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Performative Bengali Masculinity: The Rhetoric of Becoming in Bengali Popular Cinema of the 1950s

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Abstract:

This article seeks to engage with the notion of performativity and Bengali masculinity in the popular Bengali cinema of the 1950s. I refer to the popular Bengali film Sare Chuattor/Seventy Four and a Half (1953) to consider, along the lines of Judith Butler's account of performative identity, Bengali popular cinema's representation of Bengali middle-class masculinity in the 1950s as a complex, coercive and regulatory normative ideal that tended not only to serve culturally conservative aims, but also to constitute an exclusionary practice. Using the film as a case in point, this article attempts to show how popular Bengali melodramas foregrounded the rhetoric of becoming that was conspicuous in the Bengali male in the immediate post-independence period. The basic argument is that if indeed there is a notion of hegemonic Bengali masculinity, then it is always marked by a constitutive contingency a failure of complete determination that ensures its permanent instability, and, at the same time, its internal and positive condition of possibility.

Keywords: Bengali cinema; Bengali male; Bhadralok; Uttam Kumar; masculinity; performativity

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1386/safm.2.1.3_1

Affiliations: University of Calcutta.

Publication date: 2010-07-01

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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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