Asian Cinemas Blog Post 2 (Week 7)

Out of the three films in the “Transnationalism and Gender” section of the course, the one that connected with me most was Vikas Bahl’s 2014 film Queen. Besides the awkwardly comedic but likeable characters, upbeat nature and flashy Bollywood dance sequences, the film was at its heart a refreshing and endearing take on a modern feminist story. As a young female of Asian descent myself, Rani’s journey defying social norms and overcoming challenges to ultimately find self confidence is one that very much resonated with me.

The first thought I had upon watching Queen was how similar it was to Hollywood’s Eat Pray Love. Ironically, but perhaps poetically, Queen’s storyline of a young rural Indian woman finding herself in Europe after a failed engagement is a mirror opposite of Eat Pray Love, in which Julia Roberts’ character is the quintessential upper-middle class New York businesswoman who is at a crossroads after a messy divorce and sets on a journey of personal discovery in Asia. Balh’s focus on one personal journey, I felt, reminded me of a decidedly Western style exploration of feminist themes. Unlike the quietly fierce ensemble of female characters that exist as part of the bigger nationalistic picture in Hero, the narrative of Queen is solely targeted at the growth of protagonist Rani, focusing on her emotions and learnings.

In fact, there are many ways in which the film takes influence from Western feminist ideals, which as Anuran et al (2013) argues may be attributed to globalisation’s influence on Hindi filmmakers to include Westernized narratives and visuals in their films.

As Gupta (2015) points out, Bollywood’s depiction of its female characters tends to be regressive. Traditional patriarchal values dictate that women only exist in relation to men, seen exclusively as sexual objects or as symbols of family, patriarchy and nation. On the contrary, Gupta (2015) identifies tropes that distinguish progressive Bollywood films like Queen from traditional representations. First, there is “the element of surprise that forces the audience to confront their assumptions about women”; Rani begins as a passive and helpless damsel in distress, but throughout the film discovers her independent strength and capability. There is then the “absence of any connections between women and sensuality” and the “rejection of a direct correlation between the morality/purity of a woman and her fate”; the film features a promiscuous single mother and a sex worker, yet does not degrade them for their choices, instead presenting them both as multi-dimensional characters that are independent and empathetic. Through showing the comparatively reserved Rani forming bonds with both these characters, Bahl shows the power of strong female friendships, defies the negative connotations surrounding openly sexual women and rejects traditional values that demonise Western practices such as drinking and smoking. Finally, there is the “dis-attachment of the female character from traditional/patriarchal values”; the film is devoid of male driven storylines. Mocking the traditional belief of how a girl’s life is over if she is left at the altar, Rani finds true happiness outside of the confines of patriarchy. There was no need for her to fall in love with one of the male characters she meets such as Aleksander to adhere to the fairytale European romance storyline; nor the final reconciliation between Rani and Vijay that would be expected of a traditional film. Rani’s growth is not to please her fiancé, but ultimately for herself – she is the heroine but Vijay is not the hero.

Despite all the ways that Queen challenges the norms of traditional Bollywood cinema, the film’s overwhelmingly positive critical reception as well as successful box office numbers is a positive sign. It is exemplary of an emerging shift in the inclusive and multidimensional representation of women in Indian cinema, and I am hopeful that this trend continues to inspire and empower young women from all over the world.


Gupta, S. (2015). Kahaani, Gulaab Gangl and Queen: Remaking the queens of Bollywood. South Asian Popular Culture, 13(2), pp.107-123.

Anujan, D., Schaefer, D. and Karan, K. (2012). The changing face of Indian women in the era of global Bollywood. In Bollywood and Globalization: The Global Power of Popular Hindi Cinema. Taylor and Francis, pp. 110–126.

Kapoor, A. (2015). 11 Reasons Why Queen is the Most Feminist Film of Recent Years. [online] VagaBomb. Available at: [Accessed 4 Sep. 2017].

My comments:

How women “rise and shine” in Queen (2014) and Offside (2006)

Queen and Offside



Hello! I'm Jess and I like pizza and marathoning TV shows.


  1. Hi Jess!
    I liked your analysis on Queen and how you talked about the ways in which the film takes influence from Western feminist ideals. I really think that the image of women in Bollywood movies has really changed. You mentioned that there was no need for her to fall in love with one of the male characters that Rani met. What do you think of the directors approach of this in the movie?

    • Hi Carmen!
      I think the director Vikas Bahl’s decision to do this was refreshing and admirable, definitely outside the box of how a traditional Bollywood narrative would go. I think the fact that he shows Rani forming genuine friendships with the guys she meets is great, as it shows that men and women can form deep bonds without it being inevitably romantic. I also think it’s great that she had an interest in Marcello, but it was casual and she doesn’t end up falling in love with the first person that she is interested in. These male characters are all just a part of her journey of self discovery, and it shows that ultimately Rani and all women are capable of being independent people who can determine their own path and happiness, without needing the validation of a man by their side.

  2. Hey Jess! Great post!
    I really liked your discussion on how the film explores feminist themes with a western approach. When I was watching the movie, I also noticed how similar it was to another American movie, Lost in Translation, except with reversed gender roles. If the gender roles in Queen were reversed, with Rani being a male, and the three friends being female, would that have changed the quality of the film in your opinion?
    Also, if Vikas Bahl decided to make the relationship between one of the three friends go beyond platonic, would this have ruined the film for you?

    • Hey Adrian!
      I definitely think the role of Rani as a female is a defining element in the film that makes the themes and narratives what they are. I think that beyond just being a good film, a lot of the celebration of Queen rests on Vikas Bahl pushing boundaries with narratives that defy usual Bollywood practices. It was kind of revolutionary that Rani was able to be friends with her three hostel mates with no emphasis on the differences between their gender after her initial hesitation, just because she was meant to be a shy female. Although a male protagonist with platonic friends is also uncommon, the fact that Rani ultimately was the decision maker for her own friendships was really special given the pre-existing traditional gender roles. So I also do think the film would have lost some of its essence if Rani ended up with one of the three friends. Not sure if I did a great job of explaining myself but hope at least some of that made sense!

  3. Hi Jess,

    I enjoyed reading your blog post and your analysis on Queen. I am so happy to see the changing in the closed countries such as India. That means the society is improving to assist people who have the fundamental human right and enjoy the freedom. I agree with you that the western countries impact the closed countries. It is because all of the people are seeking for freedom and equality. However, I feel surprised that the Bollywood’s depiction of its female characters tends to be regressive. When the Bollywood movie has an important status in India, the India woman wants to change. How do you the trend change in India?
    Thank you.

    Ada Yu

    • Hi Ada,
      Thanks for your comment! I’m glad that you’re also happy about the changes towards gender equality in countries like India. I definitely was also surprised that Bollywood is as traditional as it is, and I’m not sure if this may be because it is reflecting the slower change in gender values in Indian culture in general, with expectations such as arranged marriages still in place in some areas of the country. However, I am glad that despite this new era of gender representation in cinema only starting in the past decade or so, more and more films are taking Queen’s lead. I hope that this trend continues, with more strong female driven films continuing to be produced to inspire the empowerment of women in India as well as a movement away from traditional patriarchal society and values.

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