The Spectral Duration of Malayalam Soft-porn: Disappearance, Desire and Haunting

Author

Darshana Mini  / mini@usc.edu

Journal

Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies 7(2). December. 2016, 127-150.

Abstract

This paper examines the spectral nature of the genre of Malayalam soft-porn that emerged in the late 1980s but has now disappeared with rapid changes in the industry. I argue that the memory of soft-porn bleeds into the present, as if in an attempt to negotiate retroactively with the end of the celluloid era and to recoup the memory of the form that has been pronounced dead and gone by the end of 2000s. By examining the modes through which cinematic memory carries the charge of the immanent past into the contemporary moment both in terms of narrative strategies and the physical space of the cinema, I look at S.P. Theater in Trivandrum, the film Kanyaka Talkies (K.R. Manoj 2013) and the installation Kuliyum Mattu Scenukalum (The shower and the other scenes) by Priyaranjan Lal, all of which reflect the form of soft-porn as remnants of the past that haunt the present in significant ways. S.P. Theater, located in the outskirts of the city of Trivandrum, insistently maintained its status as a popular destination for soft-porn aficionados even after the form had fizzled out in the industry. On the other hand, the film Kanyaka Talkies traces the life of a fictional soft-porn theater that was converted to a Church. One of the crucial moments in the film features the installations that would later become part of Lal’s Kuliyum Mattu Scenukalum to reflect the inner contradictions in the built space of the Church/Theater. Between the fictional rendering of the soft-porn theater in the film, and its ‘real’ variant in the form of S.P. Theater, I argue that the current cinema-scape is marked by a lingering ghostly presence of a recently deceased film form.

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