Iconic Bollywood films that shattered glass ceiling
By Binjal Shah
When the age-old debate about the content of a Bollywood film being progressive or regressive graces the dinnertime conversation of every Indian family ever, both parties, more often than not, fail to reach a conclusion. I hate being the devil’s advocate, as I most often find myself against Bollywood’s careless portrayal of everything that is wrong with the society. But it is undeniable that Bollywood- perhaps the country’s biggest trend-setter- has also used its powers for good. And I can say that as a woman. Here’s how some recent films shattered the glass ceiling
1. Chakde India:
While the film beautifully portrayed 11 different stories of women putting everything on the line, travelling from every corner of the country independently to make a career in a perishing sport in the Indian context, perhaps its most iconic scene is when the team’s most warm-blooded member- Balbeer Kaur decides to manhandle a group of ogling men at a local McDonalds outlet, causing a whole team of otherwise subdued women to suddenly turn into taekwondo experts!
2. Bandit Queen
This film is rather radical in its plot, but that’s the beauty of it- because it is based on a true story! Bandit queen Phoolan Devi (Seema Biswas) avenges her gang-rape, with a- yeah, you guessed it- mass murder. She also goes on to become a Robin-Hood-ish figure for her villagers, fighting for their rights using guns rather than roses. Not so lady-like of her, which was pretty-much the point of the entire film.
Rani (Kangana Ranaut) gets dumped on the eve of her wedding, but decides to go right ahead and make that dreamy honeymoon happen after all. Alone. This soul-searching lone-ranger expedition, rife with culture shocks, adventures, revelations and most importantly- beautiful life-lessons, instantly inspired every woman to go backpacking without worrying even a teensy bit about any potential hurdles that a boy wouldn’t think of. Hallelujah!
4. English Vinglish
The helpless image of an Indian housewife is further derided as she lacks the “modernity” to be independent and is stripped off her individuality, without even being given a fighting chance. She (Sreedevi) in turn, decides to use the biggest western propaganda tool- the English language as a means to put together a new life with a new and improved her, ready to take on the world with newfound confidence. And indeed, she does! All this, while simultaneously managing the gargantuan task of helping her sister put together a big fat Indian wedding.
5. Saat khoon Maaf:
Slightly eccentric-mostly psychotic susanna (Priyanka Chopra) gets hitched 7 times, because no husband manages to survive an argument with her. Quite literally. One part of the film, plays out reel by reel, the guilty, bloodthirsty yearning and fantasy of every woman who has been abused by the one she loved and trusted the most. That’s right, Susanna kills the sick twisted mind that comes home to her every night, throws around the most beautiful poetry about her, and then within a heartbeat- decides to beat her black and blue.
6. Mary Kom
The most recent visually documented biography of Indian Boxing sensation Mary Kom (Priyanka Chopra), and how her rebellion against her family and her orthodox society was all worth it, as she got to live her dream.
Kahaani shatters multiple stereotypes by the minute. A heavily pregnant woman Vidya (Vidya Balan) who is supposed to be helpless, bedridden and pampered, travels halfway across the world, alone, to track down her husband who may have abandoned her. Nothing in that previous sentence is digestible at the first swallow, but Vidya Balan’s endearingly gutsy character- rubbing shoulders with the police and the underworld alike, eases you into the plot of the film soon enough until you change your mind about the strength contained in a woman.
Although the film focuses on the tragedies of a little child struggling with life-threatening progeria, the women he is survived by also sent out strong message- his single mom, and grand mom. They appear to run the show at home with absolutely no inadequacies. In fact, Vidya Balan’s dialog- “just because you contributed your sperm to the activity, that does not make you his father,” is precisely the message it sent out.