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Rethinking Solidarity: De (Gendered) Empathy and (Inter) Subjectivity in Rituporno Ghosh’s Films

in: Imaginations, Narratives and Mediated Performances of Solidarity and Community. Ed. by Nadja-Christina Schneider and Maitrayee Chaudhuri (2021)

Published onOct 05, 2021
Rethinking Solidarity: De (Gendered) Empathy and (Inter) Subjectivity in Rituporno Ghosh’s Films
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Abstract

Indian cinema in the 21st century has taken into consideration ‘alternate’ identities, narratives, and desires thereby seeking to create and recreate the notions of subjectivity associated with both femininity and masculinity. While the traditional inclination of rendering the identity of women being invisible has seen a gradual constructive change, cinematic space has also captured the emerging possibilities to address the different forms of masculinity in the contemporary context. The normative masculinity in the cultural context of India oppresses and exploits not only women but concomitantly marginalizes queerness. Thus, the counter-hegemonic media/film representations have broken the ‘silence’ and accommodated the voice of individuals who have appeared in the social context to challenge the fixed gender identities. Such ‘othered’ lives who are consociated on a common ground of subjugation and victimization, nurture a “fellow feeling” which has culminated into new forms of intersubjectivities and facilitated a collective transformation by increasing our sensitivity to the ‘differences’.

This article explores how sympathetic agency and solidarity extend beyond gender binaries to foster an inclusionary ideal for both women and queer identities. With reference to two films by Rituporno Ghosh(1963-2013), a Bengali film-director, writer and lyricist whose works explored the moral hypocrisies of the present century along with transgressive social codes, same-sex desires and other reflective concerns, we would explore how his cinematic lens captured the silent realities and struggles of Indian women. By analyzing the films Chitranganda: The Crowning Wish (2012) and The Last Lear (2007), we can understand how the role of compassionate reciprocity in feminist cinematic sites enable the speaking subject to reshape the collectivities we are a part of and envisions a possibility of change by recognizing embodied experiences.

Keywordshyper-masculinity, manhood, sympathetic-agency, mutual recognition, fellow-feeling.

Introduction

 Pluralistic nature of gender struggle against the culture of heteropatriarchy and marginalization has mobilized in ways that indicate a perceptible departure in aspects related to content and also method/medium of resistance. The increasing normalization of media technologies [Fotopoulou 2016] in our lives has transformed it into “spaces” that aid in enacting the “social” through the communicative exchange [Couldry & Hepp 2016,13] . Thus, it has enabled in reflecting the embodied experiences of the marginalized lives that intersect on varied grounds like race, class, caste, religion, age, disability, and initiated counter-representations of gendered subjects. The contemporary portrayal of the ‘other’ in literary and cultural texts has asserted their subjectivity that was previously excluded and even considered non-viable within the conventional framework of societal representation. Across varied media forms like advertisements, magazines, television/web series, films, and others the stereotypical images concerning a ‘woman’ ( a devoted wife, a sacrificial mother, a sexually attractive woman) that had distinctly effaced her embodied identity have been categorically subverted to present her as an equivalent “maker of meaning” [Mulvey 1989, 58] in the context of the changing society. The meanings and ideologies associated with femininity have been re-produced in media representations that have aided the ‘woman’ in awakening self-recognition and participating in the shared cause for empowerment [Thornham 2007, 7]. With digital activism gaining recognition, online platforms, and social sites have consolidated the collective concerns of women and the “we” [Dean 1996, 3] politics has ushered in a sense of fellow-feeling and responsibility for a desired social change. The mediascape emerging as a voice of sociopolitical change and unprecedented opportunities for feminist empowerment however has also been inimically directed for the purpose of online gender trolling, defamation and threats towards those who categorically do not conform to the heteropatriarchal constructs of the society. Within the Indian context where the regressive patriarchy continues to control and regulate women’s bodies, desires, sexualities, and identities, contemporary media forms have attempted to capture the wider commonalities of exploitation and trauma that women encounter in their daily existence.  An emergent agency circling the female characters has been distinctly visible in contemporary print and visual media representations, that has effectively challenged the traditional rendition of the Indian female self-body dyad keeping in sync with the changing socio-cultural perception of the times. Such re-envisioning of female roles and sensibilities depict the collective struggle among women in on/off screen striving for recognition of common interests and creates an alternative space for mutual reciprocity and “dissident solidarity”1 [Chowdhury & Philipose 2016, 124]

