ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

The New Indian Woman and Her Others in Alankrita Shrivastava’s films


Abdali Zainab - Rice University, English, Houston, United States


02 – Rewriting Hindu Women within Contemporary Popular Media


 One of India’s foremost feminist film directors, Alankrita Shrivastava is known for her “lady-oriented” films that center women’s desires and dreams, and that consider how women navigate a rapidly globalizing India, the “New India.” Her most recent film, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare (2020), stays true to her reputation, following the lives of two Hindu women, Dolly and Kaajal, as they engage in various types of affective labor and morally ambiguous schemes in order to “make it” in the postcolonial capitalist landscape of Noida.

Building on the work of scholars Megha Anwar and Anupama Arora on Bollywood’s New Woman, in this paper I examine Shrivastava’s construction of the New Indian woman through the character of Kaajal in Dolly Kitty. I argue that the film presents us not only with the figure of the “successful” New Indian woman, but also references an absence: those “Others” who are excluded from the vision of New India and New Indian womanhood. Reading Dolly Kitty alongside Shrivastava’s earlier film, Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016) allows us to see more clearly this absence, and in this paper I read the two films together to point out Shrivastava’s powerful critique of the New India narrative, as she draws attention to the ways in which the empowerment and prosperity of the New Indian woman is contingent on the dispossession and excision of New India’s religious Others from the geographical, political, and cultural borders of the New Indian homeland.