Hi! My name is Akhil Vaidya, and I am an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania studying at the Annenberg School of Communication. I am originally from a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia, but I will be conducting research from my apartment in West Philadelphia this summer. As a senior, I am excited to spend my last summer at Penn working as a research assistant under a grant from the Center for the Advanced Study of India.
Over the next few months, I will be working with Professor Ramya Sreenivasan to gather findings for a new research project that focuses on Hindi films as a key vector of a mass culture in India that was formed during the twentieth-century. Instead of looking at Hindi films through the more traditional lens of academic cinema studies, this project aims to illuminate the communities and social landscapes that the creators of these popular narratives inhabited during these time periods. In analyzing the Hindi film industry from this perspective, we hope to deepen understandings of how the social backgrounds of these key creatives shaped popular films and, subsequently, mass culture in India.
My first major task is to watch a lot of old movies! I’ve been having a great time diving into the cinema that my parents and grandparents grew up with, analyzing each film for its narrative features and carefully noting the networks of film industry professionals that began to form during this time. I have been enjoying the work so far, and I am very excited to continue working with Professor Sreenivasan to develop this project!