The Accidental Selfie: Queen and the Indian Metropolar Public SphereThe 16th Annual Conference of the South Asian Literary Association, Austin, TX (2016)
What explains the immense popularity of the 2014 low-budget Bollywood film Queen amongst India’s metropolitan (male) audiences? The commonplace answer is that the film’s story about the transformation of a demure, middle-class Rajouri girl, Rani (Kangana Ranaut), to an independent global woman who succeeds by dint of her entrepreneurial labor while remaining a vigilant manager of affective identitarian boundaries appealed to India’s neoliberal audiences who, at the time of the film’s release, were struggling with the opprobrium of rising incidents of violence against women (ie. the Nirbhaya case). I wish to argue, however, that the film’s real ideological fulcrum is not found in the narrative of Rani’s agency, but rather in the moment where she most lacks it. This happens when Rani accidentally sends a “selfie” in “western clothes” to her estranged fiancé (Rajkumar). This “accidental selfie” pivots the film’s true ideological function – to veil and naturalize a view of women that is the polar opposite of what the film appears to project, which I contend accounts for the (unconscious) enjoyment of Indian male audiences. While such accidental “posts” are common in this age of new media and digital technology, this moment of contingency braids the surface narrative of women’s empowerment into a latent narrative satisfying the economy of urban neoliberal male fantasy.
Publication DateJanuary 5, 2016
Citation InformationGautam Basu Thakur. "The Accidental Selfie: Queen and the Indian Metropolar Public Sphere" The 16th Annual Conference of the South Asian Literary Association, Austin, TX (2016)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/gautam_basu_thakur/30/