Subverting “Divine” Bengali Motherhood in Rituparno Ghosh’s Film Titli (2002)
Rituparno Ghosh is one of the most prolific filmmakers from Bengal, whose narrative depiction gained global critical acclaim in a short career span (1992-2003). Ghosh’s work focuses on human interaction and relationships through the women characters and their identity formation in Bengali society. His 2002 film Titli offers a nuanced exploration of the multifaceted experiences of a mother-daughter relationship, subverting the social representation of motherhood in Bengal. This paper investigates the various dimensions of motherhood, womanhood, and identity formation depicted in the film and interprets how Ghosh’s narrative sheds light on the social, emotional, and cultural aspects of this complex role—a role where mothers are not limited to caregivers and caretakers of domestic life without any identity of their own other than that of a mother, a wife, or a daughter. By analyzing the cultural symbols, dialogue, and visual motifs employed in the film, the paper explores how motherhood is constructed and perceived within the film’s cultural milieu. Reading the film through motherhood and feminist scholarship helps understand the representation of the “sexual mother,” juxtaposing it with the image of an ideal “goddess mother” in Bengal, India, and challenging patriarchal norms imposed on women. It explores the themes of sacrifice, self-identity, and personal agency about motherhood. Examining the conflicts and dilemmas faced by Titli’s mother, Urmila, this paper unravels the complex interplay between the expectations imposed by society and individual desires and aspirations of women, both as mothers and within the dynamics of mother-daughter duos.
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