- Indian Masculinity:An Important Intervention in Gender and Masculinity Studies
Harjant Gill's insightful documentary trilogy Indian Masculinities explores the complex and intricate dynamics of the construction and reception of the projected image of Indian men and their social duties, responsibilities, and privileges in context of the Indian state of Punjab. The first film, Roots of Love (2011), deals with the history of Sikh identity formation in India—its evolution, significance in Punjabi society, and visible cultural markers of identity—as well as challenges posed by globalization. The second film, Mardistan (Macholand): Reflections on Indian Manhood (2014), deals with the construction of masculinity and its impact on men as well as women; gender relations in Indian society; and gender-based violence in India. The third film, Sent Away Boys (2016), investigates the issue of male labor migration and its impact on the society with particular reference to Punjab. The trilogy is made using a predominantly reflexive mode combined with the observational mode of documentary. The absence of the author's direct intervention through voice-over narration as in the classical documentary makes the trilogy appear less authoritative and open-ended in the sense that it allows for the audience to derive their own conclusions about the issues represented in the films. The presence of an expert's voice in each film to analyze and comment on the central theme increases provisions for critical engagement, academic credibility, and endorsement from an external perspective. For example, Swarn Singh Kahlon, a Sikh himself and the expert voice in Roots of Love, has been researching the Sikh Diaspora and migration history across the globe since 1970s.2 Nivedita Menon, the expert's voice in Mardistan/Macholand, is a feminist scholar, activist, and professor of political thoughts at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India. The third film of the trilogy, Sent Away Boys, has Radhika Chopra as the expert, who teaches at the Department of Sociology at University of Delhi and works on ethnography, Indian masculinity, sexuality, gender violence, [End Page 1106] and militancy movements among other things. The experts' interventions play the same role in the three films as direct quotes in printed pieces of research, presented in support of the argument. The argument and narrative of each film unfold through a series of interviews with people from a variety of backgrounds interspersed with comments from experts. This helps the audience get an extensive idea not only about the cultural identity of Sikh men in India, but also the position of women, complex gender relations, and the issue of mass migration and its impact on Indian society.
Gill's trilogy is an important addition to gender studies in the sense that it portrays the formation of gendered identity in the aggressively male-dominated Indian society marked by structural misogyny. All three films explore the construction of gendered identity in a society with assumptions of heterosexual normativity that assign very strict gender roles to individuals. Indian masculinity imagined in strict conformity with rigid patriarchal norms has an affective implication for men and women alike, making the films useful for Indian feminist studies as they throw light on the nature of Indian masculinity with direct effects on women and other gendered subjectivities. Though contextualized with specific references to Punjab and Haryana, the two provinces...