ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Many Misogynies of Malayalam Cinema

In the context of the recent sexual molestation of an actor in a public space in Kerala, this article analyses Malayalam cinema’s language of neo-liberal governmentality that seeks to police gendered subjectivities and regiment them within its diegetic and social terrains. It looks at the new kinds of networks forged between culture industries, the ideological state apparatus, a transformed civil society, corporate agendas, and individual actors in evolving newer forms of surveillance and punishment of bodies marginalised by gender and sexuality. The aporia of Kerala’s modernity that results in certain retrograde tendencies is most evident in its cinematic discourses, especially those built around its current investment in male superstardom.


A spectre is haunting Malayalam cinema, in fact many cinemas in India—the spectre of male superstardom. Kerala’s culture industry is written over by male desires, both economic and libidinal, and has become a superstructural expression of a reified capitalist patriarchy. It is also to a large extent today a commercial enterprise afflicted with varying degrees of mafiaisation, where the entertainment component displays a censored and censoring moral upper crust while the corrupt underbelly dips into less than licit businesses and partnerships, including money laundering, hawala dealings, predatory moneylending, pimping, blackmail, extortions, and loan-sharking that would necessitate a nexus with gangsters. The withdrawal of state subsidies and state funding for cinema, and the installation of cinema as the only art form that could weave itself seamlessly into the production–consumption industrial model within a market economy has contributed to undermining its ideological and aesthetic value. This has also led to cinema being established as the most viable of mass culture productions in its commodity form, validating, in a particularly localised context, Theodor Adorno’s seminal critique of the political economy of the culture industry.

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Updated On : 24th Aug, 2017
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