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Type: Thesis
Title: Representations of Women in Pakistani Cinema: Role, Image, and Characterisation
Author: Hussain, Nazia
Issue Date: 2021
School/Discipline: School of Humanities : Media
Abstract: This thesis examines contemporary representations of women in Pakistan’s regional and urban ‘mainstream’ cinemas against the backdrop of established sociocultural ideological discourses. Five films, from a mix of male and female directors and from the decade 2007-2017, are analysed to examine how women’s on-screen representations are linked with established sociocultural discourses and hegemonic ideologies. The analysis uses Roland Barthes’s visual semiotic approach to assist in examining the multilayered meanings the five films carry to construct and portray women. These five films were selected because since 2007, the magnitude of film production, distribution, and viewing has made Pakistani cinema a dominant cultural apparatus that reaches both local and diasporic audiences like no other cultural production. Also, media liberalisation through the rise of satellite television channels, along with the expansion of popular culture, urban development, and multiplexes, enabled more efficient modes of film distribution and viewing in Pakistan. This liberalisation is visible in my analysis and discussion of the selected films’ plots, story lines, representational strategies, characterisations, and box office earnings. The selection of these five films is also based on their ‘narrative plots’ because they make use of cinematic codes and conventions within specific narratives that privilege characters’ social characterisations and visual styles. Importantly, these five films were selected because women in these films’ narratives hold a central place in the role of female protagonists. Their actions, dialogue, and framing extend the films’ storyline, mise-en-scene, and vocal structure, though often solely in relation to male characters. It is important to note that regional Punjabi films mostly only secure domestic box office returns because they cater to the entertainment needs of male audience mainly within the Lahore region, on the Punjab cinema circuit; Mainstream Urdu films have worldwide box office returns because they cater to Pakistan’s urban upper middle classes and the international Pakistani diaspora. With an interdisciplinary feminist lens to examine women’s cinematic representations, this thesis draws on theoretical insights from key early film feminists and then moves to ‘re-canonised’ feminist film theories that are situated within broader fields of cultural studies, poststructuralism, and semiotics. The thesis begins with an overview of the evolution of the Pakistani film industry and then moves to recent cinematic developments, which are symptomatic of sociocultural changes in Pakistan. The subsequent section gives a brief recount of women’s cinematic position in connection with Asian/Third World and Pakistani feminist thoughts to help readers understand how sociocultural ideological discourses work in cinematic representations in Pakistan. Through a comparative discussion of other South Asian cinemas, the thesis argues that women’s representation in Pakistani film is unique – they are represented from roles of empowerment to roles of subjugation and are constructed under the binary of pious and promiscuous women as their representations are tightly linked with hegemonic socio-patriarchal system.
Advisor: Pugsley, Peter
Barbour, Kim
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2021
Keywords: Pakistani cinema
feminst film studies
Paistani feminism
Paistani women
western bad/eastern good woman
cinematic representations
Provenance: This thesis is currently under Embargo and not available.
Appears in Collections:Research Theses

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