In Hindi cinema, a woman has traditionally either been depicted as a damsel in distress waiting for her hero to rescue her or a morally loose femme fatale. For decades, our film industry refused to break away from this meaningless “good girl” versus “bad girl” dichotomy.
In the past, but more so recently, there have been some exceptional attempts, however, to portray women characters with their own little quirks and idiosyncrasies, without attempting to fit them into any kind of boxes.
Here are five Hindi films that have dared to challenge the highly gender discriminatory norms of Indian cinema, and have been very well received:
A refreshing break from the love story which usually ends in the woman going back to a self centered man and diminishing her individuality! While Bollywood is full of coming of age boys, Kangana Ranaut was the first coming of age girl. She is the ridiculous, the bizarre and experimental character that almost seems real unlike the 2D scripts that only saw women in categories and typologies. Here the best part of the movie remains the articulation of a strong ‘NO’. The moment Kangana says no to the offer of recuperation, my feminist ideals have been met. She made a choice, she wasn’t forced by the plot to submit – she as a character made a choice and that’s good cinema!
- No One Killed Jessica
Jessica Lal murder case gave the entire country goose bumps because women took to the street, the media took to its devices and the world was brought down to microscopically barrage the inefficiencies of the Indian Bureaucracy! The reason why Ms. Lal was shot is simple – there was a drunk man on the other side of the bar, who saw her as a women who needs to be shut up. Violence was his easy resort. To encapsulate this saga in a theatrical retelling but not to damage the sensitive points of communication is noteworthy. No One Killed Jessica was the kind of movie you could watch and feel moved by! From No One Killed Jessica to Mardani, Rani Mukherjee took a leap into stereotypical territory and how! How heavily this movie was dominated by female caste, made it a surplus for sure but it also underlined that how unnatural the act of casting women in powerful leads is.
Vidya Balan fakes a pregnancy and the Indian subcontinent was shocked. She uses the prosthetic belly to disarm a man, and shoots him with his own gun. That’s a powerful shot. To cast a woman as an agent, of not only her own story but the revenge of another is in itself a bold move in Indian Cinema. While there have been many tales of powerful women, the instinct to bracket the solitary woman as unfit for casting in a Bollywood lead was predominant.
- Gulaab Gang
A movie so localized upon female community that it bombed at the box office. The idea of a woman going against another crooked woman is maybe what trumps other movies in this list. What most people don’t see, is that women are a source of oppression too. They maybe the victim but in some cases, they are the perpetrators too! This movie stages that fight so beautifully in both the realm of action & ideology. Madhuri must not seem pleasing but she seemed truthful. Her dominance and aggression didn’t let anyone reconcile the word weakness to a woman.
- Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat
Few would really remember this movie. It is that old movie which each watches but whose underlying meaning each invariably ignores. Rani Mukherjee in 1997 attempted to portray issues like dowry, rape, domestic abuse and psychological violence. The story and casting may not be the best, but the attempt to showcase these issues through the lens of a woman’s retaliation is quite ahead of its’ time.
The black hole that sucked this movie into its time was when the rapist (read husband) also falls in love with Mala (Rani Mukherjee) and she accepts him!
How far have we come from Raja Ki Aayegi Baraat to Gulaab Gang , I’d say quite a distance.
These movies mostly went under appreciated and didn’t make as much as Kick does on the box office. There is of course a reason for why something fails at the box office – it is, the public demand. These movies failed to be join the “100 crore club” for they did not meet the mass ideology. However, they succeeded in challenging the norm. As is said, change may be gradual, but it certain. These films are symptomatic of a much awaited change in the Indian film industry, aren’t they?
I hope this makes you think over a few things.
Image Source: The Viewspaper