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Workshops & seminars

Lahore Cinema: Between Realism and Fable

Date & time
Friday, December 8, 2023
4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Registration is closed


This event is free



J.W. McConnell Building
1400 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Wheel chair accessible


Join us for a talk by Iftikhar Dadi about his recently published book, Lahore Cinema: Between Realism and Fable (University of Washington Press, 2022), moderated by Ali Smears, PhD candidate, Religions and Cultures, and Varda Nisar, PhD candidate, Art History.

Commercial cinema has been among the most powerful vectors of social and aesthetic modernization in South Asia. So argues Iftikhar Dadi in his provocative examination of cinema produced between 1956 and 1969—the long sixties—in Lahore, Pakistan, following the 1947 Partition of South Asia. These films drew freely from Bengali performance traditions, Hindu mythology, Parsi theater, Sufi conceptions of the self, Urdu lyric poetry, and Hollywood musicals, bringing these traditions into dialogue with melodrama and neorealism. Examining this layered context offers insights into a period of rapid modernization and into cultural affiliation in the South Asian present, when frameworks of multiplicity and plurality are in jeopardy.

Lahore Cinema probes the role of language, rhetoric, lyric, and form in the making of cinematic meaning as well as the relevance of the Urdu cultural universe to midcentury Bombay filmmaking. Challenging the assumption of popular cinema as apolitical, Dadi explores how films allowed their audiences to navigate an accelerating modernity and tense politics by anchoring social change across the terrain of deeper cultural imaginaries. By constituting publics beyond social divides of regional, ethnic, and sectarian affiliations, commercial cinema played an influential progressive role during the mid- and later twentieth century in South Asia.

This talk is part of the Southern Asia Studies Series, which will have programming through 2023-2024.

How can you participate? Join us in person or online by registering for the Zoom Meeting or watching live on YouTube.

Have questions? Send them to

About the Speaker

Iftikhar Dadi

Iftikhar Dadi is John H. Burris Professor and Chair of the Department of History of Art and Director of the South Asia Program at Cornell University. He researches modern and contemporary art from a transnational perspective, with an emphasis on methodology and intellectual history, and a focus on South and West Asia. Another research interest examines the film, media, and popular cultures of South Asia.

He has authored The Lahore Effect: Cinema Between Realism and Fable (2022), Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia (2010) and edited The Lahore Biennale Reader 01 (2022) and Anwar Jalal Shemza (2015). He has co-edited Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space (2012); Tarjama/Translation (2009); and Unpacking Europe: Towards a Critical Reading (2001). As an artist, Iftikhar Dadi collaborates with Elizabeth Dadi to make work that explores questions of identity and borders, and the capacities of the informal urban realm in the Global South

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Religions and Cultures and the Department of Art History

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