A Handful of Stories

Reportage on health, science and politics. And some meditations on film

Essays

The Courtesan, the Sportsperson and the Desires of the Nation

The courtesan, a long-time fascination of Hindi cinema, is being replaced by the sportsperson. Corporeal labour and the art of sports is the kind of performance that the politics of post-2000 India celebrates. The courtesan represents women in pre-modern India, the sportsperson represents the ideal citizen of contemporary India. In particular, the sportswoman In the book Dancing with the Nation,…

The Unpaid Labour of Housewives

The Bengali films Tasher Ghawr and The Lovely Mrs Mukherjee show the domestic servitude written into subcontinental marriages  Some days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi locked us down on 25 March with the battle analogy of the 18-day Kurukshetra war, the celebrity housework videos began. Then, the men who did not have cameras installed for easy recording provided dishwashing updates, and…

Why A Woman Who Reads is Still Unusual in Hindi Film

The gift of an Amrita Pritam book in Soni feels like a little revolution. So does the library scene in Manikarnika There is a moment in Manikarnika that nothing had prepared me for. The film is a biopic on the well-known historical figure Rani Laxmibai, a heroine of our high-school history. The trailer underlined the notes of this familiar story, of an…

Why are “servants” in Hindi film so heroic?

Gully Boy and Parasite have the same front-seat-back seat dynamic of “servants and masters”. So does Joker. But Gully Boy locates its problems in the abusive, alcoholic fathers of Dharavi. Why is Hindi film so shy about class conflict? Around the mid-point of the Oscar-winning Parasite, right before it pivots to another gear, is a conversation that sums up the…

Are Independence and Partition Male Experiences?

In Hindi film, the woman is rarely the protagonist of a Partition or Independence narratives. But Bengali film always centers the experience of women in such narratives. An introspection The 2018 Bengali film Ek Je Chhilo Raja, while largely mediocre, has an interesting question towards its tail. The film centres on a real-life legal battle for property in India, known…

The New Viranagana and the Memories of Nadia

A figure leaps headlong onto the screen, fully armoured, face hooded by a helmet. Spears are sent clattering, sentries hurtle across the room, Bajirao and his lieutenant watch in surprise. We don’t know whether this is a man or a woman, friend or foe. Could this be Mastani? The anticipation was nicely set up by the trailer for Bajirao Mastani,…