‘Badhai Ho’ To ‘The Lost Colour’: Revisiting How Neena Gupta Broke Barriers In Indian Cinema

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Bollywood has been problematic for propagating ageism with the Bollywood “knights in shining armour” getting older but having younger women actors get leading roles alongside them. Bollywood’s age-sexism has been spoken about but somehow the changes are rare to be found. In January, Neena Gupta called out ageism in Bollywood.

For the longest time, Bollywood actors who crossed a certain age landed no job. Gupta opened up about how the film industry stereotypes older women. While older women do not get their due in the Bollywood industry, Neena emerged as a force to reckon with in Hindi cinema advocating substantial roles for older women.

Neena Gupta Turns 63

On Neena Gupta’s 63rd birthday, we revisited her performances throughout her career, and how she broke through the barriers and stereotypes attached to older women actors. Neena Gupta maintains that despite making a few mistakes at the beginning of her career, she did not have anybody to guide her. Without any secretaries or having to call up directors or even meet people and ask for roles, she made an impression in every film.

Badhai Ho

The film follows the story of a 25-year-old Nakul, so shocked to discover the news of her mother’s pregnancy that he puts his relationship with his partner in jeopardy. In an Amit Sharma film, the cast includes Ayushman Khurana, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Surekha Sikri and Sanya Malhotra. The comedy-drama film is distributed by AA Films. The audience loved Neha Kakkar’s voice in Morni Banke, one of the popular songs of the film. The film won four awards at the 64th Filmfare Awards and Neena Gupta who played the role of Nakul’s mother in the film Priyamvada won the Best Supporting Actress award. 

Gupta was seen on silver screens after a long time and the peculiar role played by her made all the years of wait worthwhile. She played a middle-aged woman dealing with an unexpected pregnancy. Her chemistry with Gajraj Rao brought smiles to many faces.

Suggested Reading: 7 Times Neena Gupta Dropped Truth Bombs About Divorce


Neena Gupta as Majnu Devi in Deepak Kumar Mishra’s series, Panchayat documents the life of an engineering graduate, owing to lack of better job opportunities, joins as a Gram Panchayat secretary in rural Uttar Pradesh. Neena Gupta, then 62, commented on the writing of the series saying that the character development of Majnu Devi, or the village head in Amazon Prime’s second season, had a seamless transition in growth. Without any abrupt shifts, Neena Gupta delivered a convincing performance through Majnu’s character transitioning from a simple woman who does not want much from life to becoming a notable voice of the Panchayat.

Masaba Masaba

The Indian biographical drama streaming television series is based on Neena Gupta’s daughter, Masaba Gupta. Written and directed by Sonam Nair, the film starts with both Neena and Masaba playing themselves. The premise of the film is the life of Masaba, her relationship and her career as a fashion designer. Neena and her daughter play fictionalised versions of themselves in the series available on Netflix. Neena Gupta used the film as a mouthpiece to speak about her daughter’s acting dream. Masaba, who grew up to become a popular celebrity fashion designer, recalled her mother telling her that she might not get many roles in the country provided the nepotism and mediocrity in the industry. 

The Last Colour

The film is a story which the Indian cinema should try and promote at a global level. The character of Noor, around whom the entire story revolves was played by Neena in a soulful performance. Noor, Chhoti, Anarkali and Chintu, on finding support in each other in the most trying phases of their lives, uplifted themselves, as captured in some heartwarming moments. As much as Neena’s acting made the movie convincing it encouraged the masses to become more respectful towards women and understand the biases around caste and gender. Set in 1989 Banaras, Vikas Khanna’s social drama and Neena Gupta’s powerful acting addresses the need for social inclusivity of widows.


Gupta’s performance in this parallel cinema with an ensemble cast was one of her best performances! 1983 Shyam Benegal film starred her alongside Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Soni Razdan, Naseeruddin Shah and others. The film revolved around a brothel madame and sex workers and is a satirical comedy on politics and sex work. Based on the classic Urdu short story by Ghulam Abbas named Aanandi. Gupta’s Basanti in the film is curt, unapologetic and is not afraid to raise her voice if she thinks she’s being wronged.