Amit Varma is a writer based in Mumbai. He worked in journalism for over a decade, and won the Bastiat Prize for Journalism in 2007. His bestselling novel, My Friend Sancho, was published in 2009. He is best known for his blog, India Uncut. His current project is a non-fiction book about the lack of personal and economic freedoms in post-Independence India.
Many years ago, when I was a child, I picked up a foreign film magazine my father had left lying around. It contained a review of my then-favourite film, Dead Poet’s Society. I began reading it, and discovered that the reviewer was clearly writing about a different Dead Poet’s Society than the one I’d seen. It took me a while to realise that the review was about the same film, which was, according to the reviewer, a film about repressed homosexuality, filled with charged homo-eroticism. That was my first introduction to a genre of movie reviewing that picks up a film and reads into it meanings and subtexts that would baffle even the director and the scriptwriter.
Nitin points me to a recent example of such a review (pdf file), which focuses on Om Shanti Om and Saawariya, and examines how “the spectacular and stylish nude male bodies and images of both Ranbir Raj Kapoor and Shah Rukh Khan, though very different from each other, were the prime objects of desire and erotic spectacle.” On Ranbir’s body, it says:
It is a body that represents an outside figure, which operates freely, beyond the spatial, bodily and moral bounds of society, offering pleasure to all. His striptease act, along with his erotic moving body symbolise a changing sexual culture. The representation of the male body itself becomes subversive in certain ways.
And now Shah Rukh’s body:
The nude body of Shahrukh in OSO may also be seen as a visual iconography with sexual meanings, operating in a pleasure economy, and being an icon of “permissiveness”. His performative act in the song “Dard-E-Disco” is principally centred on the male body, symbolising a different erotic genre.
I would love to know what Farah Khan has to say about that. And Gauri, for that matter. Hell, even Karan.
The article concludes:
The embodied performances in the two songs particularly, to a degree subvert notions of a dominant male gaze, mutate hegemonic masculinity, question neat heteronormative categories, and undermine prescribed gender spaces and fixed gendered representations.
Apropos of nothing, let me point you to one of my favourite essays by Richard Dawkins, Postmodernism Disrobed.
Update: Gaspode tells us:
The ontology of the dominant episteme encoding the patriarchal construct of “sex with love” and “sex without love” is emergent in the hermeneutics of the intertextuality of Christina Aguilera’s “Dirrty” and John Mayer’s “Your Body is a Wonderland”. Both songs, released in 2002 attempt to challenge and subvert each other.
It’s a parody, of course—though I only know it because Gaspode is a friend and I know his tendencies. Some people write stuff like this seriously.
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9 across: Van Morrison classic from Moondance (7)
6 down: Order beginning with ‘A’ (12)