Women and Contemporary Indian Cinema

Sharaf Rehman, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley


A recent analysis of the popular Indian movies showed that the representation of women in the Indian cinema has remained unchanged in the last 70 years. The stereotypes of mothers, daughters, widows, and daughters-in-law are the same in the 2010s as these were in the 1950s. The only exception is the depiction of ‘the other women', i.e., a vamp, a courtesan, a dancing girl, or a woman of ill repute. Bad girls have become worse. They are no longer the passive victims; they have become active violent avengers. Such women also appear as the main characters in the films rather than the pretty trappings, or as material for subplots. While women are gaining a more equitable status in Indian society, the recent Indian films have become more violent towards the female characters. The sexualization of women in a new genre of Indian movie songs – the “item song” that shows women in vulnerable situations where they are likely to be violated by gangs of males. The filmmakers argue that films merely mirror a common occurrence in India – gang rape, and public humiliation of women. The author calls for a more responsible stance from the filmmakers towards the exploitation of women.