Popular Masculine Cultures in India
Like the demon king Ravana, the Bollywood hero has not one but many heads. From the shirtless macho man Salman Khan to the romantic lover Shah Rukh Khan and the intelligent hero Aamir Khan. Popular Masculine Cultures in India edited by Rohit K Dasgupta and Steven Baker, looks at how masculinity is represented in India through cinema, literature, media and theatre.
“Bollywood is the dominant popular culture in India and the way masculinity is depicted in Hindi films is quite different to how it is presented in the west.” said Baker. “The Bollywood hero breaking into song and dance, shedding tears, and being so closely attached to his mother, are signs of masculinity synonymous with Indian cinema.”
The book looks at how masculinity is presented on the big screen from Shah Rukh Khan’s portrayal of the classic Hindi film lover in Devdas to Satyajit Ray’s presentation of Bengali men in projects such as Mahanagar and Seemabandha.
Although dividing opinions when it released, in producing Dostana, Karan Johar has gone some way towards opening the Bollywood closet.
“Abhishek Bachchan and John Abraham playing it gay in Dostana emerged from the enthusiastic reception to Shah Rukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan’s gay subplot in Kal Ho Naa Ho back in 2003,” added Baker.
“Ten years later it will be interesting to see how far Johar pushes the envelope with the long-awaited Dostana sequel.”
In the west, writing on masculinity is becoming as widespread and popular as feminist writing. Yet in India, this is new and unchartered territory waiting to be explored.
Dagupta said: “Masculinity in Bollywood has seen a sea change from the sensitivity of Dev Anand we are now confronted with the hypermasculinity of John Abraham, Salman Khan and others.”
Similar to the country he inhabits, the Indian male is rapidly changing. India is often described as a land of contrasts, and nobody embodies so many contradictions as the men found here.
THE EDITORS Rohit K Dasgupta is Associate Lecturer and Doctoral student at University of the Arts London. Steven Baker is a UK academic and journalist based in India.
‘By focusing on diverse forms of popular culture and how they produce newer masculinities Rohit K Dasgupta and Steven Baker have opened a most important window onto modern Indian society’ — Professor Wimal Dissanayake, University of Hawaii
‘Engaging and elegantly written, this book offers persuasive arguments on the myths and half truths of the Indian male’ — Mayank Austen Soofi, author