AbstractsLanguage, Literature & Linguistics

City of the faithless : a narrative analysis of the film Shaheed with a particular view to poetry

by Øyvind Johan Stenberg

Institution: University of Oslo
Year: 1000
Keywords: VDP::033
Record ID: 1289608
Full text PDF: https://www.duo.uio.no/handle/10852/24245


The subject of this dissertation is the Pakistani film Shaheed from 1962. The film tells the story of an innocent Arab tribe whose homeland is violated by a dishonest Western imperialist in his ruthless pursuit for oil. I have made the portrayal of this motif the object of detailed narrative analysis. By adopting Mieke Bal's version of narratology I move from an assessment of the three theoretical layers of the film's narrative; fabula, story and text, to a discussion and decoding of the film's salient allegorical features and ideological structures. Central to the analysis is the function of the film characters, defined in relation to their individual objectives, the affinities of the characters with certain stock characters of traditional Urdu poetry, and the role of the characters in the political allegory. Within the framework of the general narrative analysis I discuss how Urdu poetry is deployed in the film. Not only is Urdu poetry intentionally inserted in the form of seven song lyrics to underline inter alia the signification of other segments of the narrative, add to qualifications of character traits and emphasise the relations between characters, it also attaches to the symbolism of both the characters and the narrative at a global level, thereby adding to their significations. The interplay between narrative and poetry in Shaheed is analysed (1) as an instance of a trend in Hindi and Urdu films of the 40 s, 50 s and 60 s to make motivated use of progressive poetry in political films; and (2) as due to the modelling of the film characters - at least to some extent - on stock characters of traditional Urdu poetry: stock characters that symbolically manifest a culture-specific concept of love. The various and multiple love narratives in Shaheed thus provide the link between narration and poetry, insofar as poetry contributes to character qualification. Consequently the dissertation primarily argues the relevance of poetry to a general narrative analysis of the film Shaheed, and indirectly the use of narrative analysis as a productive means of sharpening discussions about poetry's role in films from the subcontinent.