Somewhere between Human, Nonhuman, and Woman: Shanta Apte's Theory of Exhaustion

Mukherjee, Debashree

In 1939, at the height of her stardom, the actress Shanta Apte went on a spectacular hunger strike in protest against her employers at Prabhat Studios in Poona, India. The following year, Apte wrote a harsh polemic against the extractive nature of the film industry. In Jaau Mi Cinemaat? (Should I Join the Movies?, 1940), she highlighted the durational depletion of the human body that is specific to acting work. This article interrogates these two unprecedented cultural events—a strike and a book—opening them up toward a history of embodiment as production experience. It embeds Apte's emphasis on exhaustion within contemporaneous debates on female stardom, industrial fatigue, and the status of cinema as work. Reading Apte's remarkable activism as theory from the South helps us rethink the meanings of embodiment, labor, materiality, inequality, resistance, and human-object relations in cinema.

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Also Published In

Feminist Media Histories

More About This Work

Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Published Here
March 2, 2021


actress, caste, embodiment, exhaustion, Indian cinema, labor, Shanta Apte, stardom, strike