University of Illinois at Chicago
BHAT-DISSERTATION-2017.pdf (4.23 MB)

Violence Against Women in Bollywood Cinema: Exploring Gender Differences in the Indian Diaspora

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posted on 2017-10-27, 00:00 authored by Meghna Bhat
This dissertation explores images of violence against women (VAW) in Bollywood cinema in India and investigates how the Indian diaspora in the United States perceives, defines and interprets the portrayal of VAW in these films. Using qualitative methods, this study fills an important gap in the literature by focusing on this unique group of Indian diaspora in the U.S. and investigates how gender differences, participant demographics, and contextual differences may have shaped their film interpretations of VAW. Drawn from feminist frameworks and a sociological lens, the dissertation examines and compares the participants’ interpretations of onscreen constructions of gender and VAW in Bollywood films to their off-screen understanding and knowledge of gender-based violence in their daily lives. The methodology includes thematic film analysis of women-oriented Bollywood films, film screenings, and eight gender-specific focus groups (N=35). The findings indicated gender and demographic differences in how the men and women in the study interpreted gender roles and VAW depicted in Bollywood films. While most of the men primarily defined VAW as physical abuse and beating, the women’s definitions included the lack of choices, being controlled or forced to have sex, lack of consent, and not having their voice. The women in the study expressed their concerns about the implications for teenagers of Bollywood’s depiction of women in raunchy and sexually explicit dance numbers, called ‘item numbers.’ To summarize, the Indian participants’ historical, privileged, sociocultural, economic, and bicultural identities within the U.S. diaspora provides a stronger understanding of their attitudes and knowledge about gender and gender-based violence.



Ullman, Sarah E


Ullman, Sarah E


Criminology, Law, and Justice

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Doctoral

Committee Member

Frohmann, Lisa Schewe, Paul Schuck, Amie Reddy, Gayatri

Submitted date

May 2017

Issue date


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