Journal article Open Access

Representational Politics in Bollywood Sports Movies of the 21st Century: Empowering Women through Counter Cinema

Antara Mukherjee

In its bid to map out the portrayal of women in sports films in mainstream Bollywood, the paper would initially
highlight the shifting paradigm of Hindi Film Industry post-liberalisation. As a by-product of this, one could also
discern a marked change in the representation of women characters on screen. The paper wishes to
concentrate on such representations in 21st century sports movies. In movies where the crux of the narrative
rests on either a sport or a sporting event, as in Lagaan, Stumped, Jannat, Kai Po Che, Patiala House, M.S.
Dhoni etc, women characters, even at the turn of the century, are ideologically constructed through dominant
male gaze. Rather than independent individuals, they become mere signs that can be analysed as structure,
code and convention. The paper would proceed next to take into account two movies centring around women
athletes – Chak de India and Dangal – to puncture the pompous assertion of women power as depicted in
them. The situation worsens here, for the female subjects are made to bear the burden of a male lack in order
to provide the male subjects with the illusion of wholeness and unity. More than the feelings of women
athletes, the directors tell stories of injured male egos which need to be nourished by feminine care and
sacrifice. In this sense, they bask in the reflected glories of their male partners. Thus these representations are
extremely gendered with little scope for women empowerment. The scenario, however, is not completely
bleak, for there are male filmmakers interested to walk a divergent way, to tell their stories from the
perspectives of women athletes. The paper would conclude with two such counter-cinemas – Dil Bole Hadippa
and Mary Kom – that challenge the workings of power relations operative in other sports movies in Bollywood
and give attention to feminist issues and views. The road, at times, is bumpy, for Dil Bole Hadippa didn’t do
brisk business; yet box-office success of Mary Kom and Priyanka Chopa wining National Award for the film
point to the capacities of women athletes in Bollywood movies to look ahead of male strategies of
subjugations and curve out a niche for themselves on individual merits.
Keywords

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