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Volume 62 Number 4, June 2011

Volume 62 Number 4

Framing Women: Gender in the Colonial Archive
Edited by: Niharika Dinkar

Editorial Note

Introduction
Framing Women: Gender and Modernity in Colonial India
Niharika Dinkar

Perspectives
Staging the Self: Photographic Representations of Benodini Dasi
Swati Chattopadhyay

Photographing the Feminine
Suryanandini Narain

Orientalizing Gender, Sexuality, and Identity: Photographs of the Seventh Nizam’s Zenana
Gianna Carotenuto

Letter from an Unknown Woman: The Film Actress in Late Colonial Bombay
Debashree Mukherjee

Photo Feature
Reform and Sartorial Styles in 19th-century Bengal
Malavika Karlekar

Conversation
Rang Rasiya: Conversation with Ketan Mehta
Niharika Dinkar

Focus
Amrita Sher-Gil: "Two Girls", 1939
Latika Gupta

Discovery
Setting Gender Roles in Early Indian Print Advertisements
Yousuf Saeed

Ancillaries
Sidelines: The Courtesans of Lucknow
Veena Talwar Oldenburg

Book Reviews
Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self-Portrait in Letters & Writings edited by Vivan Sundaram
Sasha Altaf

Feminine Beauty in Indian Art and Literature by T.N. Mishra
Indira S. Aiyar

Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s–1950s by Neepa Majumdar
Debashree Mukherjee

Revisiting Marg : From Marg Vol. 14, No. 1, 1960: Images of India

Thematic Ad Portfolio
Images of Women in Early Indian Cinema: An Archive
C.S. Lakshmi

Thematic Ad-portfolio: SPARROW Women's Archive
Lakshmi, C.S.
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 3 unnumbered + 1–7

This article highlights the documentary initiatives of SPARROW (Sound & Picture Archives for Research on Women) which includes a rich collection of film-stills, song-books, photographs, posters, advertisements and interviews, associated with the early women stars of Hindi and other regional cinemas.

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Editorial Note
Ahmed, Monisha
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, 10–11

Monisha Ahmed writes about how the female form has been the focus of visual culture, and discusses the government institutions exhibiting contemporary art in Mumbai.

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Framing Women: Gender and Modernity in Colonial India
Dinkar, Niharika
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 12-15

The introduction sets the stage for the study of women in colonial India, right up to Independence. This era saw the birth of the New Woman which however, soon turned contentious when representations of women’s bodies began treading the line between tradition and modernity, and obscenity and respectability. As women were popular subjects in the colonial visual archive, the development of two new forms of media - cinema and print, aggrandized and distributed their bodies in ways never explored before and thus refashioned the feminine identity. The new technologies experimented with the erotic potential of the female body while trying to remain “respectable”. At the same time, the traditional roles of women changed as discourse over their “appropriate” attire in public heated up. The representation of the female body thus emerged at the crossroads between the public gaze and the private self.

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Staging the Self: Photographic Representations of Benodini Dasi
Chattopadhyay, Swati
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 16-29

Benodini Dasi, the most accomplished actress on the Bengali stage in the late 19th century, penned her autobiography (1912) that made ‘public’ the ‘interior’ world of the Bengali theatre. It was first serialized in a theatre magazine, Natya Mandir and was accompanied by one of her stage photographs. The photograph served as a “pivot” around which to launch a “brave new world” of theatre literature. From that early 20th century beginning her photographs, representing moments both on and off stage, have been published alongside her writings in original Bengali as well as their English translation. This essay examines the role of these photographic representations, as a mode of locating her story in the tension between her public and private selves, between the visual and the textual, and between the emergent public sphere and gendered public space of colonial Calcutta.

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Photographing the Feminine
Narain, Suryanandini
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 30-39

This article examines feminine subjects in early photographic studios in India by analysing some recent studies pertaining to the topic. Moving on from anthropometry’s scientific examinations of races and tribes, the following approach focuses on studio practices of portraiture, and ties into a larger study of the methods of visualizing women in changing sociological contexts such as matrimony. This study leads up to examining the changing phenomenon of femininity through the prism of the studio photograph of which the matrimonial photograph is a certain type among cartes-de-visites, passport photos, family portraits and others.

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Orientalizing Gender, Sexuality, and Identity: Photographs of the Seventh Nizam's Zenana
Carotenuto, Gianna M.
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 40-53

The recent discovery by the author of 126 photographs of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s zenana, created circa 1915 by native photographer Raja Deen Dayal & Sons, provides a new perspective about zenana practices and female representation in colonial India. This essay explores the politics of gender, sexuality and the construction of identity, both male and female, in the context of the Indian zenana. Typical gender roles are shown and the customs of the zenana are promoted despite British domestic reforms. Surprisingly, of 126 images only 16 feature the Nizam. The femino-centric emphasis refutes previous theories about the lack of female portraiture in the colonial archive, revises Orientalist myths, and reframes notions of sexuality and gender. This archival turn cuts through the distorted optics of colonial historiography to replace female absence with a significant and complex presence.