Alongside, it has also raised pertinent questions on the internalized notions of masculinity which often remain unnoticed due to its normative nature. While hegemonic masculinity is idolized, homosexuality and queerness continue to be marginalized and stigmatized in Indian society. The inherent patriarchy oppresses and exploits not only women but systematically subjugates and persistently victimizes men who do not conform to the prescriptive codes of essential ‘manhood’ or sexual subjectivity of the mainstream that valorized heterosexual masculinity and condemned alternative sexualities [Dasgupta & Gokulsing 2013]. The gendered terrains of masculinity are strictly limited and the conventional framework circling manhood condemns any physical or emotional gestures that resemble ‘unmanly’ attributes. Thus, “conservative masculinity” [Franklin 1984] has perpetuated itself in the minds of Indian men until recently when challenged, it experienced (re)appropriation that enables men to express themselves without any fear of societal repudiation. Digital discourse in this normative framework has played an important role by unveiling the truths of hyper-masculinity that remains embedded in everyday interactional practices and negates subjective experiences [Fotopoulou 2016]. It has effectively captured the concurrent multiplicities of gender urging one to reconsider the ideas concerning ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ thereby forging an inclusive understanding of social identities and spectatorial solidarity.

As media narratives and films remain ingrained in their socio-cultural histories, they bear witness to the shifting dynamics of identity formation that aids in social transformation. Thus, it is significant to understand how the Indian cinema2 in the contemporary context has served as a functional instrument of resistance and decentered the hegemonic grand narrative that shaped the nation’s perception of gender and sexuality. Hindi cinema (popularly known as Bollywood) until recent times have popularized and normalized the notion of problematic toxic masculinity along with misogynistic, sexist attitudes that represents men as perpetrators and women as passive victims of their subordination. Bollywood3 films like Holi (1984) have mostly rendered the subjectivity of alternative sexualities invisible onscreen and until the recent century have weaved the plot glorifying aggressiveness and machoism in male characters. This further brings to our notice the stark realities of representation that entrenched binaries revolving around the submissive female roles in cinematic spaces. Hence, the portrayal of both women and men in the films was unidimensional- the female characters being objectified and rendered voice-less whereas the male actors were being typecast in chivalrous roles resonating with violence and virility [Dasgupta & Gokulsing 2013] .

However 1980 onwards, Indian cinema witnessed a gradual shift in the attitudes towards gender representation, and with the advent of the new century, reel-life characters diverged from their past traditions incorporating alternative perspectives and experiences. For actresses portraying dominant and powerful roles rather than submissive and dutiful mothers and wives on the screen was a welcome change and male roles got toned down with an additional compassionate undertone and recognized the marginalized masculinities. In contrast to the former stereotypical representations, the conventional gender portrayal had already been destabilized in the regional Bengali film4 industry by directors like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, and others whose portrayal of characters ruptured the “traditionally” expected and paved way for the culturally “new” [Mukherjee 2016, 4]. Even in the mainstream Bengali films, there was an evident repositioning of the hypermasculinity which acted as a yardstick against which both men and women were assessed [Nandy 1999].

