Rosie Thomas

Rosie’s research expertise lies in two areas: Indian cinema and documentary practice.  She is a pioneer of the academic study of popular Indian cinema, establishing an international reputation following the publication of her first groundbreaking article on Hindi cinema in Screen in 1985. Originally trained as a social anthropologist at the London School of Economics, Rosie did her first fieldwork in the Bombay film industry in the early 1980s. Since then she has written widely on Indian cinema, contributing to numerous books and journals. Her current research interests include Indian cinema history, with a focus on the pre-independence era; the Arabian Nights in early Indian cinema; and South Asian arts and documentary. She is co-founder and co-editor of the international Sage journal BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies, a forum for research on the history and theory of South Asian film, screen-based arts and new media screen cultures. Her monograph Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies was published in 2013 by Orient Blackswan, and republished in 2015 by SUNY Press.

Rosie’s documentary interests date back to her earlier career as an independent television producer, running her own company, Hindi Picture, in the 1980s and 1990s. Throughout the 1990s Rosie made documentaries and current affairs programmes for UK’s Channel Four television on a range of subject matters, from health and mental health issues to South Asian politics, arts and culture. From 2019, she will be co-investigator with Professor Joshua Oppenheimer on the three-year, AHRC-funded project Documentary of the Imagination (link to DOI page).

Rosie set up CREAM in 2002 and successfully led three RAE/REF exercises (2001; 2008; 2014), stepping down from the CREAM director role in 2017 to focus on her own research. She was a co-founder and executive board member of the practice-based PhD network, AVPhD, helping to set up the first national support structure for students, supervisors and examiners of practice-based moving image PhDs in the UK. She is currently Director of Studies for four PhD students. Subjects range from community filmmaking in Wales (Anne-Marie Carty, practice-based) to topics in South Asian cinema history (Indranil Bhattacharya, Charusmita Charusmita, Sarah Niazi). She is joint supervisor on five further PhDs, including practice-based, experimental and documentary film projects. Completed PhDs she has supervised include theses on cinema in pre-independence Calcutta (Ranita Chatterjee), cinemas of Bombay and Lahore between 1940 and 1960 (Salma Siddique), South Asian floor-drawing traditions (Aurogeeta Das), Arab Israeli filmmaking (Yael Friedman), Romanian documentary studios (Adina Bradeanu) and first-person filmmaking in China (Tianqi Yu).

Rosie also runs, with Prof Jean Seaton, the Chevening South Asia Journalism Programme, a prestigious Foreign Office fellowship scheme that brings high-flying, mid-career South Asian journalists to London for two months each year. (link to CSAJP page)  The success of this Track II diplomacy project is one example of the impact of Rosie’s long-standing research engagement with television practice and South Asian arts and culture.

For further information about Rosie’s research, supervision and teaching experience also see:

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Research Areas

Film and Media

Film and media research is a long standing area of excellence at CREAM, and leads the field for interdisciplinary approaches to moving image practices and their discourses. CREAM research ranges from experimental documentary to moving image installations of international renown.