Designing hypermuscular neo-aristocracy: Of kings, gangsters and muscles in Indian cinema, fashion and politics | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2044-2823
  • E-ISSN: 2044-2831



The article investigates the recent rise of the hypermuscular gangster as a hero in Bollywood cinema, a rise that coincides with the revival of royal aesthetics both in film and fashion. It argues that this idealized muscular gangster, the ultimate self-made man and favourite neoliberal hero, reinforces the simultaneous revival of pre-imperial authoritarian kingly models that manifest themselves not only on the fashion ramp, but also in the rise of right wing politics. In order to shed some light on these relations, the article draws a parallel to the 80s revival of masculinity in the US under Ronald Reagan and the recent election of the muscular Narendra Modi as the Indian Prime Minister. Consequently, it shows that the heroic gangsters and aristocrats, the low class and the elite, belong not only to the same aesthetic regime, but are the most blatant symbols of current political and economic ideology as well.


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