On the Meaning of Style: Cognition, Culture, and Visual Technique in Bimal Roy's Sujata

in Projections
Author:
Patrick Colm HoganUniversity of Connecticut patrick.hogan@uconn.edu

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Perhaps the most common activity of film critics is interpretation. However, cognitive film theorists have sometimes expressed skepticism over the value of interpretation, perhaps particularly with respect to film style. In connection with this, cognitive critics have tended to stress the function of style in facilitating the communication of narrative information. The purpose of this article is to clarify what constitutes the interpretation of style. The opening section discusses what prompts interpretation and what its main purposes are. The article then considers how style may be understood as contributing to those purposes, beyond conveying narrative information. The second section goes on to illustrate these points through an examination of Bimal Roy's Sujata. This section argues that Roy uses staging in depth and graphic matches to advance a critique of untouchability. In formulating this critique, Roy draws on culturally particular ideas from Hindu metaphysics, integrating these with visual techniques that rely on universal human interests and propensities. The analysis of Roy's film illustrates how a cognitive interpretation of style might be developed. It also suggests that cognitive and cultural analyses may be integrated in ways that are productive for our understanding and appreciation of individual works.

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