For the past few years Bollywood has been consistently giving us women-centric films, which were seldom preachy and thoroughly enjoyable. One was hoping that a trend which was gaining momentum with films like Mardaani, Pink, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Tumhari Sulu and Raazi, which told stories of women, from a spectrum of issues affecting them, would peak in 2019, but sadly, that didn’t happen. In a kind of anti-climax, we bid adieu to the decade which gave us some of the most amazing women-centric films in the history of Hindi cinema on a lukewarm note.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • The year 2019 saw very few buzzworthy women-centric films.
  • Not living up to the expectations that the decade had built up, this year, we saw no memorable films which told stories of women from their perspective.
  • Is it because Bollywood has lost interest in women’s stories?
  • Or because the film it churned out simply failed to have the quality that we have gotten used to?

In a kind of anti-climax, we bid adieu to the decade which gave us some of the most amazing women-centric films in the history of Hindi cinema on a lukewarm note.

From top of my mind, the few Hindi movies with women under the spotlight in the year 2019 are Kangana Ranaut starrer Manikarnika, which was more in news for the lead actor’s tiff with the fellow who co-directed the project with her and her right-wing comments which raise quite a few eye-brows. Then there was Mission Mangal, where an A-list male superstar managed to shadow five women actors, because clearly box-office collection gets an upper hand in guiding the narrative in our films, over talent.

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In October, we got the only film which truly spoke of women empowerment in the right tone, Saand Ki Aankh. However, even this film’s release was marred by the controversy which arose due to casting of younger women actors to play 60 something characters. Also, the poor prosthetics and make up used in the film marred the viewers’ experience to an extent, thus keeping Saand Ki Aankh from becoming a memorable superhit hoisted on able shoulders of Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar.

So why this dearth of women centric films this year? Has Bollywood lost interest in women’s issues, or has #MeToo movement stimulated them to shift direction and explore women-centric stories that may be more sellable? Or is it just that we simply didn’t get the quality of films in this genre that we have gotten used to?

Be it Alia Bhatt in India’s official entry to The Academy Awards- Gully Boy, Pednekar in the rustic and critically acclaimed Sonchiriya, or Sayani Gupta in the hard-hitting Article 15. Women actors caught our attention, but in films that weren’t largely about them.

Maybe we would have been having a different conversation, if Mission Mangal, Manikarnika and Saand Ki Aankh would have been better films. There was no dearth of good cinema this year, and we got our fair share of women characters that left a solid impression. Be it Alia Bhatt in India’s official entry to The Academy Awards- Gully Boy, Pednekar in the rustic and critically acclaimed Sonchiriya, or Sayani Gupta in the hard-hitting Article 15. Women actors caught our attention, but in films that weren’t largely about them.

Outside of the spectrum of women-centric films, Taapsee Pannu got an equal footing opposite Amitabh Bachchan in the film Badla. However, in a recent interview, she said that she had to struggle to get an equal credit for the film’s success as Bachchan. So on one hand we had Mission Mangal, a blockbuster film where a male actor was given more space in the script and on posters, and then we had Badla where the woman actor faced biased outside of the screen. I guess that is a tell-tale sign of how the problem of gender bias in Bollywood isn’t just limited to the industry, but is fuelled by the viewers which sustain it.

As Rani Mukerjee’s Mardaani 2 comes in mid-December, one still has hopes, but it isn’t about getting just getting a women-centric film that does well on the box office. We heart yearns for is a wholesome film that stays with you long after you’ve watched it. Maybe next year.

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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