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Then and Now

The Hindustani Ladki

The figure of the Hindustani Ladki in Hindi cinema represents a renewed longing for an authentic postcolonial identity.

The term Hindustani Ladki (Indian girl) is always fresh in every Hindi cine-goer’s memory. My earliest memory of hearing it repeatedly was in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995; DDLJ) where Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) assures Simran (Kajol Devgn), after a night of drinking and frolicking, that they most definitely did not have sex when she was inebriated, since he knew that she was a Hindustani Ladki. Packed with meaning, the figure of the Hindustani Ladki continued to make regular appearances in several movies of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Located in what Ashish Rajadhyaksha calls the “Bolly­woodisation” of Hindi cinema, the figure of the Hindustani Ladki, filled with sharam (shyness), lihaaz (regard) and sanskaar (culture) is very much a part of the 1990s shift towards catering to NRI (non-resident Indian) nostalgia for the homeland, and ­Bollywood’s transformation into a culture industry producing for global audiences. While in films like Pardes (1999) and Taal (1999), the Hindustani Ladki is naïve, “pure,” guileless, and adhering to Western liberal conceptions of the gendered subaltern figure, other films have presented a version of the traditional Hindustani Ladki alongside the “modern.”

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Updated On : 23rd Mar, 2020

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