Journal article / Malayalam Soft-Porn and the Stardom of Shakeela

Mini, Darshana Sreedhar. ‘The Rise of Soft Porn in Malayalam Cinema and the Precarious Stardom of Shakeela’. Feminist Media Histories 5, no. 2 (Spring 2019): 49–82.
Abstract (edited): This paper looks at the genre of soft pornography in Kerala and the precarious stardom of its female stars through a close look at the career of Shakeela, an actress who became the emblematic soft-porn star of the 1990s.

It interrogates how Shakeela’s outsider status and her heavyset body type foregrounded her as the locus of Malayali society’s conflicted relationship with sex and desire, while also creating a set of parallel film practices that challenged the hierarchies of the mainstream film industry.

By 2001, more than 70 percent of the total films produced in Malayalam were soft porn, and a good number of them featured Shakeela. The mainstay of soft-porn productions was the strategic positioning of the female lead as a cultural outsider—a transient figure who is both a threat and a source of exoticised desire.

Shakeela’s emergence as a ‘liberated’ woman who flaunts her sexuality despite social norms was so strong that it destabilised Kerala’s hero-centric mainstream industry for a time, leading to what was popularly called Shakeela tharangam, the ‘wave of Shakeela’.

More info: doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2019.5.2.49

Reposted from Kerala Scholars eGoup

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