A qualitative analysis of young Hindi film viewers readings of gender, sexuality and politics on- and off-screen
This thesis presents a qualitative analysis of the connections between meanings made from discourses of gender, sexuality and ethnicity in commercial Hindi films and the construction of gender, sexual and ethnic identity by young adult viewers. While expressing an understanding of cinema texts and audiences as always shaped by and responding to complex intersections of social, psychological and historical events, it also identifies and describes mechanisms of pleasure and discourses of gender ideology in Hindi films from the points of view of 'academic' and 'ordinary' viewers. Original photographs, observations and interviews at cinema halls and transcripts from in-depth interviews with young viewers from diverse social, linguistic and religious backgrounds in Bombay and London provide the bulk of the data. Critical discourse analysis and aspects of social semiotics and Screen theory provide the tools for analysis of the data. This study suggests that young viewers respond to films from a variety of intersecting subject positions; they rarely experience film texts as unitary and organic entities, treating certain sequences as far more significant than others. This study also finds strong connections between the discourses of gender, sexuality and politics articulated by or read into Hindi films and those voiced by young South Asian viewers. Saliently, though certain viewers use sequences in Hindi films as justifications for their political beliefs and/or private actions, others who express similar enjoyment, ridicule or despise the meanings they read into film sequences, remaining wary of their perceived 'effects'. Many Hindi films may be read as ambiguous or overt interventions in conflicts over religious, national, gender and sexual identity, and some young viewers clearly show a predisposition to what can only be called certain films' authoritarian or fascistic imaginaries. For others, pleasure and involvement in aspects of these films does not preclude skepticism or ideological critique.