While women have been projected in meaningful roles that emphatically challenge dominant ideas, men too have extended their recuperative support in her collective struggle that indicates significant alterations in representational strategies. In presenting the perspectives of everyday context, Bengali cinema revealed the untold stories of male allegiance in undoing the gender hierarchies ingrained in the social matrix and establishing mutual interdependence. The “intellectual” [Datta, Bakshi & Dasgupta 2015, 1] cinema of the 1990s in the hands of Buddhadeb Dasgupta, Aparna Sen, Goutam Ghose, and others were trying to actuate the process of a progressive imagination that would recognize the intersecting subjectivities and the frail ‘self’ lurking underneath an individual regardless of gender. Besides, addressing the marginality of women in society, the films of the late 1990s and the twenty-first century have also brought out the nuances of manhood which simultaneously exist as a historically, politically, and culturally constructed category. The cinematic space essentially serves as a site of reconstructing hegemonic masculinity that aids in creating bonds of sympathetic fellow-feeling between the diegetic (fe)male subjects and the audience. Thus, digital media re-produces degendered solidarity through narratives and visual representations that reflect the embodied experiences of men/ women as gendered subjects helping them to mediate support and interdependency across differences.

In this regard, it is important to take notice that the stock representation of the “'weak-kneed, effeminate, effete Bengalee” [Sinha 1995, 104] dates back to the colonial period when the concept primarily referred to the politically self-conscious and elite intellectuals who fell in the odious category for their subversive masculinity [Sinha 1995; Chowdhury 1998]. The British regarded the natives as unrefined beings depraved of both “physical and intellectual manhood” [Sinha 1995, 104], and the discourse centering around the Bengali masculine self was shaped by varied intertwined notions of colonialism, nationalism, and historiography [Chatterjee 1997; Sarkar 1998]. Thomas B. Macaulay even went onto describe the Bengali men as individuals who have been trampled upon by bolder men as his identity is marked with the absence of qualities like courage, veracity, and independence [Chattopadhyay 2011]. Thus, the Bengali bhadralok (gentleman) being physically frail and powerless was considered ‘womanly’ and a “submissive slave” [Chowdhury 1998, 4] in distinct contrast to the masculine colonizers who governed them. Kaliprasanna Singha in his book Hootum Pyanchar Naksha (Sketches by a Watching Owl, 1862) mocks at the “chicken-hearted” Bengali ‘babus’ 5 who are frightened of their own shadows and even after imbibing British education still lack the manly courage [Singha 1991; Chowdhury 1998]. Films like Jalsaghar (The Music Room, 1958), Charulata (The Broken Nest, 1964), Stree (Woman, 1972) have intrinsically captured the not so muscular/aggressive stance of the ‘Babu’ culture which was being regarded as both morally and socially corrupting. For masculinity- rooted in femininity was considered to be an ultimate negation of a man's political and social identity [Nandy 1983]. Also, the accusations of effeminacy were not only validated by the discourse of unmanliness but also by the emerging assertion of women in the ‘public’.

The early 1900s saw the emergence of the colonial resistance in Bengal which became an integral site for both women to become the visible agents of change and for the effeminate man to recollect his mythic-manly past and reclaim his “purusatva” (masculinity) by becoming an assertive and rebellious figure for liberating the motherland. The nation embodied as a feminine or mother figure being protected by the son-warriors was the common metaphor for nationalism [Chowdhury 1998; Banerjee 2005] and the Bengalis had to become physically competent to authenticate his claim to nationhood. Keeping the particular colonial stereotype of Bengali men in mind, a pertinent question that arises is how the Bengali cinema has portrayed the alternative formation of masculinities and how does it shape our understanding of men in the contemporary context?

The works of the director, actor, writer, and lyricist Rituporno Ghosh deserves a special mention here, as his films explored the disjuncture between attitudes in/towards the “making and unmaking” [Mukherjee 2016, 3] of gender constructs and creating a space for self-assertion. His films, have undoubtedly questioned the woman’s lack of agency within the heteropatriarchal family and also the society at large [Datta, Bakshi & Dasgupta 2015] and forged “epistemic friendships”6 stemming from their collective sufferings [Chowdhury & Philipose 2016, 29] . Also, some of his films have been known for their distinct characterization of men in their emotionally affirmative roles with a subtle indication towards the disruption of socially conditioned ‘manhood’ that deemed one to be emotionally passive and even blind to the conspicuous plight of women. With reference to two films Chitranganda: The Crowning Wish (2012) and The Last Lear (2007) I would like to explore how the directorial works of Ghosh have reimagined Indian (Bengali) masculinity thereby focusing on the apparent willingness of men to engage with and constitutively respond to the needs of the ‘Other’. What unfolds through his films are the varied forms of sexuality (ies) that wait to be recognized for an integrative understanding of the self. Such recognition not only transforms the reel self but also ushers the path for “new sympathies”, “new cognitions” and “new forms of intersubjectivity” amongst the real selves [Bartky 2002, 72].

