Mass Culture Workshop, May 3: Darshana Sreedhar Mini, “The Miracles of Malikappuram”

Dear all,

Please join us for next week’s Mass Culture Workshop with Darshana Sreedhar Mini, on Friday, May 3! The workshop will be followed by a catered lunch. Details below. In addition to the Mass Culture Workshop, Darshana will be presenting her work as part of the Southern Asia Seminar on Thursday, May 2.

There is no pre-circulated paper.

Your 2023–24 Mass Cult coordinators,

Joel and Hugo


The Miracles of Malikappuram: Soft-Hindutva and the Myth-making Industry in Kerala

Darshana Sreedhar Mini, Assistant Professor, Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison


May 3, 2024, 11 AM–12:30 PM, in Cobb 311

Presented in partnership with the Southern Asia Seminar


Followed by a catered lunch, 12:30 PM–1:30 PM, in Cobb 310

Co-sponsored by the Department of Cinema and Media Studies


In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India struck down the prohibition on women of menstruating age to enter the Hindu religious site of Sabarimala in Kerala. While the verdict was met with enthusiasm in feminist and progressive circles, it also provided the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—the right-wing party in power at the national level—and other radical Hindu right wing (Hindutva) groups the opportunity to organize in the state of Kerala (ruled by a left-wing government) by fusing religious doctrine and media forms. Using the case study of the film Malikappuram (Dir. Vishnu Shanker, 2022), set in the backdrop of Sabarimala, my paper explores how the film interpellates devotees within an ideological matrix by inviting them to partake in the theatrical viewing of the film as a collective performance of religiosity. The participatory nature of the exhibition of Malikappuram included chanting religious hymns in the cinema-halls by spectators who doubled up as devotees, and well as tie-up with Hindutva groups like the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) to facilitate theatrical screenings for women of menstruating age. Drawing from an ethnography conducted among right-wing idealogues, devotees and a cross-section of respondents from left and center-left political ideologies who watched Malikappuram, this paper tracks the varied spectatorial identifications made possible through crafting religious texts with narrative anchor points that simulate darshanic subtexts. Further, the paper interrogates how the filmmakers deflect allegations that the film is a right-wing film production, by couching its narrative and publicity strategies within a discourse of soft-Hindutva, with religious tradition as the front for a deeper ideological agenda. 

Darshana Sreedhar Mini is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Communication Arts, UW-Madison. She is the author of Rated A: Soft-Porn Cinema and Mediations of Desire in India forthcoming from University of California Press. She is also the co-editor of “South Asian Pornographies: Vernacular Formations of the Permissible and the Obscene” published in Porn Studies in 2020.

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