Recovering Indian Third Cinema practice : a study of the 1970s films of Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, and Satyajit Ray

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


In this thesis I focus on the cultural politics and film practices of Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, and Satyajit Ray in the long 1960s, with the aim of recovering Indian political cinema as Third Cinema practice. I posit the contexts that motivated the radicalisation of their cinema in the 1970s, as an act of counter-Establishment political resistance itself. I use Third Cinema, as a practice and framework, to contextualise and understand Indian political cinema. The prevalence of an auteurist approach in scholarly work has overshadowed the political, intellectual, collective, and emancipatory aspects of these filmmakers’ practices, which my thesis foregrounds. The thesis further argues that Third Cinema is not just an aesthetic choice or film style, but also a praxis and critical framework driven by decolonisation, anti-capitalism, and anti-imperialism. Based on this hypothesis, I argue that Third Cinema can potentially be practiced in any context across geopolitical boundaries, given its emancipatory nature focusing on decolonising culture. However, this connection has so far been critically disregarded both by scholars of Indian cinema and Third Cinema across the world. Most discussions of Third Cinema are restricted to Latin America with occasional reference to African and other ‘minor’ cinemas. The objective of my research is to extend both the canon and discourse of Third Cinema beyond Latin America to engage with contexts previously unnoticed. My thesis does this by situating Indian political cinema in the milieu of Transnational Third Cinema and by including critical writings and film manifestoes from India. Restoring Ghatak, Sen, and Ray’s filmmaking practices within Third Cinema discourse not just recovers them as Third Cinema practitioners but also strengthens Third Cinema as a rigorous critical framework.
Date of Award27 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorTom Rice (Supervisor) & Anindya Raychaudhuri (Supervisor)


  • Indian political cinema
  • Decolonisation
  • Third Cinema
  • Radical cinema
  • Long 1960s political upheaval
  • Countercinema
  • Counter-archive
  • Film history
  • Brechtian aesthetics

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  • 12th June 2025

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