The detailed analysis of the films brings to our notice the intrinsic experience of Sandra LeeBartky’s ‘mitgefühl’ or feeling-with [Bartky 2002, 71] and its ability to construct a notion of sympathetic indignation among the fe(male) subjects on the diegetic screen. They are bound by the same epistemological sorrow and anguish [Scheler 1970] which makes the “fellow-feeling” [Bartky 2002, 74] immediate and ultimate and leads towards certain patterns of collective action for a holistic transformation. Films in this regard serve as realist screen texts reflecting varied social concerns and engaging both spectators and filmmakers in an “ethical and political” [Stadler & McWilliam 2009, 187] relation with the subject matter being screened. Screen media here effectively focuses on the embodied experiences or subjective perceptions of protagonists with which audience can relate thereby reframing realism as a “subjective, visceral, experiential” [Stadler & McWilliam 2009, 194] component rather than just being an objective record. It also repositions feminist politics within the third world space and ensures a self-reflexive understanding that question the multiple hetero-normativities framing the Indian context.

The (Wo) Manly ‘Other’ and the Compassionate ‘Self’ in Chitranganda: The Crowning Wish (2012)

 Rituporno Ghosh’s films have been acclaimed for their critical stance towards the societal heteropatriarchy and transgressive portrayals of characters. Unmasking the parochial construction of gender and its correlated roles, his narratives attempted in liberating men and women from their heteronormative identities. Besides, treating the celluloid screen as a transformative space for women and queer individuals, he has adroitly utilized it to project the ‘man’ as a being consciously seeking/rendering support. Chitrangada also happens to be the first film which marks Ghosh’s transition from the celluloid to the digital as it helped the director to capture the essence of a new kind of cinematic narrative floating between real and imaginary spaces through multiple camera shots [Datta, Bakshi & Dasgupta 2015].  The internalized beliefs of suppressing, displacing, and denial of emotions foregrounding the understanding of normative manhood find a new voice in Ghosh’s rendition and reaffirms their empathetic role in mitigating the societal constrictions. The rolling credits of the film ushers in the underlying cultural construct, “It had to be an heir/ that was all the father knew/ to carry on the name/ And the family pride/ And so/ the training began, / But the child? / To be a girl or boy? / Did anyone ask, / or even want to know? /” [Chitrangada 2012] - thus focusing on individual psychologies and stifling experiences. Re-appropriating Rabindranath Tagore’s play Chitrangada (1892)7 in the present context, Ghosh seeks to emphasize how gender is not an ontologically fixed but fluid essence and comprises desires that might not align with the categorical conventionalities of a particular society.

Rituporno Ghosh playing the character of Rudro in Chtirangada (2012)

As popular culture plays a huge role in promoting certain types of body and practices thereby deriding others, Ghosh’s Chitrangada narrates the tale of the choreographer, Rudro (played by the director himself) and through his transformative journey reworks the classical story to extend the possibilities of gender and sexual identities. The film primarily revolves around the androgynous voice of the protagonist that gets overshadowed by the hyper-masculine tropes rooted in social habitus and contributes towards the changing social perspective of the ‘queer’.

The family dinner scene in Chitrangada (2012) where Rudro’s father disapproves of his dance performance associating it with a traditional feminine quality.

