Retooling Trauma: Partition as Celebratory Nationalism in Neoliberal Metropolitan Cinema

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‘Retooling Trauma’ scrutinizes the deployment of the Partition trope in 21st century Indian cinema. Using three films released between 2013 and 2017—Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Rajkahini, and Begum Jaan—the paper elaborates on these films’ popular cultural maneuver of evoking historical trauma eventually to sideline it, for the sake of political-esthetic legitimacy. Far from the raw jingoism of the turn-of-the-millennium Partition films such as Gadar, Hé Ram, and Pinjar, these films adopt Partition trauma as backstory, coopting Partition violence as accelerant for otherwise weak plotlines. The advertisements and trailers of the films, however, highlight Partition as the driving force behind the narratives. How does this approach—of marketing a film around a political essence—compare with the earlier strategies of over-iteration and over-performance of Partition violence? The paper will answer this question through a contextual explication of these films’ style and content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSouth Asian Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Bengali cinema
  • Bollywood
  • Partition
  • jingoism
  • melodrama
  • nationalism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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