By Shakuntala Banaji (auth.)

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Extra resources for Reading ‘Bollywood’: The Young Audience and Hindi Films

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Again, Chatterji’s critiques of the depiction of women – and sometimes men – in a number of contemporary commercial films may serve as a reminder of the ways in which accounts of cinema such as Chakravathy’s (1998), which emphasise the democratic and disruptive potential of ‘masquerade’, fail to engage fully with the awkward, authoritarian or subjugated subjectivities constructed and spoken to by many Hindi films. 5 Beyond simplistic oppositions Ashis Nandy insists that commercial cinema in India is highly ‘protective towards traditions and towards native categories’ and that mass audiences exhausted by the ‘dominant principle’ of Indian life, ‘modernity’, are only too willing to find in Hindi films a refuge from the ‘oppression and exploitation in society … inflicted in the name of modern categories such as development, science, progress and national security’ (1995: 196–206).

For instance, as Derné found, many Hindi films are indeed denigrated by some viewers for their lack of realism and their melodramatic tendencies; nevertheless, as I discovered, they are also viewed as sources of knowledge which can have a fairly profound impact on the life choices of young people. However, in the more pressured and public arena of cinema halls, young people whom I spoke to were less likely to take the themes of films seriously, or to engage with the possibility that their own behaviours and views were connected to the films they watched, although they were frequently willing to impute to others the seeming stigma of having been ‘made’ to do something by a film scene or narrative.

Meekness and patience are rewarded whereas the ambitious woman’s attempt to exploit her sexuality for personal fame [is] condemned as morally reprehensible’ (1995: 253–4). It is the way in which Hindi commercial cinema appears to reinforce certain oppressive patterns of thought and self-image for women that comes across in Rao’s essay as most deeply disturbing. This impression of the ‘power’ of film texts forms a connection to the enjoyable writings of ‘self-taught’ feminist film theorist Shoma A.

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