Vigilantism and the pleasures of masquerade : the female spectators of vijayasanthi films

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Book chapter

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City flicks : cinema, urban worlds and modernities in India and beyond

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International Development Studies, Roskilde University


My interest in Vijayasanthi dates back to discussions over the last decade in women’s groups about film and media, to our embarrassment about weepy women, anger against the “degradation” of female bodies, and our discontent regarding female stereotypes. Our reaction was to seek positive images of women, to read for character and plot, which would “empower” women viewers. Our attention was drawn to the popularity of the Vijayasanthi figure, and we wondered if our applause for a woman beating up the villains would be wholly unqualified. We noticed that both feminist and non-feminist women spectators for different reasons felt some discomfort at watching Vijayasanthi, and were confused about the compulsion to celebrate vigilantism. My paper is an attempt at exploring the reasons for that discomfort (did it have to do with the replication of male violence, or with the fluidity of sexual identity in the films?). Are characters and plot the most interesting aspects of these films? Or would a focus on the problems of spectatorship yield a more nuanced reading of our admittedly ambivalent responses?

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Roskilde Universitscenter. International Development Studies. Occasional Paper, 22

ISBN of the source publication: 9788773495469

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Recommended Citation

Niranjana, T. (2002). Vigilantism and the pleasures of masquerade: The female spectators of vijayasanthi films. In P. Kaarsholm (Ed.), City flicks: Cinema, urban worlds and modernities in India and beyond (pp. 185-198). Roskilde: International Development Studies, Roskilde University.