Kamasutra: A Tale of Love, a 1996 cinematic relic that failed to find its place in the Indian film industry of the 90s, gets me to question whether such a contentious movie would survive the scrutiny of the new era.

An unapologetic masterpiece or a stark spotlight on societal norms. Did the visionary filmmaker Mira Nair subvert gender stereotypes or reinforce them? Kamasutra: A Tale of Love sparked this debate when it first came out in 1996. In times when sex was considered taboo and Indian cinema, or just cinema in general, was still largely dominated by male perspectives, she told us a story about two young girls, Maya and Tara, who explored the complexities of love and desire. Set in the 16th century, the movie follows Maya, who, in the wake of a heartbreak, embraces her sensuality and becomes the courtesan of the king. The same king who is married to Maya’s former friend Tara is entrapping her in a loveless marriage.

While Nair was applauded by many for the brilliant cinematography seen in the film and the bold portrayal of female sexuality within the Indian context, she also, not so unexpectedly, faced heavy criticism due to its erotic nature. This resulted in the movie being banned in India. Now the pertinent question emerges: if released in the 2020s, would the outcome have remained unchanged?

Taking into account the female-forward intentions of the filmmaker, this movie was set out to portray that sexual desire is something that comes naturally to men and women alike. The female characters actively expressed their sexual inclinations throughout the movie. Inclinations that would have generally been a lot more silent given the time period Beyond sexual desire, Nair’s female characters exhibit a plethora of very powerful emotions, including fury, resentment, and grief. Focusing the story on the journeys of women and putting them at the forefront contributed greatly to the element of gender inclusivity.

Despite the benevolent objectives behind this movie, it received an enormous amount of backlash. While the power dynamics seen in the characters’ interpersonal relationships were a problem for some, the graphic nudity and eroticism infuriated others. The movie was called out for reinforcing stereotypes, insensitive cultural representations, and male dominance at play throughout the entire movie.

The question of whether this movie falls in the realm of commendable or critiqueable is a complicated one, especially if we are to look at it in the context of the 2020s. It’s safe to say that the movie, in today’s time, would potentially offend multiple cultures. Moreover, the evident patriarchy in the film would not align with newer feminist ideals. Although it could be attributed to the film’s historical context, these aspects would still be considered regressive, keeping in mind modern expectations for diversity and inclusivity.

Nevertheless, above everything, there would still be the persistent concern surrounding nudity and mature content, particularly where Indian cinema is involved. “Showing too much ankle” still remains a breach of cultural modesty in our country. While some people would argue that with a few censor cuts, the film could still make it to the big screen, I hold a different standpoint. Sex plays a crucial role in unfolding this narrative; without it, the story would risk losing most of its substance. So it’s fair to conclude that although this movie would have been looked at more positively where the feminist elements are concerned, I still do not think that the Indian audience would allow its release.

“Kamasutra: A Tale of Love” left a permanent mark on the canvas of film history. It is a production shaped by our own, a work of art that is beyond our grasp. As close as the Indian audience is to Mira Nair’s heart, this creation remains forever elusive—a reminder that maybe some stories are never meant to be told.

Read also: Barbie: A Review

Featured Image Credits: IMDb images

Lakshita Arora

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The media had rung the death knell on theatres and the concept of cinemagoing; statistics showed a steep decline in audiences going to movie theatres to watch films. Moreover, films shifted, literally and in the making, to the smaller screen, with several releases on OTT platforms. However, in the last year, there seems to have been a reemergence of the cinematic experience as the primary choice, as opposed to one among many.

Some surveys suggest that during the pandemic, India lost over 24 million cinemagoers, according to a report called Sizing the Cinema. It also suggested that the Hindi movie-viewing audience shrank by around 20%. Several multiplexes faced immense losses due to the abrupt lockdown and sanitation measures, leaving theatres around the world lifeless. Similarly, abroad, companies like Regal Cinema were forced to shut down, given the extent of their losses.

However, 2023 has also been a year of cinema revival, opening with Shah Rukh Khan’s mega-blockbuster, Pathaan, his great comeback film. Metted out to be quintessentially Bollywood down to the last shot, it was also an ode to the true Bollywood cinematic experience: camp, chock-full of machismo and physics-defying stunts, and most importantly, larger than life. It led to the reopening of 22 cinemas across India, which had once been bankrupted by strains of the pandemic. However, just a few months down the line, we lay witness to perhaps the largest cinematic release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, or as colloquially known, Barbenheimer.

Two films, not belonging to huge cinema franchises, managed to pull more eyeballs to the screen than most films in the past decade. It was the way the two played with familiar ideas and the way they connected to common political issues like feminism or the nuclear race, which already resided in the minds of the people (that isn’t to say their extensive marketing programmes had nothing to do with their popularity). Other releases coming up in September, like Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawaan, are also expected to fill theatres to the brim.

While we saw the palpable switch to the small screen in the pandemic, or OTT platforms like Netflix or Hulu, which gained popularity for their efficiency, accessibility, and considerable lack of censorship (especially in India), it seems as though for audiences none of this trumps the community experience of watching a movie in a hall, especially the big over-the-top productions. Movies have always relied on the masses for viewership and communication. Studies suggest the idea of sitting in a cinema hall creates a degree of escapism but, more importantly, allows one to espouse some semblance of belonging, a comforting thought after the pandemic of loneliness most have faced. With the combination of the grandiosity of movie theatres as well as the sense of community they provide, where every laugh and tear is shared, it’s no surprise that cinema, as it was imagined to be, is here to stay—on the big screen.

Read also: Barbie: A Review

Featured Image Credits: Hocmarketing.org

Chaharika Uppal
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According to an estimate, approximately fourteen million Indians visit cinemas daily to watch films. In 2012 alone, Bollywood sold around 2.6 billion tickets as opposed to Hollywood’s 1.36 billion tickets. This article attempts to look into how Indian Cinema came into being and has evolved over the decades to become what we binge-watch on our screens every day now. 

Cinema as an art and aesthetic has always been integral to Indian culture. More than that, some would even go on to call it a predilection which connects us Indians, in a rather transcendental manner. Most of us feel connected anywhere and everywhere because of these shared memories – then be it the uncountable times when Raj swept us off our feet or Amir’s Pehla Nasha, we all mutually yet exclusively share the sentiment. From artists to celebrities, big screens to web series, the stereotyped hero to the now not-so-conventional protagonists – Hindi cinema has infused distinct colors in all of our lives. 


  • Let’s turn through the pages a little bit to set the tone for this inexplicable journey that we are going to look into, shall we?
    The history of Indian Cinema goes back to the nineteenth century. In 1896, the very first films shot by the Lumiere Brothers were shown in Mumbai (then Bombay). It was not much later that Dada Saheb Phalke, a scholar of Indian languages and culture ventured India’s foremost full-length silent Marathi film, ‘Raja Harishchandra’ in 1913, and thereby laid the foundation of a regular feature film industry in India. India’s first talkie, ‘Alam Ara’, directed and released by Ardeshir Irani in 1931 was an instant hit and paved way for future successes.


Satyajit Ray’s classic film ‘Pather Panchali’ released in 1953 proved to be a major breakthrough for the Indian film industry in the global scene that won the reputed Cannes award in the best film category and led to several international and domestic honors and awards. Several films from that era, for e.g. Bimal Roy’s ‘Do Bigha Zamin’, Mehboob Khan’s ‘Mother India'(1957), Raj Kapoor’s ‘Shree 420’ (1955) and ‘Awaraa'(1951), Guru Dutt’s ‘Pyasa'(1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959), set new records at the box office. These films highlighted social themes mainly dealing with the working class. Ever since the social realist film Neecha Nagar won the Grand Prize at the first Cannes Film Festival, Hindi films were frequently in competition for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film festival throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, with some of them winning major prizes at the festival. 

The Golden Age

The late 1940s to early 1960s are what the film historians refer to as the Golden Age of Hindi Cinema. Parallel Cinema, an alternative to the mainstream Indian cinema, originated in Bengal in the 1950s. It is known for its serious content realism and naturalism. The social films of V. Shantaram, more than anything else, paved the way for an entire set of directors who took it upon themselves to interrogate not only the institutions of marriage, dowry, and widowhood, but the grave inequities created by caste and class distinctions. Some of the social problems received their most unequivocal interpretation and expression in Achhut Kanya (“Untouchable Girl”, 1936), a film directed by Himanshu Rai of Bombay Talkies. Bimal Roy’s ‘Do Bigha Zamin’ (1953), which shows the influence of Italian neo-realism, explored the hard life of the rural peasantry under the harshest conditions. 


In the meantime, the Hindi cinema had seen the rise of its first acknowledged genius, Guru Dutt, whose films critiqued the conventions of society and deplored the conditions which induce artists to relinquish their inspiration. From Barua’s Devdas (1935) to Guru Dutt’s ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Gulam’ (1962), the motif of “predestined love” remained in the epicentre with a mawkish sentiment characterising even the best of the Hindi cinema before the arrival of the new or alternative Indian cinema in the 1970s. 

The Masala Movies and Trendsetters

By mid-seventies, love stories gave way to the violent action themes about gangsters. Hindi Cinema,  more or less came to be characterised by conventional and stereotypical storylines, item numbers, and verbose drama. Amitabh Bachchan is the iconic star known for his angry young man roles. He dominated the silver screen with other male leads like Mithun Chakraborty and Anil Kapoor and female actresses including Hema Malini, Jaya Bachchan and Rekha for several years. The 1970s, thus marked the upsurge of commercial movies with trendsetter films such as Sholay (1975). Some would even go on to call the seventies, the era of the advent of ‘masala movies’ in Bollywood. The prominent actor and director, Manmohan Desai became the father of such Masala movies – 

“I want people to forget their misery. I want to take them into a dream world where there is no poverty, where there are no beggars, where fate is kind and god is busy looking after its flock.”

In the late eighties and early nineties, once again the trend changed in Indian cinema and there was a marked shift from gangster movies to romantic musicals. Family-oriented films such as Mr India (1987), Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak (1988), Maine Pyar Kiya (1989), Hum Aapke Hain Kaun (1994) and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995). A new breed of stars emerged from these films including Aamir Khan, Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla and Kajol. It was also the age of action and comedy cinema and film stars such as Govinda and Akshay Kumar and actresses like Raveena Tandon and Karisma Kapoor often cast for the particular genre of the films. 


Return to Political Sensibility 

The nineties was known for the launch of unique artists and independent filmmakers who also acquired commercial success with critical acclaim. Satya (1998), directed by Ram Gopal Varma and written by Anurag Kashyap was the best example of it which marked the beginning of a distinctive films category recognized as Mumbai noir, metropolitan flicks projecting societal issues in Mumbai city. 

Ghatak went on to serve as Director of the Film and Television School at Pune, from where the first generation of a new breed of Indian film-makers and actors – Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, and Om Puri among the latter was to emerge. These film-makers, such as Shyam Benegal, Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani, and Saeed Mirza, exhibited a different aesthetic and political sensibility and were inclined to explore the caste and class contradictions of Indian society, the nature of oppression suffered by women, the dislocations created by industrialism and the migration from rural to urban areas, the problem of landlessness, the impotency of ordinary democratic and constitutional procedures of redress, and so on.

 The 2000s: Our-Generation-Cinema

The decade of 2000s saw significant changes in terms of the cinematography, storylines, artists, and even the themes explored. Hindi Cinema witnessed a gradual digression back to the themes of exploring the day-to-day lives and challenges of the common man, so much so that the masculinist macho Raj Kapoor of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi became Balram, the drop-out from The White Tiger. The focus, then, became not turning it into the dreamy blockbuster but an artwork that can resonate with the working middle-class. The leading production houses in India including Yash Raj Films and Dharma Productions experimented with innovative contemporary films such as Kal Ho Naa Ho (2003), Chak De India (2007), and My Name is Khan (2010). Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire (2008), which has won four Golden Globes and eight Academy Awards, was also directly inspired by Bollywood films and is considered to be a homage to Hindi commercial cinema.



With the Hindi Cinema resonating with not only the people within Indian borders but also beyond, the picture has drastically shifted in contemporary times. Newer broadcast mediums such as Alt Balaji, Hotstar, Amazon Prime, and Netflix, Indian Cinema has something in store for each and every one of us – every genre, every sentiment. The advent of new pop culture terminologies such as “binge-watch” and “Netflix and chill” has made possible for both the filmmakers and the audience to explore and experiment with unconventional belief systems and artforms, paving way for new normatives. For instance, the recent Netflix buzzes The White Tiger and Sir explore an unconventional protagonist, alternative storylines and breaking out of the stereotypical taboo systems. 

Perhaps, instead of calling it a new normative, it can also be looked at as returning to our roots instead. From Lagaan (2001) and Rang De Basanti (2006) to Tamasha (2015) and Thappad (2019) – all break free of the conventional set norm to venture into what really needs to be talked about, something that not only resonates with the common man but also leaves space for discursive ideas and advancement. Pink (2016), Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016), Badhaai Ho (2018), Mardaani 2 (2019) and the list goes on. 

From giving us romance goals like Raj Kapoor in the 40s to portraying six-pack abs as a must-have for the primary male protagonist like John Abrahams and Salman Khan to eventually venture back into the idea of exploring with unconventional storylines only to break out of the norm and create relatable binge-worthy content – Indian Cinema has come a long way. Now our lead can be just as lost as we are, trying to make sense of what life is like our Ved of ‘Tamasha’ or as ambitious as Balram of The White Tiger whose only intention is to rise up the social ladder and make a name for himself (pretty much all that we are trying to do here)! Even women characters have gradually stepped out of the confines of their kitchens and homes to venture into more humane powerful personas like Priya of Kya Kehna (2000) who is resilient at the face of “log kya kahenge”, Shashi of English Vinglish (2012) who steps out of her confines to regain her identity, Rani of Queen (2014) with roaring hopes and aspirations, Pink (2016) telling the nation that when a woman says ‘no’, it means ‘no’,  and Amrita of ‘Thappad’ (2020) who steps out of her seemingly perfect life to ask uncomfortable questions. 

Therefore, a considerable amount of credence for infusing Hindi Cinema with an altogether new life, sentiment and diaspora goes to the OTT and one can only wonder what else does this enormous abode of talent, art, and impressions has in store for us. 

Image Credits – CitySpidey.com

Annanya Chaturvedi

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When was the last time when a nation of fragmented opinions unanimously poured their emotions so genuine, so natural and so powerful. Well, it might strain your memory to reconcile until the demise of cinema’s greatest acumen Irrfan Khan moved an entire generation of cinephiles and more beyond. But, what made this man and his death not so trivial?

The world is a carnival of emotions and the celluloid is thus its biggest celebration. The silver screen has for long served as the recluse for all or most of our feelings, and its players inevitably become a part of our lives. The audience around the globe and our nation in particular adores its movie personalities, their influence caters to wider prospects and their presence ushers greater momentum. They feature on our walls and our device screens; our collective memories and pleasant dreams and cultivate our endeavors by endorsing them. But, dont these things cater to the conventional stars of visual grandeur-  those who feature in extravagant films with formulaic conventions, a stardom, a following and a fanbase of their own. While, it might be that we as a generation have evolved with our preferences and adjudication of cinema or perhaps, Irrfan superseded all of this to manifest a culture of a different kind, just as his roles, movies and nature.

