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Study how women are represented in Bollywood Movies using Post-Structuralist feminism theory such as Donna Haraway, Judith Butler

Bollywood is the name given to the Indian film industry, which is recognized as the most prolific producer of movies in the world.  As the most popular mass medium in India, Bollywood often plays the role of a mirror to the Indian society, reinforcing and reiterating common stereotypes and social norms and traditions of India. This is particularly true with respect to the role of Indian women. Indian women have traditionally been subjected to several 'do's and 'don'ts' in society and these norms are often propagated through Indian movies.

In this essay, through case studies of Bollywood movies, we shall examine how the work of renowned feminist scholars like Judith Butler and Donna Haraway finds credence in the Indian film industry. But before we venture into specific examples let us briefly understand Judith Butler's and Donna Haraway's position.

From our examination of the three Bollywood movies above, it becomes evident that post feminism is yet to gain a stronghold over Indian culture. Indian culture dictates that women are self sacrificing, obedient and dutiful to their husbands and fathers. Although this conservative culture is fast changing, it has yet to get complete acceptance amongst the Indian masses and most films tend to toe the populist line and stick to past traditions. Therefore although we see depictions of independent, modern women in Indian cinema, more often then not they are shown to be dependent on men in some form or the other. Butler and Haraway's theory of 'woman' construction finds ample evidence in Bollywood. Like in the film Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge where the female protagonist decides to give up her love and respect her father's decision, most Indian films will depict the female protagonist, following some traditional custom that is ascribed to her. 

Indian cinema is yet to witness the development of a post feminist protagonist who Rowe (cited in Padva2006:25) describes as a woman who "expresses her desires, makes a spectacle of herself, claims power and… [exhibits an] independent personality".  Indeed as the term post feminism suggests, post feminism work takes us back to an era where it seems that feminism never happened (Susan Faludi, 1991:72).  In India, feminism still takes centre stage and women are engrossed in ensuring that they receive their equal rights and are not actively discriminated against. For example, in 2006 a Bollywood movie titled Baabul (Father) released. This movie dealt with the sensitive issue of widow remarriage and depicted the bitter struggle that the father-in law goes through when he proposes getting his widowed daughter remarried. He has to face the onslaught of his family, friends and society which do not approve of such an act. This movie failed miserably at the box office. Although its failure can be attributed to several reasons, one of them also revolves around the fact that the topic of the movie was a sensitive issue that many people had reservations about.  Both Judith Butler and Donna Haraway describe in their own words the 'decentering of women' as unitary images, showing women as fractured and plural group. However, Bollywood still by and large clubs women together as a united group and remains what Butler describes as a 'ritualized repetition of conventions' (1990:140).  Therefore very scant traces of post feminism can be found in today's Indian popular culture.

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