By Lauren Stone, Liberal Arts News Bureau
The lights in the classroom are off, the blinds closed. The elegant noise of the title music seeps from the speakers. Anticipation mounts. Dr. Janani Subramanian understands the joy that comes from watching films. She is, after all, a Film Studies professor.
As a young child, Subramanian was first attracted to film when she watched Return to Oz. "It frightened me, but at the same time, I really liked it." As a teenager, she felt a curiosity about movies such as Indiana Jones and Star Wars. Though she didn’t know how significant film would become to her as an adult, she continued indulging in the fanciful sights of the silver screen.
Subramanian’s film interests center around horror and science fiction. She explains that these genres can be used as tools to learn about our own culture. "[Horror movies] teach us what our society is afraid of - those deeper psychological fears that involve family, friends and our communities. The science fiction genre shows how our culture fears the future-how technology will change our lifestyles and how the environment will respond to its mistreatment."
As an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin she began her studies in public relations but changed directions after taking a course in film studies. She finished with a degree in Radio/Television and Film and later completed a graduate degree in Critical Studies at University of Southern California (USC). She taught in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California and Pitzer College, then moved to Indianapolis where she teaches in the IU School of Liberal Arts’ Department of English, which houses the Film Studies Program.
What brought Subramanian to IUPUI was her desire for a position that would suit her teaching goals and offer a nurturing atmosphere. When she received the job offer, she was excited. "I liked the people, the department, and most of all, knowing that I would be able to teach what was important to me."
Currently, Subramanian’s research focuses on the relationship between science fiction and race. She also dabbles with her other interest - television, writing professional articles about shows such as Friday Night Lights, Nurse Jackie, and The Mindy Project.
Subramanian wants her students to think about how television and film reflect our society, and for them to explore the underlying social commentary. "Movies demonstrate the ways the human mind functions - an example being how we empathize with certain characters," Subramanian says. Film also reflects how we act in our society. Her goal is to get her students to look at everything in this world more critically - movies in particular. So when the lights go out and the title score begins to play, there is more going on than a couple of hours of entertainment.