Cinema as Contraband: Bombay Film Culture between 1977-1991


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Film and Media Studies Program, Department of English


This project foregrounds the interlocked histories of cinema, crime, and the state in 1980s Bombay. It demonstrates South-South relations in the global economy forged via nonlegitimate activities like smuggling, illicit money flows, and human passage. “Cinema as contraband” frames cinema as a socio-cultural force that is shaped by constant policing/violation of borders between what is within and outside of legality and visibility. It borrows the term “contraband” from legal studies to conceptualize this deviant and intimate film culture that was nurtured by the state. By examining mafia involvement in film finance, film culture’s spatial contact points with organized crime, and the sensational death of movie stars, this film history shows the complex relation that the state shares with film industries—shifting from one of indifference or interference to collaboration, all the while using the apparent frivolity of entertainment to control public access to information on the state’s failures.