Feminist Bollywood Films : The Hindi film industry mostly called Bollywood is infamous for glorifying regressive female characters who make themselves too small in front of the ‘larger than life’ male hero.
Even when the “strong female characters” started trending, the film industry came out with another kind of suppressed female characters who basically adopted masculinity and shamed everything feminine in the name of being “strong”.
One can say that the present times are relatively different. With the advent of digital platforms and space for new filmmakers, the change in narrative can be seen. Even though the camera lens is largely male (even with a female director behind it), here are a few films that in a way show the potential of change in the male-driven Bollywood industry:
The film narrated the story of a mathematics genius and did not look over the complications in her life due to her gender. The lead role, played by Vidya Balan, deals with motherhood and her career.
Several critics dubbed the movie for being a misrepresentation of Shakuntala Devi’s journey because of the mention of bitterness in her life. The fact that the film got people talking about the woman behind the genius was plenty for many viewers. The film was directed by Anu Menon and produced by Vikram Malhotra.
The film dealt with the complex subject of domestic violence. It is not a surprise that many women in India go through it and are often silenced by family pressure and other societal hurdles. This Taapsee Pannu starter had its protagonist speaking out against the very idea of disrespect towards women instead of the severity of the wounds.
Thappad effortlessly critiqued the mentality of the Indian male who assumes their wives to be their subjects, someone who is supposed to serve them. The lead character doesn’t show anything out of the ordinary in her personality, neither does she pretend to the male version of herself. The film won many awards and made several uncomfortable by its story. It was directed by Anubhav Sinha who also produced the film with Bhushan Kumar and Krishn Kumar
Even though the film follows two male characters, played by Ayushmann Khurrana and Amitabh Bachchan, the role of women in the film was made significant. The elderly woman named Fatima Begum ( Farokh Jaffer) basically holds the ropes in the film and decides what happens to the male hero.
Her stubbornness to let her husband get in her way is inspiring. The other female character Guddo brought more colour and authenticity to the story. Under the shadow of her brother, she learns the brutal rules of the world and decides to play by them on her own. After all, why should only men get to be grey characters? The film was directed by Shoojit Sircar and the story was written by Juhi Chaturvedi.
The recent Netflix film plays on a fresh genre which can be called the ” funeral drama”. The lead character played by Sanya Malhotra broke the stereotype of weeping, overtly emotional women portrayed in Hindi cinema. The subjects of early and unwanted arranged marriages were also addressed.
The protagonist played a widow who’s life is not really devastated by the death of her husband because her identity is more than that. She decides to finally let go of the shackles of love, and honour of her family and steps out into the world to live her life on her own terms. And she didn’t have to go to Europe to become the Queen of her life. The film’s director is Umesh Bist, and the producers are Guneet Monga, Achin Jain, Ekta Kapoor and Shobha Kapoor
This revisionist feminist tale produced by Anushka Sharma production company Clean Slate Filmz had its issues but it was also able to deconstruct an age-old label attached to rebellious women- witch. The protagonist played by Tripti Dimri, like several women in our society, rises from the ashes and avenges herself.
The means of her revenge might seem radical but one must understand that society owes it to women to let them burn in their anger. It is also a story that gives agency of pleasure to the women. No matter how “benevolent” the men be in our lives, they are nobody to control us.