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The gaze of the raping Muslim man: Love Jihad and Hindu right-wing rhetoric in Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmaavat

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This article draws a connection between the Hindu right-wing protests against Love Jihad and the film Padmaavat (2018), arguing that the controversy surrounding the film is animated by the same discourse used to discuss the Hindu rightwing image of the Muslim man as a seducer and rapist of Hindu women. I argue that the entire film pivots around the deferred scene of desire between the Muslim Khilji and the Hindu Padmavati. Cinematically, the fetishistic scopophilic male gaze is itself a representation of desire, that is, to see is to desire. Thus, although the film refuses to show the scene of desire, it is haunted by the fear of the Muslim man as the spectator (and thereby) desirer of Hindu women. This anxiety is exemplified by the many ways in which the film represents Khilji’s desire (and by extension the desire of all Muslim men) as always already aberrant: the Muslim man as a bisexual, violent rapist. Thus, the film mirrors the rhetoric of contemporary Hindu right-wing politics.
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Keywords: Hindutva; Mulvey; Muslim; Padmaavat; gaze; homosexuality

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Amherst College

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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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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