2016 has been a year where we have seen a number of females in lead and supporting roles play strong, outspoken, sometimes outrageous roles.  Whether we liked the film or not, I think the characters themselves give us lots to think about and an indication of what is currently happening within the minds of women across the globe. Let’s take a look at some of the ones that have made a significant impact.

8.  Kaira – Dear Zindagi: Fantastic and Festering

Here is a woman who is excellent at her job, but challenged with relationships around her.  Yet she has the guts to see a counsellor who gently forces her to deal with the issues she’s facing – and she does.  Who doesn’t have issues with their parents?  Or with boyfriends?  Or festering wounds from the past that they still haven’t dealt with? It was refreshing to see a character willing to deal with those challenges head on – in an unconventional way for India.  Most high flying women that I have known over the years may look iron-strong on the outside, but deal with many issues under the surface which is nothing to be ashamed of.  They are also not ashamed to admit that they have been to see counsellors and it has helped them a lot.

Kaira Dear Zindagi
Movie Poster

7. Alizeh – Eh Dil hai Mushkil: The platonic powerhouse

Alizeh, a spirited woman who knows how to have fun and a good time, actually does not want a relationship with a guy.  Yes yes yes!  About time! Why is it so hard for many people to understand that women can happily have a platonic relationship? And that this is ok?  What she is looking for is a best friend who happens to be of the opposite sex.  The gender does not matter:  what matters is the ability to be crazy with that person or to be able to cry on their shoulder.  And if the other person is there for you, then you really do have ‘true love’.

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Anushka Sharma, Alizeh in Ae Dil, Film Screen Shot

6. Poppy  – Trolls: intrepid and innocent

The main character of Trolls has no qualms in going off to save her people, even though she is totally unprepared for the challenges that she might face.  She believes in being true to herself: relentless belief in the beauty of people and loves the hourly hug sessions that brings them together (in between the dancing which keeps them all oh-so-happy).  Yet in the face of danger, she always finds a way to deal with it and then snaps back into doing something else that will lighten the mood.  And never ever ever gives up.  A great leader and role model for the other trolls around her.

5. Jyn Erso – Rogue One: The lightning-fast loner

The heroine of the latest Star Wars offering is a brilliant warrior, unafraid to do what is needed to help  the Rebel Alliance in their cause to free the Universe of impending doom.  Although she was abandoned not once, but twice, she still gets on with it and focuses on the task in hand, skillfully observing everyone to work out who to trust and when to trust them. An independent character, she knows when to take help in order to complete her mission.  And in so doing, she gains the respect of everyone around her.

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Jyn Erso, Picture Credit: IDigitalTimes

4. Kumari Pinky – Udta Punjab: spunky and suffering

A behari village girl who takes a chance on getting out of her current life, by accidentally meddling in the drugs trade.  This leads her to an untenable situation where she suffers relentlessly, yet bears it and refuses to give up hope.  She takes whatever gambles she can and never lets go of her dream that she will get out.

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Alia Bhatt, Picture Credit: Baltana

Finally the top 3: Rani, Bijli and Lajjo – Parched: friendship and free-spirit

As a widow, with a chauvinistic, hooligan as a son, Rani’s character transforms throughout the movie.  She suddenly sees how her own life has played out and doesn’t want the same for her bright daughter-in-law, so unconventionally helps her leave the village to be with her true love.  Lajjo, Rani’s best friend is in a violent relationship with her husband, but feels guilty all the time as she has not been able to give him a child.  She never once considers it may be his problem, not hers.  And then there is Bijli, the ‘dancing girl’ who Lajjo has known for years, but will not acknowledge in public.  However, in private they are the best of friends.  These gritty characters unearth what women in rural areas go through on a daily basis, the guilt that they are made to feel, despite actually doing everything they are supposed to do.  Through their unending support for each other, they all have awakenings of sorts, where they are ready to stand up to the archaic traditions and misogyny forced upon them.  They learn to shed the self-imposed protocol cages that they put themselves in and realise that they are not afraid any more to follow their dreams.

Vandana Saxena Poria

Overall, there are some interesting threads that run through these films:

1.       Find your Tribe

In most of the above movies, and in life, it is so much easier to believe in yourself when you surround yourself with great people with similar values.  The Trio in Parched may have different problems, but fundamentally they are there for each other.  Poppy in Trolls has a tribe of trolls who support her.  And remember men can be in your tribe too!

2.       Ask for support

Nothing and no one exists in a vacuum.  So don’t be afraid of reaching out and asking for support, or lending a helping hand to someone else. Jyn Erso in Rogue One and Kaira in Dear Zindagi would have found it difficult to succeed without asking for help.

 3.       Men are brilliant enablers

Poppy could never have saved the trolls, Jyn the Alliance and Kumari Pinky could not have escaped without men enabling them.  So let’s ask them to enable us like we enable them.  Perhaps then we can have a world with a little more peace in time for 2017.