As a millennial Indian woman, I grew up on a staple diet of Bollywood movies which essentially were cookie cutter versions of each other. Rich girl, poor boy. Constant dance around trees and in snow-covered mountains. Girl getting kidnapped by a bunch of baddies and then her knight-in shining armor lover rescuing her.
However, a pleasant trend came along. The actress stopped being the damsel in distress. Suddenly, Simran stopped needing a Raj to come to her rescue when she missed her train. Instead, our female protagonist now became in true essence, the heroine. The one the movie revolved around. The one who didn’t need a man to protect her, anymore.
There still lies a debate whether cinema is supposed to be a reflection or an influence to society. In either case, I couldn’t be happier. For as an independent go-getter female, I couldn’t relate to being the Cinderella-waiting-for-her-prince character anymore. I wanted stronger, more realistic ones. And fortunately, I have a list of movies that are my go to, whenever I need a dose of girl power.
- Chak De India : In the last decade or so, the sports movie genre, especially in context of women, has been explored by several films (Dangal, Mary Kom). Yet, nothing screamed girl power more than Chak De India. Especially when Shah Rukh Khan plays the coach, of a team that has everything on its mind except the sport itself. One divided by geography, politics and internal conflict. There wasn’t a soul who could watch this movie without being convinced that once they have a common goal, there’s nothing a team of passionate young women can’t achieve. And if there’s oe dialogue in the movie that sums it all up, It’s when coach Khan says on the eve of a match where his team is taking on a team of male hockey players – You’re not just fighting 11 men, ladies. You’re fighting every man who’s forgotten that if a woman can produce a creature like him, she can do anything.
2. Dil Dhadakne Do – This wasn’t a movie around feminism in particular, focusing on dysfunctional families, instead. Yet one scene in the movie specifically reeked of the internalized misogyny that exists in contemporary Indian society, even today. One where Rahul Bose, the stuffy husband, proudly announces that he ‘allows’ his wife to work, to which a witty Farhan Akhtar (who is also a former lover and admirer of Priyanka Chopra) interrupts, And why exactly does she need your permission? Further going on to explain that when you ‘allow’ someone to do something, technically, you’re reassuring yourself of your own superiority complex.
3. Queen – How can any discussion on Bollywood and feminism not involve Queen? A shy, reserved woman gets jilted by her fiance on the eve of her wedding , and instead of breaking down, Rani our heroine, takes off on her honeymoon, alone. Where she engages in a series of adventures, discovers her lost self-esteem, and finds her true self. One who doesn’t need a man who isn’t sure whether he wants her in his life or not.
4. English Vinglish – The reason I loved this movie was because of the way it celebrated the average Indian mother. The one whose life revolves around her family, the multitasker who manages domestic responsibilities alongside an entrepreneurial gig with finesse , and then finally, one who overcomes what she considers her biggest barrier – her inability to speak English. Showing the world that there isn’t anything that can’t be accomplishedas long as have the grit and resilience to do so. This movie had me smiling throughout and thinking, Every mom, supermom.
5. Kahaani – If this film had a tagline, it’d be, Hell Hath no fury where a woman concerned. An enraged woman, still mourning the death of her husband to a terrorist attack and her consequent miscarriage, takes on an entire bureaucracy, and a dreaded politician, in her quest for revenge. And succeeds. Because every woman is at heart, is a goddess. One that is worthy of respect. One that protects, nurtures and even slays, to bring back peace and justice.