Rudro being different in his sexual proclivities considers himself to be a perennial embarrassment to his parents and a family dinner scene even reveals that his father was quite reluctant to watch his son dancing on the stage as he associated it with a feminine form of self-expression. As most of our ideas are not inherent but developed from without, Durkheim observes “how can they become a part of us except by imposing themselves on us?” [Durkheim 1966, 4]. Thus, Rudro’s father wanted him to be a ‘normal’ son as per the societal expectations and this inevitably hints at the accumulated sense of the ideal that individuals cling onto to fit into the status quo. As Rudro’s parents finally reconcile with the real self of their son, his mother still wants to know what he is doing with the body that is born out of her- thus re-inscribing her authority over her son’s sexuality. Her initial perception of the surgery centres on the literal understanding that her son was trying to defy ‘nature’ by not associating with masculine gender identification, unaware that femininity itself was a natural trait in Rudro’s identity. However being the primary caretaker, she seeks to accept the corporeality of her son’s (un)natural self and his gender identity and wanted to know how his body was changing or transforming with its underlying conflicting emotions. Lying on the hospital bed for a sex reassignment surgery to adopt a child, the film unfolds in a flashback where Rudro reminisces the words of his lover (Partho) who had reprimanded his decision stating that why is it necessary to become a ‘normal’ (heterosexual) couple for adopting a child? In another implicative scene, when Partho confronts him stating that he does not seem to be happy ‘naturally’ and just wants to become a woman with any excuse, Rudro vents out the truth about the practices that invisibly manipulates our lives urging us to construct a socially designed ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’:

A lot of us are not happy with what we are naturally, Partho. Else boys wouldn’t go every day to the gym to build a six-pack . . . to become a man! Girls wouldn’t go to have their eyebrows threaded, or to get waxed . . . to become a woman!

Here, the familial space of the home, as well as his room in the hospital, signifies the literal confinement that suffocates Rudro and syncs with the symbolic entrapment that he feels within the fixed society’s fixed identities. The process of ‘becoming’ thus intensifies for Rudro the feelings of “alienation, humiliation, rejection, and even self-doubt” [Datta, Bakshi & Dasgupta 2015,130]. Partho’s rejection of the “synthetic” (Chitrangada, Ghosh, 2012) female body which Rudro was trying to gain can be understood as metaphorical victimization and rejection that society imposes on alternative sexual identities. This makes the film semi-autobiographical for Ghosh observed that his trans-sexuality which was considered characteristically unnatural forced him to live a “life of captive loneliness” [Ghosh 2013, 14]. Interestingly we come across the character of Rudro’s alter-ego whom he imagines as a counselor, extending help to prepare himself for accepting his ‘becoming’ that comprises not only the bodily change but also entails a complete transformation of his innate ‘being’- from a “masculine persona to a feminine self” [Datta, Bakshi & Dasgupta 2015, 42]. This persona being a figment of his split psyche is a man named Subho, who appears as an empathetic listener paving the path for the entrapped entity’s self-identification that ultimately makes him relinquish the surgery.

The counselor’s (Subho) onscreen presence acts as a ‘sympathetic agency’ for Rudro in Chitrangada (2012)

