Feminism and women empowerment are topics that gained support from people of all walks of life. These are subjects that have been the recurring theme of cinema and various forms of art. It has been a while since Bollywood have used the medium of cinema to portray the empowerment of women. Over the years there has been an influx of films glorifying women through various memorable female protagonists and different stories of their journey, struggles and victories.
Hence, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, BizAsiaLive.com has picked eight Bollywood films that effectively empowered women –
‘Mother India’ (1957)
Considered to be a classic in Indian Cinema, the yesteryear film was one of the earliest examples of a women-centric work in Bollywood. Mehboob Khan’s masterpiece portrayed Nargis as Radha, an unfortunate yet determined and righteous widow. It is a story that highlighted the struggle of a woman against everyone in the society including the people of her own and an account of rising above societal exploitation and restrictions. The film conveys how with strong determination and right morals women can endure all hardships and emerge stronger.
Mahesh Bhatt is known for his strong female characters and one such early instance of his work was ‘Arth‘ starring Shabana Azmi as Pooja, a victim of infidelity and disloyalty by her husband, subjected to being a deserted wife. At a time when marriage was considered as a sacred institution that women was bound to oblige to for a lifetime, Bhatt’s protagonist not only refused to accept her fate and misery but also rejected to depend on any man further ahead in life. The tale of self-discovery, independence and finding a purpose in life remains inspiring to the day and can serve as an eye-opener to many.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s beautiful piece of work traces the journey of a friendship between two women belonging to two different backgrounds and goes beyond the class and caste boundaries. When fate intersects the lives of Meera played by Ayesha Takia and Zeenat played by Gul Panag, the two women find companionship in one another and learn from each other’s vulnerability. Amidst the tale of friendship and forgiveness, the protagonists find their confidante in each another, rises above the societal tyranny and goes forward to start a new journey ahead.
This film marked Rani Mukerji’s comeback to cinema as protagonist Shivani Shivaji Roy, a police officer working in Mumbai Crime Branch. The story tore open the brutal world of child sex trafficking in India and painted a women character embodied with strength and vigour. It is empowering to witness how she stands up against the wrongdoers and ousts a human trafficking racket from its core and rescues the victims. It is such films that are inspiring and conveys a message as to how women should not be subjected to being addressed as a mere ‘weaker’ gender.
Another film from the same year was the Kangna Ranaut starrer ‘Queen’, so powerful in its simplicity and so strong in the way it liberated the timorous girl-next-door Rani who transforms into a strong and independent women through the course of the movie. Perhaps the first Bollywood film that showcased how the female protagonist took her own self for a honeymoon after her fiancée calls off the wedding, it conveyed how women can find their individuality between all odds and be their own ‘Queen’ in the journey of life instead of seeking a hero.
One recent film to take up women empowerment in entirety would be Shoojit Sircar’s 2016 flick. ‘Pink’ is one such film that focused on women of today and explored the idea of “No means no” irrespective of a woman’s lifestyle, ethnicity, caste, creed, status or profession. Through the journey of the three girls who are victims in the hand of culprits from influential families, the film conveyed to the nation how easy it is to accuse the female gender and how they fall prey in the hands of the society. It is with the ultimate victory of Minal, Falak and Andrea played by Taapsee Paanu, Kirti Kulhari and Andrea Tariang respectively, the makers showcase that with strength and will, women today can triumph against all evils.
‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ (2017)
This is a film that the censor board wanted the public to miss. Yet the movie had its dauntless entry in Indian theaters although with a slightly revised version. The story revolves around four women of distinct age groups and lifestyle who fights a rebellion of their own to provide wings to their deepest desires. It is a very rare piece of work portraying an outspoken and bold image of women. The film empowers women from the very core as they battle it out in life to achieve their dreams and freedom and emerge out as unbeaten warriors, scarred yet victorious.
Leena Yadav’s directorial depicts a brilliant tale of four women who takes a bold stand against the prevailing patriarchy in their individual lives. Set in a rural backdrop, the film brings forth a harsh slice of reality and shows how women are subjected to ruthless atrocities and domestic violence and continues to suffer in silence over time. The film reaches its empowering point when these four women come together to rise above the various abuses, find their own individuality, chase their dreams and begin a new journey towards freedom.
With so many filmmakers touching the subject of women empowerment in their works including various biopics and period dramas with strong and inspiring female characters, here’s hoping Bollywood continues to empower women through various projects in forthcoming days.
By Varsha Roy