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“What is in her eyes?”: Deconstructing Smita Patil’s still.

Iconic movie still of Smita Patil analyzed by Lakshmi Art Press

What is in her eyes?

She is encased in a garb of tradition, culture, gender norms and identity-- her dupatta, bindi and kajal -- and it is with her eyes that she emerges as powerful. She is expressive and demanding; a feeler; a silently moving chess piece; an exacting knight; unafraid of breaking a rule; strong; defensive. Instructive. Stealthy.

She could be shedding a tear, but she is choosing to communicate instead.

How does she do this?

She pouts, but nearly-invisibly. She has crystallized reproach and sharp accusation in her eyes- and yet her eyes are warm with expectation, feeling, and attachment; as if she knows that the person that she is giving this look to cares enough to care about how she feels and desires. She gives a look that says: she saw them do something; she knows what has happened. And she thinks that voicing her emotions through her eyes will be powerful enough to make a real change.

But will it? She is using all of the weapons that she has with her: constituents of her facial expression, perhaps her physical stance, and perhaps the area of the room where she has decided to place herself. But what else does she have? To what extent can she really go for what she wants? To what extent can she be a dynamic and important chess player in her own life, or the lives of others? And this look that she is directing at someone- who are they? What gave them the power to make her having to ask them for what she needs? Why is she unable to get what she wants by herself?

From her seat of power behind the veil, she is also vulnerable.

What is her "power?"

Is her power, too, simply a garb?

If she decides to be freely and uninhibitedly powerful, will she necessarily give up being a desirable, feminine woman? Will her identity and status as a woman be called into question? Will she start failing the society? What will such a change do for her, and for the society?

Is this a picture of a woman desperately trying to be powerful, while holding on to her identity as a woman?

Is this akin to a search for keys in the dark?

#smitapatil #artcriticism #female #gender #society #dupatta #saree #bollywood #acting #visage #analysis #women

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