Biopolitical Bollywood: Sexual Violence as Cathartic Spectacle in ​Section 375 and ​Article 15



This paper will discuss the representation of sexual violence in two recent mainstream Bollywood films, Section 375 and Article 15, using Laura Mulvey’s argument about the production of visual pleasure. Laura Mulvey states how the male gaze of the camera makes invisible, and produces as reality, the objectification of the woman and the identification of the audience with the male performer. This paper uses these findings to state how the male gaze is used to identify with the male protagonist in both films in order to create an identificatory politics. The films deploy a pathos of familiality: both the familiar and the familial are used to create a sympathetic gaze towards the male protagonists. Further, the paper argues that the use of media and the ‘regime of the visible’ are used in both films in order to enable the production of a biopolitical gaze which shows how the state uses ‘public penology’ in rape trials (Bhattacharya 7). For example, the paper points to the films’ use of techniques such as the depiction of the angry activist crowd or the fiery romanticized police officer in Section 375 and Article 15, respectively. These devices are used to disrupt and affectively regulate the viewers’ emotions towards a biopolitical logic of the goodness of state machinery. The paper concludes that it is a male gaze that affectively controls its viewers and aligns them with statist ends. The films, the paper argues, also act to perpetuate ‘rape myths’: fictions with a repetitive force behind them that seem to pass as truth in discourse.

Keywords: biopower, biopolitics, Laura Mulvey, Article 15, Section 375, #MeToo, sexual violence, public penology, law, feminism, caste

How to Cite: Swatie, D. (2020) “Biopolitical Bollywood: Sexual Violence as Cathartic Spectacle in ​Section 375 and ​Article 15”, Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies. 20(1). doi: