Feminism in Bhumika: ideas from an unreliable feminist student

Film outside of Hollywood and British or French cinema have always been what I tend toward. Obviously I’ve had encounters with others but it’s these that have always been my favorites. That being said, Bhumika: The Role is now one of the better films I have seen in the last few years. The protagonist was likable but deeply flawed, all encompassing but realistic, passionate but disconnected. The filming showed exactly what the director wanted his audience to see but still left enough negative space for us to draw our own conclusions and decide for ourselves what the film is trying to achieve in regards to feminism and mid-nineteenth century Hindi culture.

Feminism is another topic that I unfortunately do not have great familiarity with. Great blog post choices on my part, right? But, and that’s a big, resounding, and hopeful but, Mazumdar’s article gave me some great insight on both Bhumika and feminism and how the two work together in the film. Most importantly Mazumdar explained the protagonists specific cast, which shed some light on her life as an artist, and on her mothers reluctance to get married. Usha was never expected to be married, which surprised me as both a westerner, and as someone who has stereotypical views toward life in the 50s. Another aspect that the article brought to my attention, and this is the idea that most stuck with me (dear lord, she finally gets to the point) is that for the whole movie Usha is desperately trying to define herself, to herself, and as her own, singular human being. What’s ironic about this is that, of course, she always seems to define herself by her relationships as men. More than once Usha iterates her desire for a family life, she’s leaps at the opportunity to marry Keshav siting her pregnancy, and she almost childishly forgets their past problems when she find out she is pregnant again. To me this is important because it shows that perhaps her independence was not meant to be her career, or her casual relationships, maybe it was her pursuit of what she saw as a perfect family, even though it was unobtainable. This theory is turned upside down by Usha’s neglect of her daughter, which is terrible but also shows how truly unhappy in herself and her life she was, and how out of control. The redeeming factor for me is the ending. She is clearly so proud of her daughter for finding a happiness she has never known, but she maintains that she needs to finally find her own happiness. She also blows off Rajan which is just awesome.

I still don’t have a solid grasp on feminism, especially when it is set in a culture I know I don’t fully understand. But through Usha I feel as if it is about pursuing happiness despite your gender or your social class, and it most certainly is about having to do so on your own terms (as hard as that may be) rather than the terms of a husband, mother, or lover.

It’s entirely possibly that I’ve just completely missed the point, as usual, but the film definitely resonated with me. I plan on watching it again, through the lens this article has given me, and getting even more out of it.


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