ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Flawed Mothers and Resentful Daughters: Examining the changing portrayal of mother-daughter relationships through a reading of Qala


Kapoor Taanya - University of Oxford, Department of International Development, Oxford, United Kingdom


02 – Rewriting Hindu Women within Contemporary Popular Media


 Popular portrayals of motherhood in Hindi Cinema have always cast the mother as a self-sacrificing, goddess-like figure with purely altruistic intentions. Despite newer imagery of the modern Indian woman, the figure of the mother has remained largely unchanged in popular media. This paper uses the nuanced portrayal of a flawed mother and a dutiful but resentful daughter in the Netflix movie Qala to comment on the changing perceptions of mother-daughter relationship in contemporary India.

Combining a contextual analysis Qala with insights from interviews with daughters from upper-class households in Delhi-NCR, this paper argues that daughter aversion in New India takes the form of emotional neglect and psychological abuse that sits comfortably alongside the equal provision of material comforts and opportunities to both sons and daughters. Qala’s complicated mother-daughter relationship subtly but powerfully demonstrates how daughter aversion manifests in elite households, where the very lack of material deprivation towards girls is weaponized to extract a display of “good daughterhood”, curtailing daughters’ agency and denying them any opportunity to complain. By allowing space for resentment and yearning for love to co-exist, I claim that the movie accurately reflects a more mature and evolving understanding of the mother-daughter relationship in India today, revealing the contradictory messaging of value-worth that daughters receive, and the consequences thereof.