CFP – FOR 2022

Frames of Reference 2022

Online Post-graduate Student Seminar

Call For Papers/Short Films/Posters

Interrogating Gender in Hindi Cinema


Cinema and gender share a relationship that is never static. In fact, it is constantly evolving as new production practices, technologies and intellectual paradigms emerge (Kaplan et al, 2017). This relationship also extends to all aspects of filmmaking from production, representation to distribution and reception. The history of cinema in India and the world has “reflected and constructed ideals of both femininity and masculinity” while at the same time, there have been challenges to gender inequality via complex ways of female agency (ibid). Feminist film historians around the world have further revealed a significant number of women participants in film production in early cinema, although uncredited. Scholarship on women’s work in Hindi cinema seems to veer towards either directors like Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta or Aparna Sen, or those that are directly or indirectly linked to established industry figures (Vitali, 2020). However, with the corporatisation of the film industry, the male-dominated space opened up for women behind the camera and since the 90s, women have been playing various roles in film and television industries in India (Sen, 2017). This seminar is interested in the various ways in which one can engage with not only women’s work but gendered work and representation in Hindi cinema. Further, with the affective turn in several disciplines, what are the ways in which the film viewer as passive can be replaced with one who “participates in the production of the cinematic experience” (Marks, 2000). How are digital technologies and the platform economy contributing to this relationship between cinema and gender?

Representations of women have covered the gamut from being a ‘fearless’ fighter to a sacrificing Mother India, an educated and dedicated wife, a pretty romantic flirtatious love interest, a dangerous vamp, a sexualised object, and an item number. Movies that portray independent, bold women at the beginning, often transform the storyline such that she either becomes the sufferer or she is reinforced within the value system of that particular society. In many mainstream representations, women’s desires are seen in the context of male desires and often co-opted within the heteronormative marriage. Even as Hindi cinema often straitjacketed women into idealised roles, there were simultaneously challenging visions as well that emerged from interfaces within and between the film industry and diverse range of social movements. While femininities were being etched in various conformist and contesting ways, visions of masculinity were being constructed in response to narratives of nation-building, socialism and neoliberalism. Queer articulations in cinema in both popular films and independent documentaries have created spaces for the popular discourse around sexuality to transform in some ways. This led to the displacement of conventional cinematic codes of masculinity and femininity while also leading to public discourse around emergent sexualities as both “erotic and phobic”.

The diktats of the business of cinema play a crucial role in shaping works of producers, directors and writers who incline towards a certain formula of the blockbuster film that is replicated and recreated with trite and tropes, almost like commodity manufacturers for mass audience’s consumption. If indeed, this is changing, then how so and in what ways? Apart from the formulaic mode of production of the industry, it is equally important to call out the lopsided gender ratio within the professional field itself, among the crew members who are active in the process of film production. Given this gender gap, there is little work on the roles women play behind the scenes as producers, directors, screenwriters, editors, cinematographers, choreographers, and so on.

This seminar calls for papers that interrogate ideas around representations of women as well as engage with women as producers of cinema, behind the screens.

Papers, short videos (under 12 minutes), poster presentations are invited on the following themes, but may engage with the idea of ‘gender and cinema’ and outside of it as well in the Hindi language:

  • Representations of gender and sexuality in Hindi cinema
  • The Question of Gaze
  • Gender participation behind the screen in production, direction, editing, choreography, screenwriting etc.
  • Intersections of gender with identities such as religion, class, caste, age, sexuality, ability.
  • Queer sexualities in Hindi Cinema
  • Diverse genders in Hindi Cinema
  • Writing on cinema – reviews, blogs, social media.
  • Gender and comedy in cinema
  • Representations of gendered violence
  • Representations of feminist/queer friendships
  • OTT platforms and gender representation
  • Masculinities
  • Cityscapes and gender
  • Cinematic presentations of pleasure and its intersections with gender
  • Gendered Political Economies
  • Gendered reception, contexts of consumption, cinema-going, fan cultures,
  • Gendered aspects of Music and Sonic Studies
  • Gendered film workers, collectives and campaigns

The conference is part of a larger project titled Lights, Camera, and Time for Action: Recasting Gender Equality Compliant Hindi Cinema funded by the US Consulate in Mumbai and aims to study gender representation in Hindi films both on-screen and off-screen through quantitative research and examine gender issues in the making of films, directing films and audience perspectives of gender representation.

An edited volume and an issue of SubVersions (SMCS student journal) is envisaged based on a selection of papers from the seminar.


30 March 2022: Last date for sending abstracts

20 April 2022: Selection of abstracts and intimation via email

30 May 2022: Last date for sending the full paper/ presentations/ videos to the seminar committee

Third week of June 2022: Online Seminar

Send your abstracts (not exceeding 300 words) via this Google Form:  https://forms.gle/gt2unoVY86JH6shr8

The last date for the submission of abstracts is 30 March 2022.

Rules & regulations

  • Co-authoring of papers is allowed.
  • Frames of Reference is a student seminar and we invite all current MA, MPhil and PhD. students to send abstracts. However, in light of the pandemic, we wish to extend this invitation to all individuals who have received their post graduate degrees not more than two years ago (i.e. 2020 and 2021). Scanned copies of documentary evidence (such as ID card or bonafide certificate from the institution) will be required from those selected.

For any queries contact: framesofreference.smcs@gmail.com