Martial woman/chaste woman in Bollywood historical films

Padmaavat (2018) and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019)

  • Terhi Hannula University of Victoria


Bollywood films have been a powerful tool to build the Indian nation, and historical Bollywood films construct the dominant ideology of the time of their making. As in the general ideology of nationalism, gender figures as a specific social construct – muscular nationalism – which implies a gender binary of a martial man, guarding a chaste woman. Gender features strongly in the Hindu nationalistic ideology in recent Indian films. We see strong, female national heroes in films like Padmaavat (2018) and Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi (2019). However martial the female bodies in the films are, they still remain trapped in the construct of muscular nationalism, which posits women in the role of a chaste woman that is a symbol for the nation rather than an agent in herself.