Dr. Datta presents on attempted censorship of feminist film to students in India
July 26, 2022
Dr. Anisha Datta, Associate Professor and Department Chair of Sociology, accepted an invitation to present a talk titled “Feminist Films, Film Censorship and the Nature of Indian Democracy.”
The presentation took place on June 30, 2022, at Adamas University’s School of Media and Communication in Kolkata, India. It focused on the political and cultural controversies surrounding the attempted censorship of the feminist film from India, Lipstick under My Burkha (LUMB) (2017).
LUMB is a Hindi-language feature film directed by Alankrita Shrivastva that portrays the interconnected struggles for freedom and desire of four Indian women of various classes, ages and religious backgrounds. Each of their stories tells of their struggle and resilience in challenging male control over their sexuality and bodies. The film upends the mainstream Indian morality, which is predicated on the power structures of patriarchal family, caste and class.
Dr. Datta spoke for an hour and followed the presentation with an additional hour of Q&A and seminar discussions. The audience was made up of approximately 55 Media Studies and Liberal Arts undergraduate (BA) and postgraduate (MA) students with an almost 60/40 female and male split, and 10 professors.
The audience was very engaged. Students did not shy away from asking difficult questions about topics including the portrayal of a religious minority family in the film, why the female gaze is missing in mainstream Bollywood films, and the problem of gender and ageism in mainstream culture.
Dr. Datta describes her paper, on which the presentation was based, as “a critical commentary and theorization on the role of modern art, such as cinema, to speak the unspoken, to dare to know and to dare to show in the political and geographical context of a postcolonial nation such as India.” She explains it is important to understand the significance of the events surrounding the film. India’s Central Board of Film Certification attempted to censor the film, but Shrivastva fought against the censorship with help from the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal. “Today, we do not find many postcolonial nations which have a functioning democracy that we find in India. In this context, my paper also analyzed how the democratic institutions of India such as the judiciary, can challenge the conservative cultural values and social norms as practised by a postcolonial state and society” added Dr. Datta.
“Deploying the method of critical discourse analysis and drawing on postcolonial feminist theories and theories on postcolonial nation-state, my paper demonstrates how the goal of women’s emancipation from the shackles of patriarchy cannot be achieved through espousing abstract axioms, but through active participation by women with agency,” says Dr. Datta.
Dr. Datta reviewed about twenty films of the New Indie Film movement or New Wave 2.0 from India made since 2000 before selecting LUMB as the subject of her sociological enquiry about what art can imagine beyond the paradigms created by a patriarchal society.
She also incorporated the reading and writing she did through her teaching at King’s. Dr. Datta’s research areas include postcolonial studies, South Asia - India, gender, politics and culture, and critical social theory, among others. At King’s, she teaches seminar courses focused on critical social theories, feminist theories and postcolonial studies.