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Cultural monsters in Indian cinema: the politics of adaptation, transformation and disfigurement

Faculty Advisor




cultural monster, otherness, gender monster, adaptation, myth

Abstract (summary)

In India, a popular trope is adapting cultural myths and religious iconographies into visceral images of the monster in literary and visual representations. Cinematic representations of the Indian monster are modelled on existing folklore narratives and religious tales where the idea of the monster emerges from cultural imagination and superstitions of the land. Since it rationalizes several underlying archetypes in which gods are worshipped in their monstrous identities and disposition, the trope of the monster is used in cinema to indicate the transformation from an ordinary human figure to a monstrous human Other. This paper examines cinematic adaptations of monster figures in Malayalam cinema, the South Indian film industry of Kerala. The cultural practice of religious rituals that worship monstrous gods is part of the collective imagination of the land of Kerala through which films represent fearsome images of transformed humans. This article argues that cultural monsters are human subjects that take inspiration from mythical monster stories to perform in a terrifying way. Their monstrous disposition is a persona that is both a powerful revelation of repressed desires and a manifestation of the resistance against certain cultural fears associated with them. The analysis of several Malayalam films, such as Kaliyattam (1997) Manichithrathazhu (1993) and Ananthabhadram (2005), reveals how film performance adapts mythological narrative elements to create new cultural intertexts of human monsters that are psychotically nuanced and cinematically excessive.

Publication Information

Raj, S. J., & Suresh, A. K. (2022). Cultural Monsters in Indian Cinema: The Politics of Adaptation, Transformation and Disfigurement. Cultural Intertexts, 12(IX), pp. 134-144.



Item Type




Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)