, specifically Indian theatre artists and India’s first silent filmmakers, in the capital of British India in 1908, in response to the Partition of Bengal and the systemic sentencing of children to public floggings.
My article is, in my view, a timely exposé of crimes and human rights abuses committed by the British Empire that have largely gone unreported in the West, but which are increasingly coming to light in the news and in pop culture of late.
I’m really excited to share this slice of my research as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in India. It is, I daresay, in-depth, yet it is only one part of a much larger story I’ve written.
Democratic Communiqué focuses on “cultural artifacts, media and imperialism, media’s relatedness to social movements, and the power of media to convey varying versions of the same event simultaneously.” It’s housed on the ScholarWorks server at Umass Amherst.
You can find it at the link below. I hope you’ll check it out.
I’m grateful to have been offered an opportunity to write about the international Indian hit film RRR for Contingent Magazine, whose mission statement is “history is for everyone.” They purposely waited until 15th August (India time), India’s Independence Day, to publish the article as their lead story today. What does RRR have to do with my Kolkata theatre research as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar? You’ll see. And be sure to read those footnotes.
The article begins below:
Sure, George Washington was a good war strategist, but could he pick up a motorcycle by one wheel and swing it around in battle? Or how about if Martin Luther King Jr. had busted Malcolm X out of prison by carrying him on his shoulders and dodging gunfire while hopping across rooftops, and together they took out J. Edgar Hoover? These events could not, and never did happen, but would be pretty cool to see in a big-budget historical fantasy action flick.
I realize there are numerous examples of horrific cruelty in our history — the Middle Passage and Concentration Camps always come to mind first and foremost — but here’s one more. We might want to call such crimes unspeakable but they need to be spoken.
Look up Reginald Edward Harry Dyer for the full scoop. The thousands of citizens, including entire families, who gathered were attempting a Gandhian peaceful protest during a religious festival when the city of Amritsar was packed with pilgrims and tourists. This tragedy occurred just down the hill from the Sikhs’ holy Golden Temple.
The protest was held on rented private property in a back alley courtyard. Dyer had stupidly issued a Jim Crow-like order barring Indians from congregating in groups of 6 or more (in their own country) and decided to make an example of this particular group that included children. British sources gave a figure of 379 killed with 1,100 wounded. The Indian National Congress counted more than 1000 dead and 1500 injured.
Churchill later publicly called it a “monstrous” and UnBritish act, although I wonder what his private remarks might have been, given his well-documented scathingly racist remarks about Indians and his willful starvation of 3.5 million Indians, 24 years after the Amritsar Massacre, during the Bengal Famine of 1943.
Dyer was also all about half-naked public floggings of private citizens and his soldiers fond of stopping pedestrians and making them slither down the street like worms at gunpoint. The British parliament viewed Dyer as a hero. By the way, it’s reenacted in the movie Gandhi as one of the watershed moments leading up to the widespread popularity of the Independence Movement.