From Unmarried To Widowed: 5 Hindi Films That Break Stereotypes About Single Women

These films on single women take on issues of widowhood, divorce and independence without resorting to dated stereotypes.

Tanvi Akhauri
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Films on single women have more often than not brimmed with stereotypes in the past. Between ranging from how singlehood isn't an ideal state of being for any adult woman to shunning divorce and widowhood as wholly undesirable (almost unacceptable), society's instructions and conventions leave no space for single women's choices. And films, for long, had imitated those preachings. It's safe to say today that the tide, thankfully, is turning. Single women aren't 'abla', helpless or love-deprived anymore. They have lives over and above their companionship status.


One of the latest that seems will fit that bill is the soon-to-release Sanya Malhotra-starrer Pagglait. It tells the story of a young widow, Sandhya, who just cannot bring herself to grieve. Does that make her a strange person? An unemotional wife? Those around her seem to think so. Her dramatically unexpected reaction to her husband's death leaves the family confused, even a little concerned. And then, the mainstay of any good old Bollywood conflict - financial trouble brews. Sandhya, despite pressures of remarriage and social ostracism, sustains her identity, unrelenting under the 'pagglait' (mad) tag she has been awarded.

Films On Single Women That Are More Identity, Less Stereotype

1. Queen 

When simple, easygoing Rani Mehra (Kangana Ranaut) is ditched last minute by her fiance, she is heartbroken, as perhaps any person would be. But she soon turns that grief around by embarking on a solo honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam with the tickets she had booked with her former to-be-husband.

Thereon, begins a tale of self-discovery and independence. From cohabiting with male friends to travelling cities on foot, Rani chances upon the truth that she doesn't need a man to be happy. She is her own person and her life is complete as is.

Directed by Vikas Bahl, Queen was instrumental in imparting star status to Ranaut and is counted as a landmark film in Bollywood as regards meaningful films on single women.


2. Masaan 

A tale of many lives and many loves, Masaan gives us a glimpse into the finer aspects of being a woman with agency in India. Devi (Richa Chadha), whose consensual sexual relationship with a man ends with suicide for him and public shame for her, is collectively shunned by society, with her father living on the edge in fear of a leaked sex tape.

The stigma of pre-marital sex follows her everywhere she goes, and though she's crushing under the pressure, she manages to hold onto that initial conviction with which she made her choices.

A parallel story tells us of Shalu (Shweta Tripathi), a woman in love and yet ultimately a tragedy. As Shalu and Devi's stories move side-by-side, it reveals how life as a woman - both single and partnered - is never free from conventional expectations.

3. Dor 

15 years before Pagglait, the Nagesh Kukunoor-directed Dor played on the newly widowed narrative in a truly impactful way. Meera (Ayesha Takia) is hurled with abuses and accusations when her husband dies in an accident soon after marriage. As per tradition, she is stripped of trinkets, colour and all happiness, but she soaks it in silently.


Films on single women put the spotlight on individual achievement over romantic dependence

She regains lost identity when she meets Zeenat, the wife of the man accused of killing her husband. Their sisterhood grows to complete the missing parts in both their lives, empowering them to embrace their selfhoods. The film ends with Meera taking the train away to a renewed life.

4. Shakuntala Devi 

As a single mother, math genius Shakuntala Devi (Vidya Balan) in this movie of the same name travels continents without a partner to walk in-step with her. Her daughter Anu is enough companion for her. Devi's divorcee status doesn't matter to her, and neither does it - on the world stage - derive from her superhuman skill with numbers. She conquers record upon record without the stigma of divorce ever holding her back.

&t=16s">Watch what Shakuntala Devi's daughter Anupama and the film's director Anu Menon have to say about the woman known as the 'human computer': 



5. Dear Zindagi 

Dear Zindagi was a mature film, intertwining relationship, family, identity and mental health with a single string - as things usually are in real life. Kaira (Alia Bhatt) a young cinematographer, seems to hit a bad patch when her love life comes crumbling down, pulling with it her work and home. She moves to Goa to live with her parents with whom she isn't on the best of terms. Sessions with a therapist reveal to her some underlying abandonment issues, which she then gets to work on resolving.

Yes, true realisation comes to her after a line of men and heartbreaks, but Kaira tries to find comfort in her singlehood in between those moments. There's a zest to life besides romantic life she learns and begins to enjoy.

Views expressed are the author's own. 

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