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A Certification Anomaly: The Self-Sacrificial Female Body in Bombay Cinema

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Released in 1989 after a long court battle, Pati Parmeshwar/My Husband, My God is an anomaly in the history of Indian censorship because the debates in which it was enmeshed sought to define what kinds of cinematic representations constituted woman's servility. For decades, committees constituted by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had consistently overlooked such representations and focused on censoring sexually explicit images such as closeups of women's bosoms, thighs and gyrating hips. However, in the case of Pati Parmeshwar, the CBFC banned a film which employed a ubiquitous Hindi film trope, namely, the self-sacrificial wife. This article examines this anomalous act and its subsequent consequences, revealing competing visions of the Indian state. These visions underscore that the state is not a monolithic entity.

Keywords: Film censorship; Hindi cinema; Indian state; Women

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Binghamton University, Department of English.

Publication date: 2009-05-01

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  • Studies in South Asian Film and Media (SAFM) is the most promising new journal in the field. This peer-reviewed publication is committed to looking at the media and cinemas of the Indian subcontinent in their social, political, economic, historical, and increasingly globalized and diasporic contexts. The journal will evaluate these topics in relation to class, caste, gender, race, sexuality, and ideology.
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