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Wanted Cultured Ladies Only!

Female Stardom and Cinema in India, 1930s-1950s

Neepa Majumdar

Publication Year: 2009

Wanted Cultured Ladies Only! maps out the early culture of cinema stardom in India from its emergence in the silent era to the decade after Indian independence in the mid-twentieth century. Neepa Majumdar combines readings of specific films and stars with an analysis of the historical and cultural configurations that gave rise to distinctly Indian notions of celebrity. She argues that discussions of early cinematic stardom in India must be placed in the context of the general legitimizing discourse of colonial "improvement" that marked other civic and cultural spheres as well, and that "vernacular modernist" anxieties over the New Woman had limited resonance here. Rather, it was through emphatically nationalist discourses that Indian cinema found its model for modern female identities. _x000B__x000B_Considering questions of spectatorship, gossip, popularity, and the dominance of a star-based production system, Majumdar details the rise of film stars such as Sulochana, Fearless Nadia, Lata Mangeshkar, and Nargis.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

front cover

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Title Page

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Copyright Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

I am grateful to the many institutions and individuals without whose generous support this book could not have been written. A Junior Research Fellowship from the American Institute of Indian Studies enabled me to conduct initial research at the National Film Archive of India, and a grant-in-aid of research from Indiana University ...

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Introduction: Translocating Hollywood Stardom in India

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pp. 1-14

Cinema arrived in India on 7 July 1896, just six months after the first public screening by the Lumière brothers in Paris. By the 1930s, alongside the material technology of filmmaking, such as raw film stock, cameras, projectors, lighting equipment, and, most recently, sound systems, ...

Part I. “India Has No Stars”

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1. The Split Discourse of Indian Stardom

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pp. 17-49

In the 1932 annual Puja issue of the English-language film weekly, Filmland, director Charu Roy complains that in nearly fifteen to twenty years of filmmaking in Bengal, “there was never a film whose market value was mainly due to its feature player.” ...

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2. The Morality and Machinery of Stardom

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pp. 50-70

The film “star” in India was constituted out of the competing demands of a Western model of celebrity derived from Hollywood, which defined identity in terms of interiorized private lives, and an Indian model of public identity, with its deep-rooted avoidance of a written discourse of gossip. ...

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3. Real and Imagined Stars

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pp. 71-92

In writings about the bad reputation of cinema, there was usually a slippage between the loose morals of individual actresses (never named, but referred to in generalized insinuations) and of the cinema as an institution (in the form of lewd producers and directors). ...

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4. Spectatorial Desires and the Hierarchies of Stardom

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pp. 93-122

In the preceding chapters I argued that the dominant cinematic and extra-cinematic discourse on female stardom in 1930s film worked from an implicit structure of oppositions. On one side, there was low-class status aligned with public performance, and implications of sexuality and immorality, ...

Part II. “This Stardom Racket”

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5. Monopoly, Frontality, and Doubling in Postwar Bombay Cinema

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pp. 125-149

In the 1930s cinematic stardom in India had been figured primarily as an absence, a recurrent complaint being the perceived lack of “genuine” stars, who were understood in the context of a general discourse of improvement of Indian cinema. ...

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6. Nargis and the Double Space of Female Desire in Anhonee

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pp. 150-172

Nargis was a major star for roughly a decade from 1948 to 1958, when she retired at the peak of her career at the age of twenty-nine.1 But the public narrative of Nargis did not end with her retirement. The post-1958 Nargis star persona was one of the earliest to exemplify the paradoxical relationship between star persona and film text ...

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7. The Embodied Voice: Song Sequences and Stardom in Bomby Cinema

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pp. 173-202

Thus far I have considered the implications of the public circulation of the female body in star discourses in India cinema. The demands of a cinematic form that privileges song sequences produced the imperative to technologically separate singing voices and acting bodies. ...


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pp. 203-234

Works Cited

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pp. 235-248


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pp. 249-258

back cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252091780
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252034329

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2009