Montreal-born Jesuit, Indian film scholar, dies at 85

Montreal-born Jesuit, Indian film scholar, dies at 85

Jesuit Father Gaston Roberge, the French-Canadian founder of Chitrabani media training institute in Kolkata and a film and media scholar, died in India Aug. 26. He was 85. Roberge is pictured in an undated photo. (Credit: CNS photo/courtesy Jesuits of Canada.)

Jesuit Father Gaston Roberge, the French-Canadian founder of Chitrabani media training institute in Kolkata and a film and media scholar, died at St. Xavier's College, Kolkata, Aug. 26. He was 85.

KOLKATA, India — Jesuit Father Gaston Roberge, the French-Canadian founder of Chitrabani media training institute in Kolkata and a film and media scholar, died at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata, Aug. 26. He was 85.

Roberge encouraged many young talents to explore visual media through photography, film and video, reported ucanews.com. Chitrabani — its name means sight and sound — was founded a little over 50 years ago, and it soon established itself as a place for film lovers and serious students of cinema.

For several years, Roberge also headed an adult education program in Bengali through radio. Called Chetana (inspiration), it broadcast its messages of literacy, child care and women’s empowerment all over Bengal and Bangladesh.

Roberge’s major contribution, however, has been in film scholarship, and with it a critical understanding of new media.

He explored the various facets of today’s media culture with imagination and variety, ucanews.com reported. Roberge wrote almost 30 books on topics related to cinema and the media.

One of his last books, Indian Film Theory (2011), returns to his favorite topic, popular film.

“I had been asking myself since the 1980s why we do not have a new theory of popular film,” Roberge said. “It was only recently that I got an answer after studying a 2,000-year old Indian treatise of drama and dance, Natya Sastra — The Science of Drama.”

The result was a new perspective on the theories underlying Indian commercial cinema.

Gaston Roberge was born in Montreal in 1935 and joined the Jesuits in 1956.

He earned a master’s degree in Theater Arts (Film) from the University of California in Los Angeles.

In a short autobiographical blurb on amazon.com, he said, “I was reborn in India on Oct. 15, 1961.”

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