With passing time, the role of a woman on the big screen has been changing constantly. There was a time when she was just used on-screen for decorative purposes, but time has changed and women have really traveled a long way along in the film industry.
They are no more the ‘abala naari’ who need a man to protect them, but who would ideally want a man to just be with them. She is now the woman of substance and doesn’t fear from speaking her mind out publicly and stand for her rights. She still belongs to this patriarchal society, but now she is also a rebel.
It’s interesting to see how with time Hindi cinema has adapted to reality and has tried to show the changing time, culture and influences. From a woman struggling to get her foothold, making it big in the big corporate world to simply bringing a story of a housewife, films have indeed changed.
From Meena Kumari to Vidya Balan, from ‘Bandit Queen’ to ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’, the women in films are no more just a visual treat but have been playing pivotal roles creating a huge change both on-screen and off-screen.
We bring you 13 films where women were the real heroes and had a brilliant cast supporting them.
1957: ‘Mother India’
Considered to be Nargis Dutt’s best performance till date, ‘Mother India is one such movie that actually changed the way Indian films used to portray women. A classic from the early era of Indian Cinema, this film is a must watch. Nargis plays Radha, a poor villager who has struggled throughout her life to raise her two sons. She is said to be the woman who never supports wrong and stands up for justice. Staying true to her ethics and beliefs, she ends up killing her own son just for justice. Now that’s totally something!
1987: ‘Mirch Masala’
You might have not really watched this one but Ketan Mehta’s ‘Mirch Masala’ brings in a tale of an ordinary woman Sonbai played by Smitha Patil from a village, who decides to say no to powerful authorities. You also have a story of another woman played by Deepti Naval who is the wife of the village’s sarpanch. She is someone who revolts against her own husband because she wants to educate her own daughters. While this might look like a normal story to you today, this was released in a regressive time when a woman standing for her rights was a huge deal.
1994: ‘Bandit Queen’
Based on the life of Indian dacoit, Phoolan Devi, this movie literally can give you goosebumps. Played by Seema Biswas, the movie brings about the tale of a woman who fought with every man from police to goons who once destroyed her life. It’s shown how she overpowers these powerful men. This Shekhar Kapoor’s film was based on the biography named India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi by Mala Sen.
How about a movie that actually highlights the male chauvinist culture of our country? Well, we often use this term but Mahesh Manjrekar actually made a brilliant movie ‘Astitva’ starring Tabu in 2000. The film simply brings up the issue of domestic abuse, extramarital affair, that a woman is often aware of but is forbidden from talking about it. The movie introduces you to Aditi Shrikant Pandit’s (Tabu) story who is trying to find her own identity outside her so-called happy marriage. Finally, she takes a bold step and moves away from her husband and son with her help of her to-be daughter-in-law, Namrata Shirodkar, who ends up leaving her boyfriend as too. Well, a win-win for both the females.
2011: ‘No One Killed Jessica’
The Jessica Lal murder case literally shocked the entire nation. Based on the real-life incident, this film shows the tale of Sabrina Lal (Vidya Balan) who fights against the wealthy and influential people who were involved in the murder of her sister. On another hand, you also have Rani Mukerji who plays a journalist and helps Sabrina in every way possible. Give this one a watch.
2013: ‘English Vinglish’
Some stories are just too beautiful, ‘English Vinglish’ falls on the list of that one. Directed by Gauri Shinde, this is an ordinary story of a housewife Shashi Godbole played by the iconic Sridevi. The story flawlessly shows how the woman who makes your house a home, is an exceptional mother, and also how a wife is looked down by her husband and kids, just because she can’t speak English fluently. She is hurt like any human would be. Tables turn during her trip to the US, where she learns the language and despite overcoming her shortcomings and proving her family wrong, she still remains a wonderful homemaker like always. An impressive tale, that simply touches your heart.
Viacom18 Motion Pictures
Some stories give you the much required feel-good factor and Kangana Ranaut’s ‘Queen’ totally falls into that category. The movie brings you a beautiful story of Rani who decides to take a honeymoon alone when her fiancé, played by Rajkummar Rao, decides to call off the wedding. When she travels the world, she comes across different people and learns new things about life. She comes back as a changed person all set to start her life on her own terms.
2014: ‘Mary Kom’
Viacom18 Motion Pictures
‘Mary Kom’ is an inspiring story of Indian boxer M.C. Mary Kom who won India great awards internationally. Played by Priyanka Chopra, the story brilliantly takes us through Kom’s life. What makes this film special is all the hardships she went through to make it big in her career. The understanding shown between Kom’s husband and her is what many need today. We also get to see how she makes a smashing comeback after her marriage and having babies.
Yash Raj Films
This is indeed one hell of a film to watch. The story of ‘Mardaani’ revolves around Shivani Roy a female cop donned by Rani Mukerji, who is all set to take down goons no matter what. She gets a new case where she has to fight the organisation involved in child trafficking and drugs. The performance by Rani is worthy of all the applause and praise.
This is the inspiring story of flight purser Neerja Bhanot who was shot by the terrorists and killed while she was trying to save lives of hundreds of passengers when Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked. Played by Sonam Kapoor, this is one of her best performances till the date.
Well, many find it kind of difficult to understand the meaning of ‘No’ and that’s what the movie ‘Pink’ is all about. The movie clearly states not to judge a woman based on her lifestyle and a man cannot force a woman against her will. Amitabh Bachchan dons the advocate hat that fights for the girls in a legal battle against boys who comes from rich influential families.
2017: ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’
Prakash Jha Production
This film is an honest portrayal of our not-so-sanskari society. Alankrita Shrivastava’s movie is about lives of four women living in Bhopal who have their own simple problems. The film openly talks about a woman’s sexual desire and believe us, it’s not a woman-oriented film. But something that even the sensible men in our society would relate with. An amazing watch indeed!
2017: ‘Tumhari Sulu’
This one is such a feel-good film that Vidya Balan will literally charm your boots off and will make you fall in love with Sulu. Director Suresh Triveni’s ‘Tumhari Sulu’ is the story of a middle-class family which is so heart-warming that from the first frame to the last, you are totally invested in the story. The film tells the tale of Sulochana Dubey (Vidya Balan) aka Sulu who is a housewife and lives with her husband Ashok (Manav Kaul) and son Pranav. You often see her coming up with silly plans to do something or the other. One day out of the blue, she lands the role of a late-night radio jockey. Her sexy voice and her unique perspective in dealing with people’s problems make it an adventurous ride until reality catches up with her. What makes ‘Tumhari Sulu’ so impactful is that it makes you celebrate small things in life. It teaches you the importance of accepting each other’s idiosyncrasies wholeheartedly. A movie that you just can’t miss.