ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Making of the City of Capital

Histories of Slums and Films in Colonial Bombay

Making the Modern Slum: The Power of Capital in Colonial Bombay by Sheetal Chhabria, Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2019; pp 235, $30 (paperback).

Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City by Debashree Mukherjee, New York: Columbia University Press, 2020; pp 420, $30 (paperback).

No one narrator can gauge the true shape of an entity as elep­h­antine as the metropolis of Bombay. Sheetal Chhabria and Debashree Mukherjee, however, in their respective accounts of colonial Bombay, masterfully identify the beating heart of this elep­hant–capital. Their works, though occu­pied with two distinct narrative arcs of the city’s history, can be discussed alo­ngside each other. They both showcase the power wielded by the capital in ­urban life and the consequences of such domination on the people who inhabit the city, on their bodies, their livelihoods, their modes of dwelling, and their creative energies. The common grounds for a discussion of these two books also arise from the fact that both are homa­ges to the working-class “humans of Bombay” without whom capital would remain an inert proposition. In so doing, both books engage afresh with the idea of capital and its constitutive role in the economy, society, and culture of the met­ro­politan life.

In drawing attention to the long history of the “making of slums” in Bombay, Chhabria sheds light on the failures of both colonial and Indian civic authorities. By historicising the processes that led to the outcrop of slums, the author destabilises the given-ness that this ubi­quitous urban phenomenon has assu­med. Mukherjee’s narrative of the “making of the cine-ecology” is a dramatic story of two aspects of Bombay cinema: the material infrastructure that facilitates the making of films and embodies the histories of various cine-workers who labour in this industry.

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Updated On : 17th Jan, 2022
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