On 29th April, the internet community rolled into sorrow as the social media feeds were flooded with feelings over the loss of our finest cinematic potential – Irrfan. Tributes, eulogies, nostalgia and prayers, he was all over, the 53 year old Irrfan was struggling with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare cancer and hence left the world with his last performance in the March 2020 release ‘Angrezi Medium’. From juniors to contemporaries of film fraternities in Bollywood, Hollywood and Regional Films; composers to sports personalities and politicians, comedians to social media influencers; writers and scholars, everyone mourned the loss of this legendary persona. I found people who are generally technoverted and closeted in expression, remembering the man as if it was a personal loss, and hence it prompted me to discuss the various souls of this single shoulder, which embodied myriads of happiness, sorrow, catharsis, hope, belief, pain and reality as one.

The Pan India Icon

It isn’t surprising that a man who brought life to the character of Ashoke Ganguli in the Namesake as a first generation Bengali immigrant, uttered every word of Paan Singh in natural Chambali dialect. Umber Singh in Qissa cherishes every breath in Punjabi while Roohdaar haunts the streets of Kashmir with same vigour. Ranvijay Singh of Haasil resonates the North Indian political demography as Raj Batra of Hindi Medium does with regard to the typical Old Delhi shop-owner. Thomas in Mumbai Meri Jaan is the rare depiction of the South Indian vendor in the cinescape, and the same goes true for Saajan Fernandes who effortlessly anchors The Lunchbox as an about to retire widower in Mumbai. His last appearance as Keshav Bansal, a Marwari sweet shop-owner in Angrezi Medium marked the essence of his nativity in Rajasthan.

An Artist beyond Big Screen

Irrfan was more than a Bollywood actor, having done films like The Warrior, The Namesake, Inferno and Jurrasic World he is an established figure in Hollywood and has featured in Telugu and Bengali films as well and didn’t hesitate to involve in Short films like Road to Ladakh and The Bypass either. A trained dramatics student of National School of Drama, Irrfan was deeply involved in theatre and was a keen observer in theatre festivals even after gaining prominence. Irrfan started with television and went on to star in period dramas like Chandrakanta and Chanakya and hosted shows like Don and Mano Ya Na Mano. His iconic voice was more than enough to narrate films like Bajirao Mastani or dub over as Baloo in The Jungle Book.

Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.  Image Credits: Imageflip
Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.
Image Credits: Imageflip

Irrfan didn’t stop here, he went on to feature in television commercials like 7 UP, Hutch, Syska. His every Bollywood Party song or Podcast with AIB and collaborations with FilterCopy has negated stereotypes and was an enthusiastic volunteer for a perennially popular meme content.


A Literature Enthusiast

Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab Image Source: Thread Reader App
Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab
Image Source: Thread Reader App

I often wonder how many mainstream icons of such engagements engross with literature or other arts, while the quest goes on forever with disappointments, many a times I do come across someone like Irrfan, who reads Om Prakash Valmiki’s ‘Thakur Ka Kuan’ so enthusiastically, and passionately pens his feeling to great Urdu Writer Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, admiring his ‘Kai Chand the Sare Aasmaan’ and his eagerness on making a film on the same.

A Devout Human

Among many reasons that prompted so many people from various walks to respond to the demise of this great actor was probably the humanitarian nature that was typical of Irrfan apart from being a brilliant actor. Attaining the stature he was endowed with Irrfan was humble in his approach, his confidants and acquaintances reminisce him as a person of natural instict who respected his work and humans, nature and creatures alike. He was a dedicated family man, who loved his wife and children.

Apart from being a volunteer for social causes. In 2015, the actor had visited Badanavalu, a village near Nanjangud, to support theatre personality and social activist Prasanna, who launched a movement to promote sustainable living, the actor spent night with the people of the movement and has continually supported causes for sustainable development and climate change.

Irrfan with Activist Prasanna Image Credits: Deccan Herald
Irrfan with Social Activist Prasanna
Image Credits: Deccan Herald

There might be many stars with social campaigning, a perfect rags to riches story, brilliant executioners in their own fields but there was something specific about this human, the man who will be cherished by generations for what he was and what he has left as his works.

Featured Image Credits: India Today

Faizan Salik

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We have successfully completed two decades of the 21st century. These were indeed the decades of diverse on-screen representations of women. Read on for a quick recap.

Apart from the freshest-in-mind historic defeat of a long running political party and longer queues as a result of demonetisation and varied forms and issues of resistance, what these 20 years have also seen is a distinguished portrayal of women in Bollywood films. While most of these films continue to be driven by stereotypical characters and plots, off-centre sides of the feminine gender in particular have surfaced in their representations, much unfamiliar to the latter decades. One could possibly recap only some of the unconventional portrayals.

Earlier in the century, Preity Zinta’s character in Salam Namaste (2005) is shown to be in a live-in relationship, much to the surprise of Nargis or Nirupa Roy hungover audience. Boomers only. Her character was however based out of India, in Melbourne probably because a desi setting could have been too outrageous. Years later we see Kriti Sanon’s character in Luka Chuppi (2019) taking the live-in concept in the very desi Gwalior city. She is a headstrong reporting intern who later falls into a guilt trip. 

salam namaste aishwaryaa women and films

Men and women, both have been portrayed in stereotypical ways in the past. Men as strong headed, hyper masculine patriarchs, protagonists or babuji’s and women as moral anchors to them or damsels in distress. The audience’s fantasy with the ideal woman – sanskari ladki, was carried forward by films like Vivah and reinforced by the youth popular Cocktail (2012). Our eye-candy Saif Ali Khan chooses the super sanskaari Meera after gallivanting with free spirited Veronica. Things got worse when Veronica tries to woo him one last time in her modest salwar kameez. 

english vinglish aishwaryaa women and films

Films like English Vinglish (2012) talked about the Indian woman making space for herself in the modern world by ‘secretly’ learning English as a tool of empowerment. The director remarkably covered themes like emotional violence within a family, lack of acknowledgment to home-makers and ignorance towards women entrepreneurs through the legend Sridevi. 

Alia Bhatt in Dear Zindagi (2016) attempted to normalise that women need not always be the emotionally equipped ones in a society. It points out how they are made to feel inadequate for not being ‘ideal’ in a society that indulges in slut shaming. Movies like Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) or Shudhh Desi Romance (2013) have successfully validated female desire within the patriarchal institutions of society. Movies like Jodhaa Akbar (2008), Bajirao Mastani (2015), Padmavat (2018) and Manikarnika (2019) did try to talk about historical women as well but it was mostly through a pro male gaze narrative.

lipstick under my burkha aishwaryaa women and films

With great scripts and narration, film makers have time and again normalised the nuance shades of women as an individual, be it Fashion (2008) or Queen (2014). They have brought topics like sexuality and female experience into the forum of public discussion. Be it Alia’s character in Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya (2017) or Vidya Balan’s Tumhari Sulu (2017), women are shown taking up professional spaces against the set standards while also outrightly questioning traditions of dowry etc. Under the umbrella of ‘women centric’ films, biopics of women characters like in Dangal (2016), Neerja (2016) or Mary Kom (2014) have additionally found space and recognition. However, these are only stories of renowned sportspersons, politicians or inspired by landmark court cases like in No One Killed Jessica (2011) that have the capacity to fill in profits pertaining to their thriller or inspirational narratives. The stories of ordinary women and their slice of life are yet to be shared. Nil Battey Sannata (2016) is one such story. The coming decade sees high hopes for this. 

dangal aishwaryaa women and films

It took the star of the millennium, the angry young man, now old but ever so charming Amitabh Bachchan in Pink (2016) to come forward and talk about consent and that no means no, irrespective. This extremely well enacted courtroom drama talked about virginity, importance of a ‘moral character’, victim blaming and women’s rights and dignity amidst the time of Nirbhaya and other rape cases, simultaneously pricking the vulnerability of the diehard patriarchal and judgemental society. A marvel in itself. 

pink aishwaryaa women and films

These two decades have also seen women take up charge off screen as well as scriptwriters, camerapersons, directors and producers. While the entire country is in a severe state of unrest, one could consider this recap as some ‘light at the end of the tunnel’. It leaves us yearning for good stories and better representations that not only delves deep into the intricacies of gender but also can transform the mindsets of the audience into a more sensitive and considerate one. Bollywood films continue to be the most popular means of entertainment and incessant strong portrayals can most definitely help the need. TV soap operas being the next in line could also try and cover more realistic issues of human lives other than evil naagins and reincarnations. I’m sure for example long distance relationships can be a Kasautii Zindagi Ki (Test of Life) as well.


Feature Image Credits: Cristina Bombolla 

Image 1 Credits: Bollywood Bio

Image 2 Credits: Pinterest

Image 3 Credits: YouTube

Image 4 Credits: Wacom Gallery

Image 5 Credits: Amul India

Aishwaryaa Kunwar

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Cinema plays an important role in shaping the minds of people. Although it aims at covering every rare and extraordinary story, which includes some toxic concepts, it simultaneously provides the general public with unusual characters to look up to.

One of the many aspirations of Cinema is analysing the creation of psychological ties between movie characters. It is worth noticing that this is not only the objective of practical and psychological movies, but also any movie that honestly wants to demonstrate interpersonal relationships, to explain often controversial choices, and to bring various different types of relationships to the audience – even the less obvious and impenetrable ones.

The most interesting and also very controversial, one that provokes lots of conflicted emotions, is relation called Stockholm syndrome. 

Stockholm syndrome, also known as ‘capture bonding”, is a condition which causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their capturer during captivity. It is considered as a “contested illness” due to doubt about the legitimacy of the situation. When one is taken hostage by an abductor, over the course of time after trying to fight back and be rebellious, eventually the captive, forms a fondness towards the abductor. This takes place unknowingly and is all part of a psychological manifestation. When the captive doesn’t have a prospect of any other human contact and as a means of survival, he or she falls prey to the Stockholm Syndrome. This impression is so powerful, that even when the captive is set free, they prefer their alliance with the abductor, completely disregarding the suffering.

The idea may sound charming and alluring but is, in fact, toxic and unhealthy. The two people falling victim to this phenomenon don’t know that their fondness is forced and purposeful, and not out of love. They will always stand to be distinct from each other in a harmful way, with discomforting past. Not comprehending the fact that this “admiration” is nothing but a mechanism of survival.

Cinemas these days have romanticised this idea of “affection towards your abductor”. The notion of exhibiting such relationships with happy endings on Cinema is abominable. The juncture of “just for entertainment” doesn’t make it acceptable.

Movies like Highway, in which Meera, a rich beautiful girl was abducted by Mahabir, an arrogant village man. Both of them eventually fell in love and found solace with each other. Meera was a naive girl who found freedom with Mahabir. Being restricted to living like an ideal child all her life, she started to grow fond of her life as a captive, which ironically gave her more liberation. Whereas Mahabir, a seemingly tough guy, falls for Meera’s childlike and gullible nature, as she acts as a catalyst of change for him. Despite being from two different worlds, they fall for each other as a result of being in the presence of each other for so long and helping each other discover themselves. An intense case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Another highly prominent movie with a similar concept is actually a Disney movie, forming young minds. Beauty and the beast. The movie comprises of princess Belle, being held captive by the beast, who mistreats her, forbids her from seeing her father and expects her to get adjusted to this life. Belle fights back in the beginning but eventually, she develops sympathy towards the beast-like king, and they both fall in love eventually. Completely disregarding the past in which, they both tried making each other’s life miserable. Yet another case that low key focuses on Stockholm Syndrome.

Majority of Indian youth is not like us, who sits, discusses and comprehends the basic things like Cinema. Majority of Indian Youth is struggling for education and finds inspiration and illogical respite in cinema. Perception and introspection come into place here. Ours is a third world country where people worship stars, and there is a healthy percentage who cannot differentiate or rather, do not differentiate between real and reel. The portrayal of such romances not only encourages unhealthy behaviour but it promotes a mentality that makes ill-treated relationships plausible proclaiming that they represent true love.

Feature Image Credits:  Variety 

Avni Dhawan 

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Before Sonam Kapoor’s lesbian character in Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga, before Dostana brought gay romance in a problematic/not so problematic light, there was Onir’s 2005 classic My Brother…Nikhil.

Written and directed by Onir (that director whose one or two offbeat film you might be knowing, it stars Sanjay Suri (that actor you might have seen in some film or the other but you don’t know his name) as Nikhil, a gay swimmer in Goa growing up in a cosy yet subtly problematic family. However, to his emotional aid, are his sister played by a not-so-fresh Juhi Chawla (that actress in many an SRK film) and his boyfriend Nigel played by a fresh Purab Kohli (that drummer guy in Rock On). My Brother…Nikhil has this and that person involved in it, and it might not be fully mainstream, but still it shouldn’t be seen as ‘that gay film’. It’s more than that.

When Nikhil is suddenly infected with AIDS, the people around him start shunning him. He gets detached from his swimming, his parents, and everything else. He’s basically aidless.

But unlike all the LGBTQ related films in India before (the lesbian drama Fire being a major example), Onir’s drama is not that intense. And the simplicity in its narrative is what makes My Brother…Nikhil a heart-warming watch for the family.

Previously, there were just arthouse films on gay couples that were quite disturbing in the effort to accurately show reality that the oppressed face in India. This U-rated movie is no art film. There aren’t any dramatic ‘Ma, I’m gay’ monologues either. But it still manages to hit the right spots with the subtle realities of the Indian setting in which it’s based.

Nikhil’s father loves his son more with toxic manhood rather than fatherhood. He frowns whenever Nikhil’s mum calls him a ‘little boy’. If Nikhil loses a competition, all he hears is ‘This because of your lafandar friends’. When his sweet mother asks him to marry a woman just because she respects elders, Nikhil sums up the millennial view by saying ‘Typical Indian parents’!

When the AIDS angle is introduced, we see the expected stigmas of people treating Nikhil like how any vile Brahman would treat a Dalit. They stay away from him and his ‘bad touch’. These scenes are shown in a straightforward manner, no rivers of tears flowing and no tragic violin music playing in background.

Simplicity is why the movie shines. That’s why wherever it tries to go a little extra be it with the sentiments or Juhi Chawla’s English accent, it fails. On the other hand, the scenes with the parents and Nikhil’s boyfriends flow smoothly.

Coming to the boyfriend, Onir beautifully shows an ordinary relationship between two men showing that they care for each other. There are no stereotypical tropes of Bollywood romance or any forced ‘special’ aspect to the bond. Onir, who himself came out of the closet a few years back, doesn’t make being gay some sort of special thing, not like other problematic representations which try to gain sympathy and nothing else.

Being gay is just being human, like everyone in society. For this reason, My Brother…Nikhil definitely deserves a watch. You can stream it on Netflix or Hotstar.


Featured Image Credits- My Brother Nikhil


Shaurya Singh Thapa

[email protected]

Exploring Amba Cinema, the single screen theatre near North Campus and the people that make it.

The University of Delhi in general, and its North Campus in particular is like a brewery of cheap wine, brewing cheap thrills and sweet memories for the students that thrive in it. Kamala Nagar is one such prime destination, bustling with activity every day. On its outer edges, lie areas that start showing a family demographic rather than that of students. Just a few steps ahead of the market place’s ghantaghar (clock tower), and you’ll set foot to the gate of the only movie theatre in the campus area. This is Amba.

When I first arrived at Amba Cinema, I could see a diverse crowd before the evening show was to start. There were a couple of college couples, scattered all over the outer edges of the building, smiling sheepishly, waiting to exchange a kiss for a millisecond. Amidst this young love, I saw a small boy called Faizal pedalling an equally small bicycle.
He was cycling around, gazing at the movie posters with the fascination of a film connoisseur. As I stopped him for a conversation, he gave his verdict on the poster of the upcoming historical drama Manikarnika. ‘Bohot tagdi picture lag rahi hai. Par dekhke hi pata chalega ab.’, Faizal said. (‘It seems like a strong film. But I’ll get to know how it actually is, only after viewing’).

This little boy lives nearby and helps his brother at times, who sells vegetables on the street. Times aren’t easy for him but yet he smiles with his weekend entertainment when he comes to Amba with his brother. After all, Amba has two varieties of seats, wooden and recliner, both decently priced at 60 and 120 bucks (which is even lesser than what a bucket of popcorn in an ordinary multiplex would cost).

Amba has had a history with several generations of DU students now, as it has been more than fifty years since it was set up by certain old gentlemen Shiv Shanker Lall and Bhavani Shanker. The family runs the cinema till this day. Set up in 1963, the word ‘Amba’ (written in Devanagari) has survived, erected on a stand above the building, In the face of multiplexes, its single screen format has survived too in this part of the city.

However, it has accepted some modern changes along the way. The Dolby Atmos sound system was introduced a few years ago, as the staff says. And now, even English movies are being screened every once in a while, along with the usual Hindi ones. Hence, a cut out of Captain Marvel stood proudly, along with posters of Simmba and Manikarnika.

Turning it into a proper movie hall, the security has also been updated. The guards at the gate and the doors are hired on a temporary basis. However, nearly a year ago, the security scene reached a new level, with the controversial film Padmavat hit the screens. Rishabh Gogoi, a second-year student from Cluster Innovation Centre, recalls on how his experience was.
‘My first experience at Amba was remarkable as I had come to watch Padmavat. On the first day and the first show, there were at least three rounds of security checking before you actually sit inside. At one point, it even felt that there were more CRPF chaps than movie watchers.’

Talking about security, the hall is generally a quiet place without much ruckus. However, according to many students, the night shows are not advisable as the hall is rather filled with ‘uncivilised crowds’! Barring that, Amba Cinema is still a noteworthy landmark for the DU student. With a new outlet of H&M in Kamala Nagar, people are predicting that the wave of capitalism won’t stop till a privatised multiplex is set up. If that happens in the near future, some like Faizal and many more would still pray that Amba’s charm doesn’t die and it doesn’t shut down. Hope their prayers are answered…

Featured Image Credits: Rishabh Gogoi for DU Beat

Shaurya Singh Thapa
[email protected]

Roma, the most honored film of the year, is turning heads and changing the public discourse around representation. The film puts into center, the unsung heroes of the functional upper and middle class families across the world, the domestic workers. It will break your heart and move you, so watch it to realise your privilege.

Have you watched Roma? You should, if you haven’t. Alfonso Cuarón’s intimate family drama set in 1970’s Mexico is a wonderful masterpiece and an absolute cinematic spectacle. It is a visual representation of a personal diary, a diary of Cleo, a young woman of Mixtec Mesoamerican heritage who works as a live-in maid for a white upper-middle-class family in Mexico City. Prepare to be emotionally moved and wrung out and re-think the way you look at people whom you don’t give a second thought to.
The film is shot in black-and- white with extraordinary clarity and detail, with its majesty and grandeur being communicated through the soft gaze and gentle spirit and vulnerability of Cleo. It takes place inside the house where a gated, open-roofed passage filled with bicycles, plants, caged birds and an under loved, but chirpy and enthusiastic dog named Borras is shown, time and again. Cleo and her friend Adela, the family cook, live at the end of the corridor in a tiny, cramped room, upstairs. In the morning, Cleo wakes the children; at night, she puts them to bed.
From each dawn and until long after dusk, she takes cares of the family who seems unable to function without her help. She serves meals, cleans and carries laundry to the roof, where she washes the clothes in view of other maids on other roofs with their own heavy loads. We see her as she works and also in ways that we don’t commonly see domestic workers, as she makes a date with her first love, exercises by candlelight at night, gossips with her friend, and experiences the most profound forms of loss imaginable.
In Roma, does Cleo’s daily trek to her modest rooftop room, away from the family’s home and her candlelit exercise sessions, the lights-out rule imposed by the family matriarch make you think? Of course, it does. You have seen it happen in your own home. Domestic work has been and continues to be associated with women’s work, and by extension devalued. Domestic workers, can in no way cause inconvenience to the family members. After all, she’s just a maid, right? She’s never fully human for you, maybe a person whom you see every day and take notice and get tensed on the day she decides to take a holiday. Sounds familiar?
How can we forget the emotional labor that’s expected out of Cleo, every time? She’s obligated to express emotions the way her employer wants her to, whether it be politeness, cheerfulness, and in the case of children, love and affection. Well, with Cleo her kindness for the kids is genuine; it comes across as heartfelt, and is returned. “We love you very much,” they tell her. But it’s back to business just a few scenes later, when they ask her to fetch snacks while they watch TV. Her responsibility to provide care places her within the family, and yet her role as an employee places her outside of it. Her relationship with her employer is both intimate and distant, and she is both vulnerable and powerful. Roma forces the audience to look at the world defined by a hierarchy of power and privilege, to look at the “Cleos” of our own world.
Can we ignore the fact that physical abuse and sexual harassment are common, and most full-time workers don’t receive benefits or savings toward a pension? There are no fixed working hours; domestic workers are always on call. There are no minimum wages and no right to safe working places. The entire sector is defined by poverty-level wages, high rates of abuse and few mechanisms for recourse.
This film might force you to look at the harsh realities of domestic workers across the world. Maybe, take a look or two in your own home. Have you ever looked at the woman who comes to your house to do your work or stays at your house to do your chores, all day long? No, you never because honestly, why would you care?
You have a lot on your own plate, and you believe she’s happy too. She seems like it. Take a minute to look at the nannies we entrust with small children, the house cleaners who bring sanity to our homes, and the caregivers who care for our disabled and elderly loved ones. It’s the work that our economy doesn’t recognize, because the people who do it live in the margins and the work arrangements are often informal.
And yet, it is some of the most critical work in our society — caring for what is most precious to us, our loved ones and our homes — and to our economy, allowing millions of people to work outside the home while the domestic workforce takes care of what needs to be done inside the home.

Featured Image Credits- Vulture

Disha Saxena
[email protected]

Caucus, the group discussion forum at Hindu College organized Vaktavya – the 6th annual group discussion festival on 25-26th March. The festival was scheduled to have bilingual group discussions and baithaks.

 “Banning the burqua: Can women’s rights trump religion”

For Day 1, “Banning the burqua: Can women’s rights trump religion” was the discussed topic for conventional group discussion (GD). Discussion was moderated by Caucus members. Arushi Walecha was the Chairperson for the discussion and Pratishtha Mahajan sat as the Rapporteur. Each participant during the discussion was allowed to present his or her views and each opinion was recorded with the moderators. Mohammed Ziyad Ansari, a participant in the course of discussion remarked, “Islamic religious books not only talk about hijab (burqua) for women but for men as well. The purpose of hijab is not only covering one’s self, but also to show respect, lower the case and guard modesty.”

After 60 minutes of bilingual discussion, moderation and recording of views, the group came out with a common solution which mentioned that whether burqua or not, depends on the individuals choice. Ziyad also added that, “It should be the woman who should choose. We should keep in mind that Quran doesn’t impose burqua on anyone, it presents a choice.” The group also felt that, in the west there are many predetermined notions about these women who wear burquas. So someone who hasn’t experienced it or someone who doesn’t have full knowledge of the same has no right to condemn this system. Raja was adjudged the winner for this round of discussion.

“Is secularism irrelevant in the current Indian political context?”

Baithak at Vaktavya conducted a discussed on, “Is secularism irrelevant in the current Indian political context?” Baithak is an open discussion where no one moderates the discussion. Instead, a peer evaluation system is followed where the whole group evaluates other speakers and a best speaker is declared. This was also a bilingual discussion on what secularism is defined and understood as. The group also discussed about whether secularism as an issue is relevant in political discourse.

Baithak that was conducted for over one hour came out with the conclusion that despite the current political emphasis on development and economics, secularism still remains an agenda. Sandeep Singh, a baithak participant mentions, “Secularism stands on a proposition that religion and government state should be separated. But this agenda of secularism influences our perception of the political parties and candidates participating in the elections.” Sandeep was also declared the winner of this baithak session by his co-participants.

“Should schools teach – virginity is not a virtue”

On the second day, baithak‘s discussion revolved around the topic – “Should schools teach – virginity is not a virtue.” After 70 minute exercise of presenting their views, the group unanimously decided that virginity should be based on individuals perception and not as a universal virtue. Aishwarya Puri, the winner of this baithak round mentions, “Virginity should not be taught in schools, because when virginity is associated with a term like virtue, it becomes subjective.” A few members of the group also  presented their opinions on why this subject of virginity should be a part of school teachings.

 “Realism v/s Escapism : Does cinema need a purpose”

The last discussion at the festival had Nimisha Kawatra and Nishtia Khattar moderating the discussion as Chairperson and Rapporteur respectively. The topic, “Realism v/s Escapism : Does cinema need a purpose” had mixed views coming in from the participants. According to the members of the group, cinema works both ways. On one hand, it is a chute to propel one into another world for two hours and on the other, it can ground someone more firmly into the reality and enable him or her to see past the illusions of the society. Sandeep, who also bagged the first prize at baithak of secularism, was declared the winner for this discussion as well.

Vaktavya came to an end with screening of a short film called The Naturalist by Connor Hurley for all the Caucus members.