CISA Feature Speaker: Ajay Gehlawat on “Hungama ho gaya: The Erotic Threat of Female Intoxication in Hindi Film Songs”

CISA Feature Speaker: Ajay Gehlawat on “Hungama ho gaya: The Erotic Threat of Female Intoxication in Hindi Film Songs”

Monday, November 30, 2020

10:00 AM - 11:00 AM (Pacific Time)

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A recurring staple of the popular Hindi film form is when actresses pretend to be drunk. Underlying such performances is the notion of nasha, i.e., that it is precisely because the woman (heroine, vamp or both) is intoxicated that she performs in such a manner. Nasha, in other words, overrides sharam, or shame. On the other hand, the audience latently knows that the actress is not actually drunk yet nevertheless desires to see her perform as if she actually were. There is thus a (double) fantasy of ‘drunkenness’/intoxication that is specifically gendered vis-à-vis the Indian woman onscreen – she who is simultaneously expected to show signs of ‘intoxication’ and, paradoxically, of non-intoxication (being able to effectively perform the intricate steps of the ‘intoxicating’ song and dance sequence). Here, the concepts of bricolage and impersonation both become relevant. Building on these ideas, this paper will explore the erotic threat posed by the (apparently) intoxicated female subject in popular Hindi films, as well as the historical techniques deployed to contain such a threat. In considering contemporary iterations of such moments, this paper will also explore related shifts in the composition of the Bollywood film form, including the shifting pitch of female playback singers, new forms of visual address employed in song and dance sequences and attendant shifts in thematic content, as well as how all of these elements frame, and are reframed by, such ‘explosive’ moments.



Ajay Gehlawat is Professor of Theatre and Film at Sonoma State University. He is the author of Twenty-First Century Bollywood (2015) and Reframing Bollywood (2010), as well as editor of The Slumdog Phenomenon (2013). Most recently he has co-edited The Evolution of Song and Dance in Hindi Cinema (2019) and guest-edited a special issue of Studies in South Asian Film and Media on Hindutva politics and South Asian cinema-media in the age of Modi.





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Download file: AJAY-GEHLAWAT-fn-xe3.pdf

Sponsor(s): Center for India and South Asia

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