Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2012 - 9/30/2012

Funding Totals

$37,800.00 (approved)
$37,800.00 (awarded)

Indian Cinema and the Active Audience: An Ethnographic Study

FAIN: FB-56353-12

Lakshmi Srinivas
University of Massachusetts, Boston (Boston, MA 02125-3300)

Audiences of popular cinema in India are active and participatory, even boisterous. In movie theaters people frequently cheer and whistle. Raucous viewers seated in the cheap seats in front of the screen shout out to characters, repeat dialogue, throw coins at the screen to signal appreciation and rip up the upholstery with razor blades and knives to voice protest. Cinema in India is primarily a social experience and audience members carry on conversations with their viewing companions throughout the film. What can active and interactive audiences in a non-western setting which rivals Hollywood in terms of both numbers of films produced and consumed tell us about cinema and its experience? Drawing on ethnographic research in South India involving participant observation at sites where cinema is produced and received this book project offers an understanding of cinema that incorporates actual audiences and lived experience of film and that has broader cross-cultural relevance.

Media Coverage

Reengaging with the “Active Audience”: (Review)
Author(s): Dirk vom Lehn
Publication: Symbolic Interaction
Date: 1/1/2017
Abstract: n/a

Associated Products

House Full: Indian Cinema and the Active Audience (Book)
Title: House Full: Indian Cinema and the Active Audience
Author: Lakshmi Srinivas
Abstract: India is the largest producer and consumer of feature films in the world, far outstripping Hollywood in the number of movies released and tickets sold every year. Cinema quite simply dominates Indian popular culture, and has for many decades exerted an influence that extends from clothing trends to music tastes to everyday conversations, which are peppered with dialogue quotes. With House Full, Lakshmi Srinivas takes readers deep into the moviegoing experience in India, showing us what it’s actually like to line up for a hot ticket and see a movie in a jam-packed theater with more than a thousand seats. Building her account on countless trips to the cinema and hundreds of hours of conversation with film audiences, fans, and industry insiders, Srinivas brings the moviegoing experience to life, revealing a kind of audience that, far from passively consuming the images on the screen, is actively engaged with them. People talk, shout, whistle, cheer; others sing along, mimic, or dance; at times audiences even bring some of the ritual practices of Hindu worship into the cinema, propitiating the stars onscreen with incense and camphor. The picture Srinivas paints of Indian filmgoing is immersive, fascinating, and deeply empathetic, giving us an unprecedented understanding of the audience’s lived experience—an aspect of Indian film studies that has been largely overlooked.
Year: 2016
Publisher: Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Type: Single author monograph
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes