Interrogating Practices of Gender, Religion and Nationalism in the Representation of Muslim Women in Bollywood: Contexts of Change, Sites of Continuity
AbstractThrough a discourse analysis of four commercially successful Bollywood films between 2012-2013, this paper investigates Bollywood’s role in creation of hierarchical identities in the Indian society wherein Muslims occupy the position of the inferior ‘other’ to the superior Hindu ‘self’. Focusing on Muslim heroines, the paper demonstrates that the selected narratives attempt to move away from the older binary identity narratives of Muslim women such as nation vs. religion and hyper-sexualised courtesan vs. subservient veiled women, towards identity narratives borne out of Muslim women’s choice of education, career and life partner, political participation, and embodied practices. However, in comparison to signs of change the sites of continuity are strongly embedded in the religious-nationalistic meta-narrative that drives the paradigms of Indian femininity/ womanhood. To conclude, the nature of the recent deployment of Muslim heroines in Bollywood reinforce the hierarchy between the genders (male-female), between the communities (Hindu-Muslim) and between nations (India- Pakistan).
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