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

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Currying Coloniality

Mirch Masala’s Women and Their Acerbic Resistance

Mirch Masala’s invocation of M K Gandhi celebrates independence from an external colonial state while also manufacturing consent for the modernising initiatives undertaken by the postcolonial state.

Movies, as historical texts, are products of material conditions and are therefore ideologically embedded. During the 1970s, a novel artistic movement emerged in India, which envisioned art beyond the confining contours of formulaic plots and garish songs that had hitherto dominated mainstream cinema. The “New Cinema” trend swerved the cinematic gaze to social structures of caste, class, and gender. Constitutive of this trend, Ketan Mehta’s Mirch Masala (1987) is a Hindi film that explores the social relations that characterised colonial India. The movie etches out the challenges that working women must contend with through its protagonist Sonbai (Smita Patil), who escapes into the factory that she and other women in the village work at when the Subedar attempts to “acquire” her at all costs. United by their experiences of marginalisation, the women collectively vanquish the advances of the Subedar. Akin to other New Cinema films, Mirch Masala was state-funded and this was an important material consideration that had a bearing on the imagination of the India it constructs. As the Nehruvian state’s developmental project was a dominant feature during the 1970s in creating a colonial past, Mirch Masala also legitimises the postcolonial present by criticising not only the feudal system but also marginalising a pivotal figure associated with championing the village—M K Gandhi.

While it remained imperative to remember Gandhi as the film was released in the 40th anniversary of independence, it was important to not reproduce his imagination of the decentralised village as the backbone of the nation. Thus, the Gandhian character Masterji is not the protagonist of the movie; Gandhi’s vision of the village as the vanguard of development had to remain in the shadows of history. However, aspects of the Gandhian thought that concur with the postcolonial state’s ideology are allowed to flourish in the narrative. For instance, when Masterji opposes being tied down, the film alludes to how India refused to be bound by the chains of colonisation.

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Updated On : 16th Aug, 2022
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