Week 3 Rape Culture and Bollywood Cinema

Uncategorized, Zainab Mogul

Bollywood cinema a contributor to rape culture?

I remember the day when I switched on the new to see that havoc had the streets of New Delhi, a young girl named Jyoti Singh Pandey was the victim of a heinous crime when she was Gang raped and thrown off a moving bus on the streets of New Delhi. Since this had occurred many people are targeting one of India’s most influential (considered soft power) industries as one of the leading roles of rape culture today. Bollywood is being scrutinized all over the world with some saying that although “Bollywood does not condone or glorify rape… it does condone a culture of misogyny and sexual harassment that contextualizes and allows rape” (Yan, 2014) indeed it would be wrong to presume that Bollywood is the root cause of such acts but it is important to outline the factors which have surfaced to reach the point of such accusations.

One of the main reasons why Bollywood has been targeted is the famous ‘item number’ a sensual and sexualised dance which in fact can create somewhat of a moral panic, it’s in the name itself ‘item’ the term object springs to mind and Laura Mulvey’s idea suggests that “film offers visual pleasure by objectifying the woman in the narrative for the active male protagonist” (Dolan, 2012) thus creating the “hegemonic ideology within society” (christimothy12, 2013). Baby Doll one of India’s newest releases had one of the raciest and most sexualised opening mottos which can be seen as pushing all boundaries ‘come play with me’ and with lyrics from other item songs such as “It kills the boys’ (good) intentions… why do you just see with your eyes, do what you want with your hands…” it is evident as to why this would be considered a moral panic for a conservative city. Bollywood actress ‘Deepika Pudukone’ doesn’t seem to agree with this idea as she believes Bollywood and the favoured item song is a way to “improve the image of women in India” (Raja, 2014) she goes onto say that it’s all about “empowered woman dancing and expressing herself” (Raja, 2014) within a society where women can be seen as subordinate to men Guy debord emphasis that celebrity culture is a “the spectacular representation of a living human being” (Plant, 1992)… “the opposite of the individual” (Plant, 1992) although Deepika Pudukone argues that the idea of the item song is to empower women, men are often in the background of these films harassing the women in the film Khambakth Ishq Akshay Kumar is seen with a mob of men harassing actress Kareena Kapoor the song ‘lakh lakh nakreh” consists of the lyrics “leave your tantrums they aren’t going to work” (basically even if you say no im still going to come after you) what debord suggests that the lifestyle which is projected to us within film will be the lifestyle that the “opposite individual” will want to achieve they portray it in such a way where even harassing a girl becomes a glamorous act.

It isn’t news to anybody that Indian cinema is known for portraying its social norms and conventions to society through the idea daughter in law and devoted wife, however contemporary Bollywood films are not subjecting to these regressive female roles possibly in a way to inform their society that women are more than they typical ‘stay at home mum’ women are out their getting careers and becoming leading ladies although film can influence a society often cinema changes with this society Michael Foucault suggest that “Where there is power, there is resistance.” (Mills, 2003) (Foucault, 1990) So is it right to say that Indian cinema is resisting the idea of portraying women in their subordinate to men roles this can be seen by actress Vidiya Balan in her award winning role for Kahaani and No one killed Jessica alongside Rani Mukherjee

On the bases of looking at both arguments I believe it is unclear to see which is right and which is wrong they both have well informed ideas on the contribution or lack of to rape culture. However in my opinions I do believe that Rape culture is something more than your typical Bollywood film I believe it is a problem not only in India but everywhere and needs to be targeted through its main cause not what the cause could be.


christimothy12. (2013, september 20). Laura Mulvey the Male gaze . Retrieved from slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/christimothy12/laura-mulvey-the-male-gaze-26381318

Dolan, J. (2012). The Feminist Spectator as Critic. In J. Dolan, The Feminist Spectator as Critic (p. 48). The University of Michigan Press; 2nd Revised edition edition .

Foucault, M. (1990). The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: An Introduction. Vintage; Reissue edition .

Mills, S. (2003). Michel Foucault . In S. Mills, Michel Foucault (p. 40). Routledge.

Plant, S. (1992). The Most Radical Gesture: The Situationist International in a Postmodern Age. In S. Plant, The Most Radical Gesture (p. 66). Routledge .

Raja, P. (2014, september 23). Deepika Padukone to appear in more item numbers to showcase her dancing skills. Retrieved from Faking News: http://my.fakingnews.firstpost.com/2014/09/23/deepika-padukone-to-appear-in-more-item-numbers-to-showcase-her-dancing-skills/

Yan, S. (2014, May 8). Does Bollywood Contribute to Rape Culture in India? Retrieved from borgenmagazine: http://www.borgenmagazine.com/bollywood-contribute-rape-culture-india/


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