Contemporary Bollywood Cinema: Female Dominance in the Film “Kahaani”

*RUST RATING: πŸ’ƒπŸ»πŸ’ƒπŸ»πŸ’ƒπŸ»πŸ’ƒπŸ» (4/4) Dominate Females


The 2012 film Kahaani (“Story”), written and directed by Sujoy Ghosh, stars Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi, a pregnant woman who must assert her dominance as a female in the male-dominated Indian society of Kolkata in order to find her missing husband during the Festival of Durga Puja.

The Festival of Durga Puja celebrates the victory of the mother Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura and therefore symbolizes the victory of good over evil (Das 1) and β€œThe worship of Durga epitomizes this search for protection and the benevolence of the goddess” (Ghosh 295). Utilizing this festival as the backdrop for the film creates the theme of female dominance and the dominant female. The character of Vidya personifies many aspects of Goddess Durga’s story. For example, Vidya being pregnant makes her a mother figure and her search to find her husband is a battle of good and evil. Moreover, the fact that Vidya leads the search to find her husband puts her in a dominant female role.

The character of Vidya embodies the archetype of the dominant female attempting to navigate and function within a male-dominated world from her first appearance on screen where she is shown pregnant and traveling alone capably. Moreover, she carries her own belongings, showing control and self-sufficiency, and her first stop after exiting the airport is not to a hotel, but to the police station to report her husband missing, which shows her dedication and focus.

At the police station is where Vidya is first presented with an opportunity to assert her dominance as the policemen talk down to her and do not take her missing person’s report seriously. She is forceful with her words and demeanor as she tells her story, trying to prove some authority. However, it is not until she uses her computer skills to fix the policemen’s computer that she earns some credibility.

Through out the film Vidya must deal with the lack of respect from men, as illustrated by The Hotel Manager and Mr. Khan. During Vidya’s first conversation with the hotel manager, he refuses to answer her questions directly and speaks to the male police officer (Rana) instead, to which Vidya forcefully responds β€œSir stop talking to him, talk to me”. Then when Mr. Khan lights up a cigarette during his interrogation, Vidya advises him to not smoke around a pregnant woman. Mr. Khan responds by continuing to smoke and exhale in Vidya’s face. Both these instances show Vidya not as a shrinking violet when challenged by male confrontation, but rather as a capable woman who can stand her ground.

The film contrasts these types of male interactions with Vidya’s relationship with Rana. Even though Rana is in a position of power as a police officer, Vidya still plays the dominant role and is treated with respect, as illustrated by the fact that much of film involves Rana following Vidya’s lead and orders. Moreover, even when Rana gets protective or gentle with her concerning her pregnant condition, such as attempting to carry her belongings, Vidya brushes him off and proves she can handle things herself.

The mother Goddess Durga is a dominant female power and is reflected in the character of Vidya. The culmination of which reaches its height at the end of the film when Vidya disappears into the sea of women celebrating the festival, echoing the ritual of Visarjan where the idol of the Goddess Durga is immersed in water.

Works Cited

Das, Subhamoy. “When and How Did Durga Puja Originate?” Religion & Spirituality., 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

Ghosh, Anjan. “Spaces Of Recognition: Puja And Power In Contemporary Calcutta.”

Journal Of Southern African Studies 26.2 (2000): 289-299. Academic Search Complete. Web. 30 Apr. 2016.

Kahaani. Dir. Sujoy Ghosh. Perf. Vidya Balan and Parambrata Chatterjee. Viacom 18 Motion Pictures, 2012. Film.

“Kolkata.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.

“Vidya Balan.” IMDb., n.d. Web. 27 Apr. 2016.



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