'Ye haath mujhe de dey, Thakur!': The dacoit, the insurgent and the long arm of the law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

This essay argues that the figure of the dacoit/daku in Bombay cinema functions as the subaltern who is interpellated by, and yet cannot be contained by, the strictures of modern law in a newly-independent post-colonial state. Reminiscent of an older polity, where rural outlaw figures operated as rebels to the existing social order inflected by caste and gender, dacoits in popular Hindi films give voice to the peasant insurgent, dispossessed of his land by age-old caste-based, as well as new, forms of governance. Taking up three screen dacoit characters in Bombay cinema, Gabbar Singh from Sholay (1975), Phoolan Devi from Bandit Queen (1994) and Paan Singh Tomar from Paan Singh Tomar (2010), this paper argues that in its obsession with the representation of dakus, Bombay cinema betrays its anxiety about a post-colonial juridical order that continues with the oppressions of feudal and colonial hierarchies. Thus, Bombay cinema continues to rely on the subaltern as idea and concept in order to map the tension between a nationalist/statist history and a narrative of rebellion and resistance from below, particularly in caste terms. (The term Ye haath mujhe de dey, Thakur , from Sholay, translates as Give me these hands, Thakur ).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84 - 99
Number of pages16
JournalSouth Asia: Journal of South Asian studies
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Cite this

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abstract = "This essay argues that the figure of the dacoit/daku in Bombay cinema functions as the subaltern who is interpellated by, and yet cannot be contained by, the strictures of modern law in a newly-independent post-colonial state. Reminiscent of an older polity, where rural outlaw figures operated as rebels to the existing social order inflected by caste and gender, dacoits in popular Hindi films give voice to the peasant insurgent, dispossessed of his land by age-old caste-based, as well as new, forms of governance. Taking up three screen dacoit characters in Bombay cinema, Gabbar Singh from Sholay (1975), Phoolan Devi from Bandit Queen (1994) and Paan Singh Tomar from Paan Singh Tomar (2010), this paper argues that in its obsession with the representation of dakus, Bombay cinema betrays its anxiety about a post-colonial juridical order that continues with the oppressions of feudal and colonial hierarchies. Thus, Bombay cinema continues to rely on the subaltern as idea and concept in order to map the tension between a nationalist/statist history and a narrative of rebellion and resistance from below, particularly in caste terms. (The term Ye haath mujhe de dey, Thakur , from Sholay, translates as Give me these hands, Thakur ).",
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'Ye haath mujhe de dey, Thakur!': The dacoit, the insurgent and the long arm of the law. / Chakraborty, Mridula Nath.

In: South Asia: Journal of South Asian studies, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2015, p. 84 - 99.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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