Indian movies --- in Hindi with English subtitles --- have become the craze at our house for the past month, due to our recent discovery of a charming snacks-trinkets-and-DVD-rental shop in the basement of a converted house a few miles from here. The tiny store is run by a nice young woman, clearly a cinematiste, who has taken Paulette under her wing and given great advice on which shows to watch in various sub-genres. As for the films themselves, the plots are striking, the costumes exotic, and the dance sequences superb. Weekly rental fees are astoundingly low. What a deal!
And there's a feature of some Bollywood movies shared by many Western flicks that has provoked considerable mirth in our family dinner-table analyses: the tendency to promise, but not often deliver, hand-to-hand unarmed combat between female characters. Back-of-the-box blurbs in particular seem to exaggerate the amount and violence of this filmic feature.
But of course "cat fights" have been crowd-pleasers for quite a long time ... as witness this excerpt from yet another classic book that I need to read some day, The History of Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749):
... Having thus said, she flew at Molly Seagrim, and easily wrenched the thigh-bone from her hand, at the same time clawing off her cap from her head. Then laying hold of the hair of Molly with her left hand, she attacked her so furiously in the face with the right, that the blood soon began to trickle from her nose. Molly was not idle this while. She soon removed the clout from the head of Goody Brown, and then fastening on her hair with one hand, with the other she caused another bloody stream to issue forth from the nostrils of the enemy.
When each of the combatants had borne off sufficient spoils of hair from the head of her antagonist, the next rage was against the garments. In this attack they exerted so much violence, that in a very few minutes they were both naked to the middle.
It is lucky for the women that the seat of fistycuff war is not the same with them as among men; but though they may seem a little to deviate from their sex, when they go forth to battle, yet I have observed, they never so far forget, as to assail the bosoms of each other; where a few blows would be fatal to most of them. This, I know, some derive from their being of a more bloody inclination than the males. On which account they apply to the nose, as to the part whence blood may most easily be drawn; but this seems a far-fetched as well as ill-natured supposition.
Goody Brown had great advantage of Molly in this particular; for the former had indeed no breasts, her bosom (if it may be so called), as well in colour as in many other properties, exactly resembling an antient piece of parchment, upon which any one might have drummed a considerable while without doing her any great damage.
Molly, beside her present unhappy condition, was differently formed in those parts, and might, perhaps, have tempted the envy of Brown to give her a fatal blow, had not the lucky arrival of Tom Jones at this instant put an immediate end to the bloody scene. ...
... from Book IV, Chapter viii, "A battle sung by the muse in the Homerican style, and which none but the classical reader can taste."
(see also FightClub (15 June 2003), ...)