Seeing like a Feminist: Representations of Societal Realities in Women-Centric Bollywood Films


One of the most notable contemporary trends in Indian cinema, the genre of women oriented films seen through a feminist lens, has gained both critical acclaim and sensitive audience reception for its experimentations with form and cinematic representations of societal realities, especially women�s realities in its subject matter. The proposed paper is based on readings of such women centric, gender sensitive Bollywood films like Tarpan, Matrubhoomi or The Dirty Picture that foreground the harsh realities of life faced by women in the contemporary patriarchal Indian society, a society still plagued by evils like female foeticide/infanticide, gender imbalance, dowry deaths, child marriage, bride buying, rape, prostitution, casteism or communalism, issues that are glossed over, negated, distorted or denied representation to preserve the entertaining, escapist nature of the melodramatic, indeed addictive, panacea that the high-on-star-quotient mainstream Bollywood films, the so-called �masala� movies, offer to the lay Indian masses. It would also focus on new age cinemas like Paheli or English Vinglish, that, though apparently following the mainstream conventions nevertheless deal with the different complex choices that life throws up before women, choices that force the women to break out from the stereotypical representation of women and embrace new complex choices in life. The active agency attributed to women in these films humanize the �fantastic� filmi representations of women as either exemplarily good or baser than the basest�the eternal feminine, or the power hungry sex siren and present the psychosocial complexities that in reality inform the lives of real and/or reel women.

Author Information
Sutapa Chaudhuri, University of Calcutta, India

Paper Information
Conference: FilmAsia2014
Stream: Film Criticism and Theory

This paper is part of the FilmAsia2014 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon