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Dialectic of Public and Private-Representation of Women in Bhoomika and Mirch Masala

Representation of Women in Bhoomika and Mirch Masala Ranjani Mazumdar The post emergency period in India witnessed the production of a number of films dealing with women's issues particularly by those who came under the category of New Wave directors. This article attempts a textual and contextual reading of two New Wave films, with the objective of proving or disproving the argument that cinema on women within this category is constrained by dominant ideological discourses on women and falls prey to the liberal epistemology of mainstream feminism which has always tried to perceive the women's question as only a gender war ANY genuine attempt to understand and analyse the representation of women in artistic practice must insist upon the social character of all practices. Cinematic practice like any other form of artistic practice is also shaped by concrete social relations and works within and on socially produced ideologies. Cinema is a complex structure which brings together various elements in a dialectical unity, ideas, themes, compositions language, etc' Therefore the relationship between the formaJ mechanism of film to ideology must be considered seriously. The representation of women in cinema has been a major issue of debate amongst feminist film theorists. In India the post- emergency period witnessed the production of a number of films dealing with women's issues, particularly by those who came under the category of the 'New Wave' directors. This essay is an attempt towards a textual and contextual reading of two New Wave films, Bhoomika (The Role) and Mirch Masala (Spices). The primary objective is to prove or disprove the arguments we are trying to raise that the cinema on women within what is considered the Indian New Wave is constrained by dominant ideological discourses on women and, that in spite of their feminist aspirations they fall prey to the liberal epistemology of mainstream feminism which has always tried to perceive the women's question as only a gender war. (Mirth Masala is possibly one of the few exceptions.) While recognising the contributions of the liberal feminist movement in focusing on the specificity of gender oppression, a Marxist feminist analysis operates within a wider notion of the 'social* where gender oppression overlaps and is informed by that of caste and class.

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