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Letter from an Unknown Woman: The Film Actress in Late Colonial Bombay
Mukherjee, Debashree
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 54-65

While there exists much literature on the representation of women in films, there has not been a similar focus on the actress herself as a professional situated within a specific industrial and social matrix. This essay looks at three letters from Devika Rani's singular archive of studio papers to suggest that the film actress is an especially productive figure through which to analyse the rapidly changing profile of the urban woman in late colonial Bombay. The letters point to the multiplicity of communities, backgrounds, needs, and desires of actresses who worked in Bombay in the 1930s and ’40s. They were each, irrespective of status or privilege, part of an atmosphere wherein actresses were regarded as dubious social subjects, but they also negotiated the requirements of respectability in nuanced ways.

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Reform and Sartorial Styles in 19th-century Bengal
Karlekar, Malavika
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 66-71

In Bengal, after the middle of the 19th century, female dress reform became a “movement” about which little was known until quite recently. While the more orthodox sections were not for any change in women’s dress and wished to maintain purdah, the reformist sections were considerably exercised over the issue of appropriate female attire. Women of the large extended Tagore family were at the forefront of activities focused on the sartorial reform movement. The style of wearing the sari with a blouse often modelled on the Western dress, was soon adapted by women from such families, and the Parsi gara – sari with Chinese embroidery in white or variegated silk threads – became extremely popular. Soon, in fast-changing Bengal, innovations in sartorial style melded subtly with the wider issues of reform and progress.

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Rang Rasiya: Conversation with Ketan Mehta
Dinkar, Niharika
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 72-77

Ketan Mehta discusses his perceptions of Raja Ravi Varma, his art, and his muses based on his 2008 film Rang Rasiya, inspired by a 1984 Marathi biography on the painter. In the film Mehta explores a narrative around a fictional case filed against Varma for his seductive nudes.

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Amrita Sher-Gil: “Two Girls”, 1939
Gupta, Latika
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 78-83

Utilizing the example of a painting by a vanguard woman artist working in the early part of the 20th century, the article examines the practice of using the nude body as a site for self-representation. As an alternative to the popular queer reading of the iconic 1939 painting “Two Girls”, the article proposes that the painting may be analyzed as symbolic of Sher-Gil’s quest to negotiate dual identities. The female body then takes on a performative role; the article examines the slippages in the relationship between the two girls: as individuals within a power structure and/ or as alter egos of the artist’s self. Issues of spectatorship and the notion of gaze that is directed towards the gendered bodies are also addressed.

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Setting Gender Roles in Early Indian Print Advertisements
Saeed, Yousuf
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 84-91

A woman’s face and body has frequently been used as an attraction for selling merchandise in advertisements appearing since the advent of printed literature. This essay explores a few examples of early Indian print advertising to highlight the gender roles and stereotypes circulated through them. Interestingly, while much of the English language periodicals in late 19th and early 20th century India were consumed by the British officers and elite Indians, there is a marked difference in the way European and Indian women have been portrayed in such advertisements, often depicting the former as progressive and outgoing women, endorsing European products, while the latter with timid and traditional roles confined in the protection of men.

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Sidelines: The Courtesans of Lucknow
Oldenburg, Veena Talwar
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 92-97

This article explores how courtesans in Lucknow were once an educated group of women, using their training as dancers, musicians, writers, poets, and their ability to earn and own property by themselves, as a powerful means to bring about gender equality. It was fashionable for noblemen, nawabs, merchants and the court elite to be associated with courtesans or tawaifs whom they openly visited in their houses. In fact, the nobility sent their young sons to courtesans for instruction in etiquette, appreciation of Urdu poetry, and even the finer aspects of sensual engagement. After the uprising of 1857, British officials confiscated the courtesans’ property, accusing them of aligning with the rebels. These, along with social controls gradually imposed on them, whittled away at the reputation and cultural relevance of the courtesans.

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Book Reviews
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 98–105

Amrita Sher-Gil: A Self-Portrait in Letters & Writings, 2 volumes edited by Vivan Sundaram, reviewed by Sasha Altaf; Feminine Beauty in Indian Art and Literature by T.N. Mishra; reviewed by Indira S. Aiyar; Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s–1950s by Neepa Majumdar, reviewed by Debashree Mukherjee.

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Revisiting Marg
Vol. 62 No. 4, June 2011, pp. 150–152

A selection from a photographic portfolio based on the exhibition Images of India that appeared in Marg Vol. 14, No. 1 (December 1960).

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