Shyam Benegal's Bhumika is a rich social drama and an exceptional feminist text that beautifully illuminates the pervasive ways misogyny and the subservience of feminity are inoculated into all aspects of society. Tactical in its deployment of a familiar narrative archetype - a character rises from poverty and destitution to become a highly-renowned star - Bhumika illustrates the deep structural issues of this hyper-patriarchal culture, enunciated by the fact that even though our heroine rests in a position often associated with significant social and cultural capital, she remains subservient due to her gender, incapable of freeing herself from the deeply-embedded inequities of society. A tragedy of self-ownership and the subjugation of free will, whether in her profession or her personal life she is putting on a performance, navigating the wide-spread social subjugation expected of her as she fights tooth-and-nail for personal autonomy. Throughout this story structure her encounters with the opposite sex range from melodramatic to more quietly more-complex, yet at the core of every one of her relationships, she remains ornamental, an object not granted equal-footing. A life in which appeasement is a necessity, our heroine oscillates between attempting to not offend and fighting for her own free will. She is subservient to the masculine ego and ultimately she finds herself to have been manipulated both in her personal and professional life by the male gaze and the overarching sociality in which woman's status remains subjugated to male authority. In the end, this film is deeply tragic because at its core it's a story of a woman who wants love, not possession, and her inability to retain this in nearly every aspect of her life is emotionally devastating to witness. While she never acts on it, one must ponder if death itself remains her only avenue for freedom, a tragic but honest mindset to behold
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