The counselor’s presence here acts a “sympathetic agency” [Berlant 2004, 4] and facilitates the unveiling of Rudro’s thoughts, apprehensions, and desires that eventually helps him to embrace what he wishes to be. In such a context of expressive self-disclosure, the ‘man’ (Subho) through the cognition of the 'other’ becomes instrumental in initiating in the ‘non-man' (Rudro) self-knowledge that initiates a sense of fellow-feeling . Such inherent feelings accommodating change extends beyond the screen urging one to reflect on the oppressive tendencies that lie ingrained in the society’s consciousness and enable to etch one’s ‘personhood’ relying on the “wider sympathies” [Bartky, 2002, 69] of her/his allies. The male self just like the female is mostly outside of the biological [Franklin 1984] and invariably comprises the subjectivities of ‘unmanly’ men which finds recognition in the film. Hence, Ghosh through his cinematic lens tries to interrogate the ways through which meaningful gesture of assistance gets formed between heterosexual and non-heterosexual identities and urges us to think beyond the biologically assigned identities. In the end as dawn breaks, Subho remarks that transition is never complete and continues to be an ongoing process and Rudro realizes that the transience of life will not make his transformed body eternal. The counselor/alter-ego’s character as a consociate thus initiates the possibilities of nurturing an interest in imagining new strategies of individual freedom that is not constricted by the fixed categories of gender. Through his influential presence, Ghosh infuses a “genuine fellow feeling” [Bartky 2002, 77] where the ‘Otherness’ of the ‘Other’ is preserved and the immediacy of the situation allows one to commiserate with the other’s misery. That the body and identity are also rooted in the continuous process of change  unfolds in the ending scene with Rudro (un) wishing to become a woman and urges the spectators to embrace the varied and emerging forms of sexualities that disrupt the normative categorization. .Ghosh wanted to celebrate this element of corporeal fluidity through his works delineating it as a constructive counter-narrative to the mainstream representations of heteronormativity and hyper-masculinity in Indian/Bengali cinema.

The (De) Gendered Reciprocity in The Last Lear (2007)

 The cinematic narratives of Rituporno Ghosh with its ruminative engagement with mise-en-scene  has portrayed women as active agents resisting against entrenched structures of the patriarchal society that has effaced her identity and her embodied subjectivity. The camera has defined and redefined the frame for meaningful engagements, where women even in their private realms have turned the film space into a dynamic site of resistance against gendered oppression through small acts of dissent. In The Last Lear (2007) we get a glimpse of the shared identity that makes us contemplate how the normative embodied femininity is indeed disempowering and urges a woman regardless of class and financial autonomy to seek commiseration in the several extremities of her life. The film narrates the story of an aging thespian, Harish Mishra who was known for his performance on Shakespearean plays is at the present juncture lost in oblivion. As the retired actor returns to play a lead role in the film precisely after thirty years and nine months, a tragic accident befalls and confines him to bed. While he lies in a comatose state, subsequent stories related to the life of his partner (Vandana), the young co-actress (Shabnam), and his nurse (Ivy) unfold to reveal the identification of oneself with the affected condition of the ‘Other’. 

The drawing room scene in The Last Lear (2007)

The drawing room becomes the locus of recuperation where three women, (represented as Lear’s daughters here) bond over a cup of tea and relive individual moments spent with the stage actor. The scene offers a new perspective of women’s relationships with each other by unravelling their perceptual apparatus to see intimately and understand each other’s distinct realities and constrained choices. The cinematic frame facilitates a feeling of interdependence and mutually meaningful alliance amongst the three characters and simultaneously serves to reaffirm male dominance and the presence of women’s unshakable allegiance to men [Hollinger 1998]. Shabnam despite belonging to the glamour of the celluloid world feels ‘one’ with Ivy in her state of vulnerability and she remarks “You are not the only one. Trust me I know exactly how you feel” [The Last Lear 2007]. This can be regarded as a state of “true fellow feeling” [Bartky 2002, 74] which centers on an identical feeling and simultaneously tries to grasp what the other is feeling, and both feelings emerge from the same cause. As Ivy waits for her boyfriend who makes his invisible presence felt only through her words, the actress experiences the immediacy of her upset condition and acts as a “sympathetic agency” [Berlant 2004, 4] stating that the suspicious and humiliating questions arising from their partner’s “never stops” [The Last Lear 2007], thus restricting their choice. Despite Harish being an irascible being, both Vandana and Shabnam reminisce about his innate compassionate nature that strove to fill the gulf between the hegemonic self (man) and the ‘other’ (woman), empowering them in their respective struggle.

