ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Public Intimacies: Changing Encounters with the Body in Cinema


Mokkil Maruthur Navaneetha - University of Gottingen, Center for Modern Indian Studies, Göttingen, Germany


49 – Public Knowledge: Audiences in South Asian Media and Screen Studies


 This paper will examine how the formal practices of regional films in India that focus on differing aspects of the body configure the public. Historically, cinema has played an important role in making possible the display and circulation of bodily acts in public in different parts of South Asia. Whether it is soft-porn cinema or sex-education films, they address and configure a public through formal means and modes of exhibition. But in the present as sensory technologies of making the body consumable changes via the digital—how does cinema renegotiate the concerns around the public and embodiment? What knowledge can we produce about the changing shape of audiences via an engagement with changing technologies of embodiment in cinema?

The selection of films I focus on include Malayalam films such as Ariyippu (Declaration 2022) and Asanghaditar (The Unorganized 2022). While the narrative worlds of these films are different from each other, what allows me to bring them together is that they all foreground changing configurations of the body that can place viewers in a discomfiting position. Complicating familiar paradigms of identification or desire, empathy or titillation, and the pedagogic or the enthusiastic—there seems to be other structures of feelings that are triggered here. I suggest that through a close analysis of the haptic technologies of these films we can unpack the links between the operations of cinema and the making of contemporary publics.