I N T R O D U C T I O N
THE CENSOR’S FIST
There are always reasons to spare for every censoring
act, and the inner heart cannot be placed in evidence.
—John Collier of the U.S. National Board of
Censorship, 1915 (quoted in Jowett 1999:30)
Acknowledging a platitude does not make it any less platitudinous. On
April 13, 1937, the Indian film writer and actor Dewan Sharar addressed the
East India Association at Caxton Hall in central London on the topic, ‘‘The
Cinema in India: Its Scope and Possibilities.’’ Like so many before him and
like so many who would follow, he noted that ‘‘the immense power of the
cinema, either for good or for evil, is so well known that reference to it is a
platitude.’’∞
Dewan Sharar did not, at least on that occasion, feel moved to inquire
into the basis of this ‘‘immense power.’’ Such an inquiry has, however, been
one of my guiding obsessions while researching this book. Again and
again, from the cinema’s first appearance in the 1890s through to the time
of my fieldwork more than a century later, the unique and inherent power
of the cinema, for good or for ill, has been asserted. It is the basic premise
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