A scene focusing on the growing friendship of Harish and Shabnam during their shooting days in The Last Lear (2007)

Shabnam recalls her growing fondness for the man with whom she nurtured a friendly bond during their days of shooting for a film and what drew them together irrespective of the age was their shared loss and knowledge that no matter how hard they seek, the idealized past would never return to them. This mutual recognition strengthens the connection of ‘us’ in the film through intersubjective ties which are not bound by any gender identities. A sphere of compassion emerging out of different social context reinforces the possibilities of agency- for Harish it was his art that was gradually becoming irrelevant and for Shabnam it was her inner self gradually being stifled and her freedom questioned in the hands of the patriarchal familial structure. For Vandana, he is the accommodating ‘home’ and refuge under whose care her incomplete identity found a meaning. His present state of dreadful silence becomes unbearable for her as she yearns to hear his promising voice and one is made to understand the exclusivity of the relationship which thrived on mutual recognition and respect. His assuring presence never isolated or limited female potential and he attempted to recognize female subjectivity in its true essence. Ghosh brings out the symbiotic nature of the individual relationships which presents Harish Mishra in a different light and not typecasting him as an emotionally detached person who is entirely congruent with the social constructs of ‘masculinity’. A distinct interrelation marks their lives and what arises from their shared helplessness is an “emotional affirmation” [Dean 1996, 115] that unites one to the other is a feeling of mutual concern and care. The solidarity of affection isolates them within a circle of interdependence from those who remain outside this structure (like Ivy’s boyfriend and Shabnam’s husband) and extends the assurance of “safety and community” [Dean 1996, 48] which is heard in Vandana’s voice when she tells Shabnam, “If you call, don’t hang up. One person (Harish) cannot talk, but the other (Vandana) can, wants to” [The Last Lear 2007]

Such representation of ‘feeling-with’ seeks to bridge the ontological separation of the subjugated subject in the realms of the reel and the real and voice the collective sufferings of womankind and their desire for freedom from the shackles of deep-rooted patriarchy. It also emphasizes how experiences or emotions are entirely social and subverts a biologically essentialist idea with a constructionist one [Boise 2015], thus demonstrating how men extend their support for mitigating the sufferings of women. The sheer presence of one another whether onscreen silently pledges for unswerving support and this co-existential approach conjures up a promising way of recognizing fe (male) togetherness in moments of fear, isolation, and defeat. 

Conclusion

As feminist and queer activism is strongly guided by the need for social change, media platforms have ubiquitously facilitated the scope for interaction and engagement. Films have successfully incorporated diverse forms of feminist identities and cultures which operate within a larger political and cultural context. This also engenders autonomy and choice that challenge hegemonic structures [Fotopoulou 2016]. With their innate theatrical recreations, both the films also seek to preserve the waning stage traditions of resistance and unity by appropriating them through the greater cultural influence and global reach of cinema [Dionne & Kapadia 2014]. The cherished male chauvinistic belief of incapability of bonding in women gets supplanted by the mere recognition of interdependency and shared vulnerability in the micro-context of these films. Ghosh through his compelling characterizations is able to evoke the conscious reflective praxis of the “WE” [Dean 1996, 3] politics that helps women and ‘unmanly’ men to strive for their personal and collective rights in the wider spectrum. The cinematic portrayals formulated an alternative way of envisaging the construction of fe (male) suffering on the silver screen as a potential way to reconstruct the very notion of solidarity as an “inclusionary ideal” for overcoming the boundaries that restrict our understanding of a definite sense of embodied identity and empowerment in pluralistic societies. 

Bio-Note

Debashrita Dey is an Institute fellow (PhD) and Teaching Assistant of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Patna. She is currently working on literary gerontology for her doctoral thesis and her areas of research interest comprise Feminist Studies, Disability Studies and Medical Humanities.

Priyanka Tripathi is an Associate Professor of English, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Patna. She has published extensively with Indian Literature (Sahitya Akademi), English: Journal of the English Association (Oxford Academic), Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics (Taylor & Francis), Feminist Theory (SAGE), Economic and Political Weekly amongst others. She works in the area of South Asian Fiction, Gender Studies, Place and Literature and Graphic Narratives.

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