Postcolonial feminisms speaking through an 'accented' cinema : the construction of Indian women in the films of Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta.
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This thesis proposes that the merging of the theories of ‘accented’ cinema and postcolonial feminisms allows for the establishment of a theoretical framework for the analysis of (what will be argued for) an emerging postcolonial feminist film practice. In An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (2001), Hamid Naficy argues that even though the experiences of diaspora and exile differ from one person to the next, films produced by diasporic filmmakers exhibit similarities at various levels. These similarities, he says, arise as a result of a tension between a very distinct connection to the native country and the need to conform to the host society in which these filmmakers now live. Mira Nair and Deepa Mehta are women filmmakers of the Indian diaspora whose films depict Indian women – in comparison with their popular cinematic construction - in unconventional and controversial ways. These characters, at some crucial point in the films, transgress their oppressive nationalist representation through the reclaiming of their bodies and sexual identities. This similarity of construction in Nair and Mehta’s female protagonists, as a result, facilitates a filtering of postcolonial feminisms throughout the narrative of their films. Even though the postcolonial feminist writings of Chandra Talpade Mohanty (1991, 1994, 1997) and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (1990, 1994, 1996, 1999) do not relate directly to the study of film or cinematic practices, their works, specifically those regarding the construction, maintenance and perpetuation of nation and nationalism in postcolonial narratives, serve as a specifically gender-focused appropriation of Naficy’s theories. Mohanty and Spivak’s arguments surrounding the use of text and, particularly, narrative as tools for the representation and empowerment of Third world women, women of colour and subaltern women, work toward illustrating how postcolonial feminisms articulate through a specific moment of ‘accented’ filmmaking: that of women filmmakers of the Indian diaspora.