‘O Stree Kal Aanaa’: Monstrous Feminine in Contemporary Indian Horror Cinema
Panel:16 | Governing and Representing Gender and Sex(uality) in South Asia – (Re-)Negotiating Lakshman Rekha
Timeslot:07/27 | 11:00-11:20 UTC+2/CEST
This paper discusses two recent Hindi films released in 2018: ‘Pari’ by Prosit Roy and ‘Stree’ by Amar Kaushik. Both films belong to somewhat different modulations of the horror genre (‘Pari’ represents the folk horror while ‘Stree’ – horror comedy) yet they both dwell on different versions of the ‘monstrous feminine’ (Creed 1998): ‘Pari’ on the Islamicate monstrous creature of ifrit and ‘Stree’ on chudail. Chudail is a female ghost, popular in North Indian folk tradition: a bloodthirsty fiend disguised as a beautiful young woman who seduces men into having a sexual intercourse and then draining them off of their blood. And even though this dangerous, monstrous female fiend is not a new character in Hindi horror cinema and has appeared in many films since the 1980s, it still tended to be confined to the low budget and B-grade circles, used by the filmmakers primarily for the sexual exploitation purposes. The recent trends in cinema, however, demonstrate that the monstrous feminine character has gradually been invested with more critical meaning and there is a significant shift in representing and constructing female subjectivity in this cinematic sub-genre. Therefore, by analysing the two films ‘Pari’ and ‘Stree’, this paper argues that the horror genre functions as a certain critical platform where indigenous folk narratives are employed to address and discuss contemporary national and socio-cultural anxieties - the issues of reproduction, pregnancy, abortion, female liberty and masculine anxiety among others.