PresenterDueholm Amalie Goul - University of Washington, Seattle, Cinema and Media Studies, Seattle, United States
Panel02 – Rewriting Hindu Women within Contemporary Popular Media
This paper examines the representation of motherhood in the Hindi-language Netflix series Mai: A Mother’s Rage released globally in 2022. The figure of the mother has a long and rich legacy in the Indian cultural imagination, including in Hindi cinema, where the Hindu mother especially has served as a symbol of the nation, the voice of the state, and the embodiment of traditional culture and morality. Though the cinematic mother has always been capable of violence, as evidenced in films like Mother India (1957), as a cinematic figure she is mostly recognised for her capacity of extreme self-sacrifice. This paper uses Mai: A Mother’s Rage to a identify a new trend in the depictions of screen mothers, the warrior mother, who, motivated by care and duty, faces off against criminals and corrupt politicians to avenge a loved one. Sheel, the mother in Mai, is presented to us as a submissive and dedicated middle-class wife, mother, and worker at the start of the film, yet as the film progresses her domestic skills are gradually weaponised to compensate for a failed and corrupt system. Building on Sikata Banerjee and Tanika Sarkar’s work on the role of women within Hindu right-wing groups and Ratna Kapur’s critique of the feminist movement, this paper argues that the figure of the warrior mother responds to global and local discourses of female empowerment by mobilising the values of care and duty in Hindu motherhood to legitimise acts violence when the state fails.