Feminism has become a sensitive topic, everybody seems to have an opinion on how a woman’s life could and should be. Social media, TV debates and drawing rooms are the latest battlegrounds of the war of the sexes.
However, one of the key cultural influences on society nowadays is cinema. Movies, theatre, plays all seem to have a strong affect towards the society and its norms and it’s indeed sad that after sifting through last two decades of Indian cinema there are only five films that gave women their space and right without excluding men from the system.
1. Dor (2006)
A Nagesh Kukunoor film that features Ayesha Takia, Gul Panag and Shreyas Talpade in the lead, explored the theme of trappings of tradition and individual freedom. A heartening story of two different women, two separate struggles and their combined emancipation.
2. Phir Milenge (2004)
Indian version of Hollywood film Philadelphia, directed by Revathi, makes a strong feminist statement in a subtle way. Tamanna Sahni’s (played by Shilpa Shetty) struggles in her personal life and faces questions over professional reputation. The story revolves around the idea that “so what if the male-centric corporate world doubts her, looks down upon her illness?” The social stigma doesn’t stop her from fighting for her rights.
3. Astitva (2000)
This film written and directed by Mahesh Manjrekar starring Tabu, was one of the earliest modern-era Bollywood film that addressed the issues of woman as a being. Feminist in its tone and tenor, the film argued that a woman is not just a dutiful wife and a dedicated mother. Her world should not be and is not centered around the man. Astitva broke every sexist stereotype.
4. English Vinglish (2012)
Gauri Shinde’s 2012 film starring Sridevi is a riveting tale of a coy and under confident middle-class housewife who gains confidence and self-respect only when she steps out of the house and takes a life-changing decision. Learning the English language may not sound like a ‘life changing decision’ but it does transform Shashi in the way she sees herself and wants other to see her. A simple act of ‘decision taking’ is the first step towards her self-discovery.
5. Queen (2013)
The 2014 surprise hit, which established Kangana Ranaut as the youth icon among young girls, is a simple coming-of-age story of a naive and introvert girl. Her solo journey to Paris and Amsterdam is a journey within. From the fear of public embarrassment after her fiance calls off their wedding, to the confidence of letting go of social trappings, Rani is every woman. She is an embodiment of millions of women.