Inventing a Muscular Global India: History, Masculinity, and Nation in Mangal Pandey: The Rising

  • Sikata Banerjee


This chapter unpacks a particular gendered vision of the nation, specifically in the context of muscular nationalism in modern India. In muscular nationalism, the idea of nation is animated by an idea of manhood associated with martial prowess, muscular strength and toughness, and is reliant on the image and construct of woman as virtuous. In muscular nationalism the focus on the chastity of female bodies stems from their role as border guards. A particular interpretation of muscular nationalism has unfolded in India within a cultural milieu shaped by an assertive middle-class self-confidence fueled by “liberalization,” a process by which India has been integrated into the global political economy, coupled with the prominence of Hindutva or Hindu nationalist politics. India’s prolific commercial film industry centered in Bombay has used images of manhood to express as well as valorize these cultural changes. This chapter uses the popular and critically acclaimed film Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) to illustrate how history is used to rediscover and imagine an Indian legacy of muscular nationalism. Given India’s aspirations to become a recognized international player, the chapter goes on to argue that this film invents a tradition that constructs a legacy of masculinized nationalism that presumably always existed and needs to be reactivated to enable modern India’s global ambitions. Imperial effeminization of Indian men and contemporary responses to this gendered critique provides a cultural background for these films as they turn to history to challenge the discourse of effeminization that still haunts the Indian polity, as well as to reaffirm muscular nationalism in India as it seeks international recognition within this particular global moment of neoliberal capitalism and consumerism.


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© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sikata Banerjee
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Gender StudiesUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada

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