The Streotypical Portrayal of Women in Commercial Indian Cinema



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Historical and recent literature on the subject of the representation of women in Indian cinema suggest that in commercial (blockbuster) Indian films, grossing the highest at the Indian box office, the roles of actresses are stereotypical in nature. Publicity on the subject has explored the term “stereotypical” defining it in terms of fixed categories, arrived at on the basis of the repetitive characteristics and traits observed in the roles women play. In this thesis I will arrive at operational definitions of the term “stereotypical”, which I have coined after an extensive review of literature on the subject. I will further establish with photographic examples and instances drawn from specific films and scenes that women’s roles in Indian Cinema conform to these operational definitions of the term “stereotype”.

The term “Indian Cinema” for the purpose of this paper refers to Bollywood Cinema, made in the Indian language, Hindi. The terms “commercial” and “blockbuster” include films that have been classified by, as “All Time Blockbuster”, “Blockbuster” and “Super Hit”. In terms of the monetary gross adjusted profits earned, (all adjusted to inflation), this includes films that earned anything from $70,015,847 to $76, 74,892.

I aim to look specifically at the treatment of women on-screen, focusing on the lead actresses and in some cases, other important woman characters in blockbuster films over the last fifty years of Indian cinema, from the 1960s through 2011. I will analyze in detail the various kinds of roles women have played and build the premise that these roles are thrust on Indian women by the society in which they live. In the thesis, I argue that the stereotypical roles given to women are the patriarchal society’s, male fantasies, projected onto film, catering to those male fantasies, so much so, that women have internalized this fantasy and don’t think of them as being the patriarchal power structure’s impositions on them. I will establish that the reason for this is a result of a complex mix of three factors: (i) Socio-Cultural and historical factors, (ii) the influence of epics and mythological stories of the Hindu religion on pop culture and (iii) the elements that encompass the film viewing masses and the patriarchal power structure of the social set-up in which this Indian audience lives.

This is a qualitative study, which uses a number of still pictures from films, journal articles, books, film stories and interviews with media professionals to further elucidate specific aspects of the subject.



Indian cinema, Women in Indian cinema, Stereotypes in Indian cinema, Popular culture, Indian epics, Bollywood, Objectification, Women, Bollywood stereotypes, Bollywood blockbusters