Maya Machhindra and Amar Jyoti: Reaffirmation of the Normative

Economic & Political Weekly, April 25, 2009, vol XLIV no 17

I’ve always been wary analysing something that’s not recent — it becomes at effort in post-fitting what might have been, more than anything else.¹

So, when I began reading Maya Machhindra and Amar Jyoti: Reaffirmation of the Normative, I was worried of something from over 75 years old being analysed from a lens that is contemporary. I had underestimated academic writing by miles!

In this paper, Vaishali Diwakar “seeks to capture one such moment of dissonance in history and looks at how the popular cinema masked, evaded, deflected or resolved the anxieties about changing equation of gender and power.²” To do this, she chooses two of V Shantaram’s films of the 1930s.

While I’ve not watched either of the films analysed here, the introduction to the political climate of the time, and ‘votes for women’ movement in India makes for a great read. She covers the various movements, class and caste divides, differences in how men and women reacted to politics — and especially the anxieties it gave rise to. Once that is understood, the films almost smoothly fall to represent public sentiment on screen.

In the 1930s, both Sarojini Naidu and Begum Shah Nawaz declared that they were not feminists and there was no such thing as a feminist movement in India.

If you register on jstor, you can read the paper for free here.

¹ This doesn’t go to claim that I have never done it. I have. Perhaps because it was relevant, or because I was being silly. But I have been wary of it at all times.

² As response to recent criticism, Uma Vangal explores stalking and sexual harassment in Tamil cinema on similar lines: