Cross-dressing, film and fashion

A popular comic feature of Hindi movies is to have a hero appearing dressed as a woman. This is usually at some point in the story when the hero needs to pass himself off as a woman although it can be purely for comic effect. One of the most popular songs of the 1990s, Didi tera dewar divana (‘Sister, your husband’s brother is crazy’), from Hum aapke hain kaun . . .! (‘What am I to you?’), involved men and women cross-dressing. The women of the house hold a six-month pregnancy ritual to ensure the birth of a son. This is attended only by women, so the men of the house try to get in by pretending to be women.


The younger son dresses as a pregnant woman, while a female friend dresses as the younger son. This is seen as being pure fun and part of the happiness of the celebration, perhaps because the transgression of gender boundaries brings a further intimacy. The purple dress worn by the heroine in this song is indicative of the wider effect of the fashion from the Hindi films. This dress became one of the most copied items from the films of recent years, with girls asking their tailors to make them this outfit for family functions.


This is part of a trend which has been widespread since the earlier days of movies and observed in many other societies, such as by the female fans of Hollywood stars in the West, who copy clothes, hairstyles and make-up, along with gestures and ways of speaking.9 Madhuri Dixit was the undisputed top box-office star when this outfit became widely copied, her popularity augmented by the phenomenal success of the film and in turn this particular song. She is one of several stars who have always been top trendsetters. In the 1960s, Sadhana cut a fringe in her hair to conceal her broad forehead and this became a style copied by girls all over India

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