Display of objectification in ‘Mirch Masala’

The consistent message throughout the film, Mirch Masala, is a critique of the gender relations between men and women, specifically, the ways in which women are treated as objects of male desire. One of the examples provided by the film is the scene where the Subedar, portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, is in the hut with the young woman, imposing his will upon her. She seems completely willing, which can be a red herring to the audience. The act of forcefully imposing sex upon a women in itself, to a western audience, is far from the norm. However, as this is a Bollywood film, the intended audience is likely not those from the West. The director chooses to employ specific tactics to heighten the tension of this scene, which is a way of implicitly critiquing what is happening.

The setting is within the women’s home. Choosing to encapsulate within four walls give the viewer the feeling of being trapped, especially as the Subedar is standing in front of the door, seemingly blocking it. It’s as though, like the woman, there is no escape for us. Secondly, the film gets a quite grainy here, and coupled with the choice of lighting, which is overly dark, it has a gothic or horror tonality to it. The woman chooses to play a record, which ends up stuck repeating the same words. Similarly to the setting, this suggests the feeling of entrapment. As a familiar example, it reminded me of the film 1408. In the film, John Cusack is trapped within a hotel room, and he wakes up every morning to the alarm clock repeatedly playing “We’ve Only Just Begun” by The Carpenters. Lastly, the director uses the camera to display power dynamics between the Subedar and the women. Consistently, he is shot from an upward angle, as though the viewer is looking up at him, putting him in a position of power. The tension built throughout the scene makes the Subedar’s actions appear inherently wrong, especially as he being overly aggressive with his female counterpart.

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