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Tit for tat: avenging women and self-fashioning femininity in Malayalam cinema

Faculty Advisor




crime in motion pictures, crime narratives, women

Abstract (summary)

Crime film is one of the most popular and persuasive genres in the world. With various sub-genres like cop films, court dramas, investigative thrillers and heist films, it generally portrays a crime oriented plot where interactions between savior protagonists and criminal antagonists define the structural template of the film. Crime narratives usually revolve around the valiance of the traditional 'hero' who displays exhilarating masculine pride either through physical strength or intelligence. The construction of heroic masculinity varies with actors; for example, from Pierce Brosnan to Liam Neeson and Will Smith to Morgan Freeman, implications of masculinity - in terms of physical appearance and intellectual activity - construct multiple versions of masculine pride. In the context of Indian cinema, onscreen masculinity follows similar structures. From the 'Angry Young Man' image of Amitabh Bachchan in the 1970s to the latest gangster films of Bollywood, Indian crime cinema strove to perpetuate the patriarchal ideology ingrained in the heroic image. In other words, when male heroes are given the agency to control the narrative of a crime film, female characters are often portrayed as victims who need saving or glamorous objects that act as distractions to heroic gallantry. However, there have been some meagre attempts to portray women in unconventional gangster roles where femininity is equated with vigor, fervor and muscularity as seen in films like Bandit Queen (1994) and Guiab Gang (2014).

Publication Information

Raj, S. J. & Sreekumar, R. (2023). Tit for tat: Avenging women and self-fashioning femininity in Malayalam cinema. In S. Delahousse & A. Sedzielarz (Eds.), Transnational Crime Cinema. Edinburgh University Press.



Item Type

Book Chapter



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