Light Industry

Light Industry at Audio Visual Arts

Geeta Dutt: Playback

Tuesday, August 23 · 7:00pm 9:00pm

Audio Visual Arts (AVA)

34 East 1st Street

New York, New York

Because of the unique predominance of the musical in South Asian popular cinema, some of its biggest movie stars never appear on screen. Famous in their own right, unseen playback singers, via dubbing, provide the lilting voices that are heard when characters break into song. A few, like Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle, have careers that stretch over many decades and thousands of performances, their eternally youthful voices paired over time with successive generations of new actors.

In the late 1940s and 50s, the Indian film industry underwent several major changes that shaped the Bollywood we know today: Bombay became the new center of production, musical styles and instrumentation were forever altered by incorporating elements from the US and Latin America, and filmi songs became the subcontinent’s pop music industry. One of the most sophisticated playback singers of this post-Independence golden era, Geeta Dutt was beloved for her sensuously emotive and distinctly modern voice, which deftly covered a range of genres, from more traditional Indian melodies, to Westernized dance numbers, to the crushingly plangent love songs so central to the era’s melodramas. Her own life proved no less tragic. Her marriage to actor and director Guru Dutt—today remembered as one of the period’s foremost auteurs—was famously tempestuous; after his apparent suicide in 1964, she entered a period of alcoholism and decline, ultimately ending in her own death in 1972, at age 41.

Tonight’s program, modeled after the playback singer compilations that have become a staple of Bollywood home video, Light Industry presents a diverse selection of musical sequences spanning Geeta Dutt’s filmography, from her earliest hits recorded as teenager Geeta Roy, through her work in her husband’s canonical films of the 1950s like Pyaasa, Khaagaz Ke Phool and Mr. & Mrs. 55, to the last songs she recorded, for Basu Battacharya’s 1971 Godard-influenced social portrait Anubhav. Culled from numerous sources of varying legitimacy, the clips range widely in provenance and visual texture, calling to mind the numerous bodies through which Dutt’s voice transmigrated.

Please note: seating is extremely limited. First-come, first-served.

FREE                                                                  —Light Industry

Should be a gem of a session.


Light Industry is a terrific venue/organization for film and electronic media run by Thomas Beard and Ed Halter. They’re preparing their new space in Greenpoint in Brooklyn, and in the meantime are continuing their excellent screenings and events, such as the one below:

Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 7pm
Light Industry at the New Museum:
This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage

New Museum
235 Bowery
New York, New York

Part of Rhizome’s New Silent Series

This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage
Ernest Pintoff, 16mm, 1967, 54 mins
Introduced by Alex Kitnick

This Is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium Is the Massage premiered in 1967 as one of the first installments of “NBC Experiment in Television,” an innovative series of Sunday-afternoon cultural programs that would later include such diverse offerings as an animated special by Harold Pinter, Jim Henson’s live-action teleplay The Cube, and extended profiles of figures like writer Scholem Aleichem, cartoonist Al Capp, and architectural visionary Buckminster Fuller. McLuhan’s episode appeared at the height of his notoriety within popular consciousness: 1967 also saw the publication of McLuhan and Quentin Fiore’s book The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects, the fourth issue of Aspen magazine edited by McLuhan and Fiore, and an LP recording of The Medium Is the Massage released by Columbia Records.

Shot on film for television broadcast and later distributed on 16mm for educational use, This Is Marshall McLuhan intersperses observations by McLuhan himself with commentary from art-world figures like gallerist Ivan Karp, artists Malcolm Morley and Allan Kaprow, and Museum of Modern Art curator Inez Garson. As if to illustrate McLuhan’s dictum that “all media work us over completely,” these remarks are punctuated by rapid-fire montages of pop culture and the avant-garde, mixing performances by Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman, go-go girls, stand-up comedians, and Madison Avenue’s most countercultural ads into a Laugh-In-era attempt at televisual information overload. An evocative dispatch from the modern history of culture’s evolving relationship to media, this rarely-screened film continues to resonate with our contemporary situation, its new technologies and their inventories of effects.

Alex Kitnick is a writer and curator based in New York. He edited the most recent issue of October (136). This past winter he curated the exhibition Massage at Andrew Roth.

Organized by Lauren Cornell, Executive Director of Rhizome and Adjunct Curator of the New Museum, the New Silent Series receives major support from The Rockefeller Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.