Politics as Performance

A Social History of Telugu Cinema

by S.V. Srinivas

S.V. Srinivas

New India Foundation



S.V. Srinivas’s new book tracks a history of Telugu cinema over fifty formative years, in terms of its industry as well as the cultural shifts in the medium. Beginning with the premise that the connection between cinema and the politics of a society is a crucial one, SV (as he is popularly known among colleagues and friends) explores the beginnings of Telugu cinema in the context of the rise of new socio-political elites in post-Independence India as well as the emergence of a new idiom of mass politics through Telugu cinema.

- The Book Review India

To the grossly underexplored field of Telugu cinema, S V Srinivas’ Politics as Performance: A Social History of the Telugu Cinema is a significant contribution. As one of the first works on the topic it is likely to gain historical value and become a reference book. Andhra Pradesh, too, is under-studied within the social sciences and humanities in India.

- Himal Mag


Politics as Performance: A Social History of the Telugu Cinema traces the fifty-year history of Telugu cinema, as an industry and cultural form. It shows how film is directly implicated in the rise to prominence of an elite which continues to dominate parts of the country to this day; and, the emergence of a new idiom of mass politics.

The book examines in detail the career of Andhra Pradesh’s best known film star, Nandamuri Taraka Rama Rao (NTR) to show how Telugu cinema re-defined notions of linguistic identity and community for a non-literate public to create complex and multiple linkages between the consumption of cultural commodities and political mobilization. It analyses in detail NTR’s remarkable election campaign in the 1982-83 and revisits the “decline of Congress” thesis to draw attention to the larger transformation of electoral mobilisation with the convergence of film, newspaper and the audio cassette on the career of a performer who carried over his acting style from the screen to the election platform.

The book concludes with a discussion of the lasting legacies of NTR in the more recent past, when film had already yielded its pride of place to television, the future of Andhra Pradesh was uncertain and the institution of the star-politician itself appeared to be on the wane.

Author Profile

S.V. Srinivas

Srinivas has a PhD from the University of Hyderabad. He taught in Arunachal Pradesh before joining the Bengaluru based Centre for the Study of Culture and Society in 1998. He is now a trustee of the Centre. He joined the School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru in 2014. He has held visiting positions at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore and the Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad. He was the ICCR Chair Professor of Indian Culture and Society at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in 2012-13. His research focuses on the intersections between popular culture and mass politics. He has written two books on cinema and politics in south India. His has also written on Hong Kong cinema and creative and cultural industries in Asia. He is one of the editors of BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies.