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Transgressive bodies in dark worlds: female gangsters and film noir in Indian popular cinema

Faculty Advisor




film noir, gender, Bollywood, female, masculinity, gangsters

Abstract (summary)

The influence of film noir is reflected in Indian popular cinema through narratives that portray the aesthetics of crime-infested, morally deranged and extremely violent urban cityscapes where characters deal with the anxieties of a modern world. The representation of women in such narratives presents a context that challenges the way female characters are imagined and stereotyped in traditional Indian film narratives. This paper examines the social, cultural and historical construction of female identity in Indian cinema through the lens of female gangsters and film noir. The noir space in Bollywood cinematic narratives is dominated by hypermasculine, morally elusive, and existentially indifferent villains/anti-hero personas. However, by portraying the role of gangsters and criminals, women also occupy the underworlds of crime and action. They violate the norms of culturally assigned gender performance by fundamentally disrupting the entertainment value associated with the traditional picturization of the female identity. This article argues that the noir female portrayals that disrupt the symbiotic relationships between conventional gender politics and cultural norms emerge as a new category of transgressive figures that walk the thin line of moral dichotomies. They subvert their existing identities to create a state of gendered unpredictability by replacing male subjective positions.

Publication Information

Raj, S. J. & Suresh, A. K. (2024). Transgressive Bodies in Dark Worlds: Female Gangsters and Film Noir in Indian Popular Cinema. Genre en series 16.


Item Type




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