The female protagonist in many Bollywood films serves as the love interest to the hero. Her purpose is often to get married, take care of the household, and raise a family.
But more recent Hindi films have begun to challenge this old-school notion of a woman's role in society. No longer does she need a hero to rescue her - she can rescue herself.
We explored this changing role of women in Indian film in the 2015 post "Women Rising: 5 Powerful Portrayals of the Strength of Women".
In 2016, A.R. Murugadoss brought the story of Akira to the screen. As the title character, Sonakshi Sinha demonstrated she could take care of herself and take down the corrupt official (and others). While it isn't a perfect story about women successfully fighting against nefarious opponents, it does make a point. When push comes to shove, women can definitely push back.
A number of recent events have generated more intense discussions about gender and issues impacting women in communities around the world. As we celebrate another International Women's Day, here are five favorite films that confront gender-based stereotypes.
1. Ki & Ka
Description: Comedy drama. Kia (Kareena Kapoor) is a successful marketing professional. Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is a business school topper from a wealthy family. When they meet, Kabir tells Kia that he is more interested in following in his mother's footsteps than his father's. The concern is, his mother was a homemaker, a non-traditional role for a man. With Kia wanting to climb the corporate ladder and Kabir wanting to take care of the home, they realize they are 100% made for each other.
Why I Love This Film: The conversations between Kia and Kabir as they navigate past gender stereotypes is fascinating. They engage in this brave new world they have created with enthusiasm and honesty. While they have their occasional misunderstandings, they offer a somewhat liberating example of what success looks like at work, at home, and in marriage.
Quote: "...without a Kia, a Kabir cannot exist."
Description: Biographical thriller. Based on a true event, the film tells the story of 23-year-old flight attendant Neerja Bhanot (Sonam Kapoor) who saved hundreds of passengers on board Pan Am Flight 73 which was hijacked by terrorists on 5 September 1986.
Why I Love This Film: Shot almost in docudrama style, this real and raw recounting of a frightening and violent experience depicts the people who pinned all hope on the strength of this one woman amid the confusion and the uncertainty of the situation.
Quote: "Do your duty, come what may. Never tolerate any injustice and never compromise on self-respect."
- Find out more: Film Review - Neerja Bhanot and the Hijacking of Flight 73
Description: Comedy drama. Delhi architect Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone) is forced to take her aging, hypochondriac father Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) to visit their ancestral home in Kolkata. Due to his bowel problems, Bhashkor insists on traveling by car. Piku hires a reluctant Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan Khan) to drive them.
Why I Love This Film: A simple film showing the strength of a successful single professional woman who is also caring for her aging father. The road trip allows Rana Chaudhary to experience the unique relationship between the short-tempered young woman and her outspoken, grumpy father. The characters are flawed and frustrated, adding honest humor to the tale. Underlying all the negativity is the unmistakable undercurrent of love, something Rana Chaudhary senses but can't quite get his head around.
Quote: "Marriage isn't bad, but women should have a purpose. All a husband wants from his wife is food during the day and sex at night. Is that what a woman is made for?"
Description: Drama. In the arid and rural landscape of Rajasthan, four women – Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Lajjo (Radhika Apte), Bijli (Surveen Chawla) and Janki (Lehar Khan) – live under a cloud of stress and fear in a misogynistic culture. Banding together, they take action to overcome their oppression.
Why I Love This Film: The story, set in a desert landscape, deals with the paucity of love and care in the lives of these women. While those around them often make them appear weak and vulnerable, the friendship they share gives them strength. According to a Scroll.in interview with writer/director Leena Yadav, the film reached people on an emotional level:
After the world premiere of Parched at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, we had a European premiere at the Stockholm International Film Festival, 2015. We won the Impact award that was presented to us by the artist Ai Weiwei. The award is a sculpture designed by him. He gave me the biggest compliment I have ever got for this film. He said, “Your film really made me cry. The film is not about gender but a loss of humanity”.
Quote: "Where women are honored, divinity blossoms there." Can also be translated as "Where women are respected, Gods make their home."
Release Date: 16 September 2016
Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Written by: Shoojit Sircar, Ritesh Shah
Music by: Shantanu Moitra, Faiza Mujahid, Anupam Roy
Producer: Rashmi Sharma, Pawan Kumar, Shoojit Sircar, Sheel Kumar
Description: Courtroom drama. Three young women - Meenal Arora (Taapsee Pannu), Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari) and Andrea Tariang - must defend themselves against the personal, professional, and legal attacks launched by a group of powerful young men following a sexual assault. Retired attorney Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan ) steps in to represent the girls in the courtroom.
Why I Love This Film: A tale of women's rights and dignity, the story confronts the stereotypes and double standards about men and women. It is a painful reminder that gender inequity exists among all cultures, nationalities, and strata. It is a powerful and emotionally difficult film to watch - especially for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. But it is an important film.
Quote: "'No' means no and when someone says No, you stop."
The following playlist features trailers for each of these films, including Akira.
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