Tripthi Pillai

(Coastal Carolina University)

“Itemizing” Violence in Marlowe and Bollywood


Bollywood’s sexy item songs and Christopher Marlowe’s scenes of de-ritualized/hyper-ritualized eroticism are “interesting” to me for similar reasons: they each “create or facilitate kinds of ‘betweenness’—relays, conduits, associations—that in turn facilitate the circulation of texts, objects, and signs” (Ngai 115). A bubbling confluence of cuteness and violence, the songs and scenes are also what Giorgio Agamben in State of Exception refers to as “anomic feasts” that bring “to light in a parodic form the anomie within the law, the state of emergency as the anomic drive contained in the very heart of the nomos” (72-73). My project is a two-part exploration of betweenness as anomic festivity. I combine Sianne Ngai’s theories of unwieldy aesthetics with Agamben’s thesis on the states of exception to offer readings of betweenness in specific Bollywood item songs and scenes from Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage. Through their embrace of violent and rhythmic cuteness, the songs and scenes become the affective forces in the texts that punctuate the re-turn of the law—of State-enforced punishment, matrimony, death, reestablishment of order. Repeatedly in Omkara, homoerotic item songs break up the hetero-functionality of the plot, opening up other modes of sexual pleasure that, through the course of the song’s narrative, represent a playful and excessive intimacy. In Dido the gods and their minions disrupt the sexual order of the State repeatedly through erotic playfulness and choreographed tantrums, violating in the process the sexual and narrative logics pursued by the other characters in the drama. Through their operations of cuteness and violence, that is, through kitsch, excess, playfulness, and tantrum, the songs and scenes “celebrate and parodically replicate the anomie through which the law applies itself to chaos and to life only on the condition of making itself … life and living chaos” (Agamben 73).

(1) Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013) (A Romance of Bullets: Ram Leela) An adaptation of Romeo and Juliet

Cute Violences of Ram and Leela and the potential for transference in Aeneas and Dido


(2) Omkara (2006)

An adaptation of Othello

(3) Operatic Multimedia Installation: National Museum of Carthage (2010)


(4) New Opera Singapore’s Production of My Nights With Dido And My Days with Aeneas (2013)!upcoming- productions/c1v5u