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Iyer, Usha (2015) FILM DANCE, FEMALE STARDOM, AND THE PRODUCTION OF GENDER IN POPULAR HINDI CINEMA. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation undertakes a historical and theoretical analysis of constructions of gender and sexuality through popular Hindi film dance. This hybrid dance form, primarily staged by female performers until recently, has featured a syncretic mix of Indian classical and folk dance traditions as well as transnational dance forms since the early 20th century. My study of this popular cultural form explores the interactions of Hindi cinema with indigenous and foreign dance forms, constructions of the performing body and of spaces of performance, differing narratives and histories of male and female stardom, and the mechanisms for the ideological constitution of the Indian spectator-subject. Drawing on interdisciplinary work on stardom, gender analysis, and performance theories from the contemporary field of dance studies as well as ancient South Asian texts on performance, I investigate the role of dance in the construction of the stardom of four iconic dancer-actresses from the 1930s to the 1990s: Sadhona Bose, Vyjayanthimala, Waheeda Rehman, and Madhuri Dixit.

This project employs a body-space-movement framework (studying the spaces of dance, the movement vocabularies used, and the resulting construction of star bodies) to engage in a broader discussion of cinematic representation, body cultures, and the construction of gender. I propose a taxonomy of song-and-dance sequences to consider the various functions of musical and dance sequences in popular Hindi cinema and examine the gendering of performance in each of these registers. Employing the body-space-movement framework, I suggest that dance often enables female dancer-actresses to author particular types of cinematic narratives. Each chapter undertakes a historical analysis of the question of respectability that has dominated discourses on dance and film acting by women, and investigates thus the links between ideology, stardom, and constructions of femininity.

Through a sustained analysis of film dance, I engage with questions that have long occupied scholars of South Asian cinema: how does popular Hindi cinema generate spectatorial desire and engagement differently than other cinematic cultures, through what mechanisms does the song-and-dance sequence produce romantic, erotic, and communitarian affects, and what are the specific mobilizations of space, movement, and bodies that create the particular address of this cinema?


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Iyer, Ushausi1@pitt.eduUSI1
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMajumdar, Neepanmajumda@pitt.eduNMAJUMDA
Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Committee MemberFischer, Lucylfischer@pitt.eduLFISCHER
Committee MemberMazumdar,
Date: 13 January 2015
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 18 August 2014
Approval Date: 13 January 2015
Submission Date: 21 August 2014
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 251
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Dance, Film Dance, Film, Cinema, Motion Pictures, Female Stardom, Gender, Indian Cinema, Hindi Cinema, India, Bollywood, Performance
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2015 19:06
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:23


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