JUMP CUT
A REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY MEDIA

Notes

1. Translated as a ‘sphere’ and implying a sense of ‘boundary.’

2. My academic engagement with the talkie films of Bombay cinema from 1930s to the early 60s is in the form of my research work as a PhD scholar at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal University, Delhi. I have been greatly inspired with the writings of my supervisor, Prof. Ira Bhaskar, who has written extensively on Social films. Her essay “Emotion, Subjectivity, and the Limits of Desire: Melodrama and Modernity in Bombay Cinema, 1940s-50s,” has been the starting point of my thinking deeply about Daaera.

3. Kamal Amrohi, the director of this film, and Meena Kumari, playing the role of Sheetal, fell in love and got married in 1952—one year before the release of Daaera. This was their first film as husband and wife.

4. The practice of the wife being burnt alive with her deceased husband on his funeral pyre. According to orthodox Hindu religion, a widow was considered inauspicious. “Closely related to this idea was the belief that an unattached woman… constituted a grave danger to her community because of the supposedly irrepressible sexual powers she possessed, a capacity which always had the potential to disrupt her ritually prescribed life of austerity.” Sarkar, Sumit, and Tanika Sarkar, eds. Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader, Vol. 1. Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2011, p.29.

5. See Geraldine Forbes (2000, 2005), Sumit and Tanika Sarkar (2011), Sangari and Vaid (2013), Shekhar Bandopadhyay (2015), Radha Kumar (1993) for details.

6. The love between Radha and Krishna is symbolic of a deep companionship and a celestial union of the devotee and the Lord. The love between the two remains a sacred metaphor for heterosexual love in Vaishnav Bhakti tradition.

7. It symbolizes the separation and pain of the characters in love. Daaera was released a few years after the country had gained independence (in 1947)…but an independence which also partitioned the subcontinent into India and Pakistan and saw riots and bloodshed in the name of religion. I believe that the huge plank is a reminder not just of the forbidden desires but also of divisions which bind people in the name of class, caste, community, religion, or gender.

8. The charkha is the spinning wheel which was used by Gandhi as a potent symbol of colonial resistance and self- reliance during the Sawdeshi movement. Sharan’s mother is shown mostly spending her time spinning at the charkha. In the context of the film it symbolizes the Gandhian ideals of prioritizing duty and service and sacrifice.

9. Bhaskar: 2012, 169.

10. Brooks: 1985, 14.

11. Ibid.

12. As has been mentioned in case of the first song also.

13. “Ji” is an honorific with which elders are respectfully addressed.

14. Translated as —“I burn with the lamp, as the wick burns in the flame” (2012: 170).

15. An ancient medicine presumed to cure impotency and restore sexual health.

16. The pallu is the free end of the Indian attire called saree which is actually a running material of approximately six yards in length—often decorated at the borders and pallu. Here Sheetal is wearing the plainest of sarees which denotes not just her renunciatory attitude but also the economic status of the couple.

17. Brooks: 1984, 48.

18. Atwal, Jyoti. Real and Imagined Widows: Gender Relations in Colonial North India. Delhi: Primus Books, 2016, p.232.

19. A similar philosophical explanation is given by Sheetal when Gomti begs her to at least articulate her pain, so that she might be able to lessen it.

20. Although Sharan’s mother is also shown as a widow, the fact of being a rich widow, in charge of an aristocratic mansion and its accompanying standard of living, gives her a relative position of power. Sheetal’s projected widowhood, in contrast, is a position of helplessness, vulnerability and uncertainty. In metaphorical terms, Sheetal compares it to the state of the earth in absence of the sun.

21. Mazloom— meaning ‘wronged’ or victimized’, dharampatni meaning dutiful and lawfully wedded wife.

22. Atwal, Jyoti. Real and Imagined Widows: Gender Relations in Colonial North India. Delhi: Primus Books, 2016, p.1.

23. Sarkar, Sumit, and Tanika Sarkar, “Introduction,” eds. Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader, Vol. 1. Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2011, p.23.

24. Ibid., p. 24. Tanika and Sumit Sarkar’s two Volumes on Women and Social Reform in India have also attempted to give us personal testimonies on this issue. These volumes highlight the importance of oral history as an important historical archive, filling in the lacunae of official records.

25. Translated as “lord and master.”

26. Atwal: 2016, p. 212.

27. Bhaskar: 2012, 170.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid., 172.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. One possible explanation for this averted gaze could be that though Gandhi was not in favor of child marriage and supported the child widows’ remarriage, there was ambivalence regarding widows who were older. Gandhi spoke of them as epitomizing the values of sacrifice and service and thus were to be venerated. In his words: “Self control has been carried by Hinduism to the greatest height and, in a widow’s life, it reaches perfection…. I regard a widow’s life as an ornament to Hinduism.” Thus, he advised the widows to follow a life of “renunciation, sacrifice, self- abnegation and dedication to the service of her husband, his family and the country.” (quoted by Atwal: 2016, 230-232). The charkha-spinning older widow with the averted gaze makes visible the continuum of conflict between tradition and modernity in this postcolonial moment.

33. Shastras are prescriptive religious texts that were referred to in conjugal issues, as marriage was considered a sacrament for the Hindus.

34. The first time she is shown doing it in full view, otherwise her kitchen activities remain invisible to the spectators.

Bibliography

Atwal, Jyoti. Real and Imagined Widows: Gender Relations in Colonial North India. Delhi: Primus Books, 2016.

Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar. From Plassey To Partition And After: A History of Modern India.Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan, 2015.

Bhaskar, Ira, and Richard Allen. Islamic Cultures of Bombay Cinema. New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2009.

Bhaskar, Ira. “Emotion, Subjectivity, and the Limits of Desire: Melodrama and Modernity in Bombay Cinema, 1940s-‘50s,” Gender Meets Genre in Postwar Cinema. Christine Gledhill, ed. Urbana, Chicago and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2012, 161-176.

Brooks, Peter. The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. New York:  Columbia University Press, 1985.

Chatterjee, Partha. The Nation and Its Fragments. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Forbes, Geraldine. The New Cambridge History of India: Women in Modern India. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Forbes, Geraldine. Women in Colonial India: Essays on Politics, Medicine, and Historiography. New Delhi: Chronicle Books, 2005.

Kumar, Radha. The History of Doing: An Illustrated account of Movements for Women’s Rights and Feminism in India 1800-1990. New Delhi: Zubaan, 1993.

Orsini, Francesca,ed. Love in South Asia. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

Sangari, Vaid, ed. Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History. New Delhi: Zubaan, 2013.

Sarkar, Sumit, and Tanika Sarkar, eds. Women and Social Reform in Modern India: A Reader,Vol. 1, and 2.Ranikhet: Permanent Black, 2011.

Sarkar, Tanika. Hindu Wife, Hindu Nation: Community, Religion & Cultural Nationalism. New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2001.

All pictures have been accessed from: Bombay Talkies Studio. (1953). Daaera. YouTube. India. Retrieved September 19, 2021, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yINaRSWcLMs.