Between Violence and Exclusion: Cinematic Representation of Gender Politics in Antarmahal and Water

Imran Mazid


This article explores representation of gender politics in two films—Antarmahal and Water—to illuminate the synergy of patriarchy and religion that creates a structure of cultural violence against women. A sense of feminist consciousness pitted against dogmatic social practices drives the narratives of these films. This study employs Julia Kristeva’s idea of semanalysis as an analytic framework to consider the signification process as dynamic because it is driven by an interplay of bodily drives and pulsions (genotext) and symbolic structures (phenotext). The cinematic texts under analysis address two aspects of gender relations in Indian Hindu society: conjugality and widowhood. Conjugality is marked by men’s sexual gratification and an obsession for an heir, and widowhood effaces women’s sexual and social existence. Three themes emerged from the textual analysis: women’s desire, patriarchy and power relations, and vulnerability. The film texts reveal a constant struggle between patriarchal subjugation and women’s agency. Hindu patriarchy creates unequal power relations that exacerbate the vulnerability of women. However, women often resist such misogynistic practices by circumventing the norms of patriarchy.


chora, gender politics, genotext, Julia Kristeva, phenotext, semanalysis, semiotic, symbolic

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