Messy And Badass: Revisiting Anurag Kashyap's Female Characters, From Dev D To Choked

Far removed from his gangster dramas, Anurag Kashyap has lately been mounting movies where women drive the narrative

Ragini Daliya
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Anurag Kashyap, whose films once comprised of guns and crime, painting the big bad world of gangsters, have taken a new route in past few years. The filmmaker is slowly moving towards mounting movies where women drive the narrative. Kashyap has lately been collaborating with women writers, holding spotlight on female actors and nurturing the scope to display their potential on screen.

Elaborating on his new phase, Kashyap in a recent interview said male actors came with a lot of baggage. “Women are easier to work with and simpler to deal with. Male insecurity is so much more. I find it easier to work with a Taapsee Pannu, Saiyami Kher or Amruta Subhash. I get a lot of trust from them! I can’t work if I don’t get trust. When male actors are new, they give you all the trust but slowly the insecurity hits them. I have seen a lot of people change, with success and failure. Taapsee has stayed the same,” he added.

Kashyap, who began his career in television, got his first break as a co-writer in Ram Gopal Varma's film Satya. Far from his women-centric films, his most popular work remain yet, Black Friday (2004) and Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), films so testosterone-charged that they feel an antithesis. Anurag Kashyap turns 50 today, and to mark the occasion, lets revisit the female characters of his recent films.

Anurag Kashyap's Women

Dev D

A remake of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's Devdas, Dev.D centered around a flawed male protagonist played by Abhay Deol. But unlike the previous adaptations, the two women in his life were not projected as the glorifying sacrificial women. Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechlin, who played Paro and Chanda respectively, were no longer shy and within their ‘boundaries’ as shown in the novel, but are strong, independent, and sexually liberated.

After an MMS scandal, Chanda brushes past a debilitating experience owing to her strong sense of individuality. A chain of events leads her to a brothel in Delhi, where she uses the same sexuality that once destroyed her life as a means to earn a livelihood. She becomes her own person and takes charge of her life.


On the other hand, Paro decides against marrying the love of her life (Dev) for she believes she deserves better. Even later, when he wishes to return to her, she enjoys her right to say no, realising that Dev is a lost cause, and does not mince her words while spelling out his 'aukaat'.

Sacred Games

Kashyap's Sacred Games put Indian content on the global map. Though it was the same genre where Kashyap thrived the most — gangsters, guns, cops, Mumbai underworld,  his women characters seamlessly breathe life into the show despite their limited screen-time. They were unconventional and unapologetically badass.

Out of the many women, Cuckoo (Kubbra Sait) was unarguably the most memorable character of the show. A love interest and arm candy of Ganesh Gaitonde (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), Cuckoo was always shown as an unattainable object of desire. However when the mystique around her falls, 'Kukoo ka jaadu' wasn't just limited to her supposed luck. It was undeniably the exultating way she made a place for herself, in a world where women and the other gender are still treated as second class citizens.

Lust Stories

A part of Netflix anthology Lust Stories, Kashyap's short featured Radhika Apte as a college professor who is in a long distance marriage with Mihir and in an experimental stage with her man. With Mihir encouraging an open relationship, Kalindi finds herself contemplating (by often breaking the fourth wall) the concepts of love, attraction and so on. She soon starts a fling with one of her students, Tejas (Akash Thosar). The power dynamic that makes such relationships illicit is called out, but the problems Kalini faces are universal: Is Tejas faithful? Is he also sleeping with a classmate? Does he actually love Kalindi at all? Kalindi’s jangling nerves, obsessive behaviour and a touch manic is her eyes is superbly portrayed by Apte.



taapsee pannu performances, female character tropes in bollywood Feminist Films Bollywood 2018 Manmarziyaan

Manmarziyaan wasn't a butterflies-in-stomach love story, it was unusual, depicting the fickleness that accompany romantic relationships. Taapsee Pannu played Rumi, who is in love with the brawny but unstable musician Vicky (Vicky Kaushal) but settles for matrimony with the stable and dull banker Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan). Rumi is a mess of emotions, and Pannu accurately puts forth many perspectives and qualities that make the character worth rooting. A coming-of-age narrative is folded into this unconventional rom-com, one that gives Rumi the wisdom to observe, “My love hasn’t ended and my marriage hasn’t begun.” Pannu doesn't want you to feel sentimental for Rumi, nor is there a self-pity attached, but her complicated life will move you to symphatise with her. And that's probably why it makes Anurag Kashyap one hell of a storyteller.


Choked explored the life of a middle-class family in Mumbai, the impact of demonetisation and the way a bottomless flow of money can alter a person’s life. However, demonetisation was not the only theme of the film. It was about a marriage, about this woman Sarita, the dynamics of the lower middle class, about human nature and how change is the only constant.

Anurag Kashyap