Gulaab Gang is the latest addition to Bollywood’s women centric films. The film released on 7th of March 2014 under Sahara Movie Studios banner. The film is not receiving very good reviews from critics but with Gulaab Gang, Indian Cinema has expressed its desire of making women oriented films every now and then.
Bollywood produces more than 200 Hindi films every year though it represents a slim share of total women centric films produced till date. Characterization of women in Indian Cinema is yet to come out of cocoons of ‘typecast’ roles like a shy, eye-candy heroine, a prop or a bold item girl. Thanks to some strong-willed directors, ground-breaking portrayals of women are not scanty on Indian silver screen.
Some of these movies are adapted from literature; some are critical commentaries on horrifying real-life incidents; some touch our hearts and the rest are eye-openers. Here is our list of Top 10 Women Centric Films In Bollywood you should watch.
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Mother India (1957)
MOTHER INDIA is not only the best women centric film but also ranks among the all-time Indian box office hits. Considered one of the finest classics of Indian cinema, this Mehboob Khan directed film was much ahead of its time.
It depicts a poverty stricken village bride Radha (by Nargis), who struggles a lot to raise her two sons as a single mother and survive against a cunning money-lender amidst many troubles. The movie ends when she kills her own son Birju (by Sunil Dutt) for his wrong doing to become an epitome of justice. The film won two awards at the 5th National Film Awards on April 16, 1958. Nargis won the Filmfare Best Actress Award and Mehboob won the Filmfare Best Director Award for year 1957.
The film MOTHER INDIA also ranks at No.80 in Empire Magazine’s The 100 Best Films of World Cinema in 2010.
Umrao Jaan (1981)
Directed by Muzaffar Ali, the film is based on a classic novel, Umrao Jaan Ada by Urdu writer Mirza Hadi Ruswa. The film UMRAO JAAN narrates the tragic journey of a little girl Amiran (by young artist Seema Sathyu) from her childhood days in Faizabad to her transformation into a courtesan (by Rekha) in a brothel of Lucknow city. Being a victim to males’ gaze and greed, left by her beloved and most painfully deserted by her own family, she has no way but to return to brothel that she always wishes to escape from.
Rekha won the National Film Award for Best Actress and Muzaffar Ali won the Filmfare Award for Best Director. Several songs from the film are still considered classics of Bollywood and won acclaimed music composer Khayyam, National Film Award and Filmfare Award for Best Music Direction.
Renowned Bollywood film director J. P. Dutta has also made his version of UMRAO JAAN (2006), an adaption of the Urdu novel and inspired by the script written by his father O. P. Dutta.
DAMINI is one of the most popular women-oriented films in Indian Cinema. Its story revolves around a housewife Damini (by Meenakshi Seshadri) who embodies innocence and uprightness. After her marriage in a well-to-do family, she happens to witness gang-rape of a maid-servant by her brother-in-law and his friends. To ensure justice for the victim, she firmly stands against strong opposition from her in-laws and husband. She is forced to leave home and sent to a mental institution, but she stands her ground. The film gained its director Rajkumar Santoshi Filmfare Award for Best Director.
Based on a short story by famous Bengali litterateur Mahasweta Devi, RUDAALI is considered one of the best movies by feminist Indian director Kalpana Lazmi. It chronicles the hard life of a woman of Rajasthan, namely Shanichari (by Dimple Kapadia) who is chased by bad luck since she is deserted by her mother after her father’s death. Marriage with an alcoholic person only adds to her suffering and despite living in abject poverty with her mentally challenged son, she never allows herself to breakdown.
Dimple Kapadia won the National Film Award for Best Actress, Filmfare Award for Critics Best Actress and two other awards at Damascus International Film Festival (Best Actress) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (Best Actress) for her role of Shanichari in the film.
This Prakash Jha film could easily claim to be listed among the best 10 women oriented Bollywood films for its protagonist Ketki (by Madhuri Dixit). She is a bold woman who fights for the rights of her own and also other women in society. Ketki dares fighting against the injustice done by the landlords and also revenges her husband’s death.
MRITYUDAND won Special Jury Award for Best Feature Film at Cinéma Tout Ecran, Geneva (1998) and Audience Award for Best Feature Film at Bangkok Film Festival (1998) and also earned film director Prakash Jha Zee Cine Awards in two categories for Best Director and for Best Dialogue Writer. Madhuri Dixit also gained Screen Award for Best Actress.
BAWANDAR is based on a true story of Bhanwari Devi, a victim of gang-rape in Rajasthan. The director duos, Jag Mundhra and Jagmohan Anand, highlights in the film how Sanwari (by Nandita Das) is wronged by the male elders of high-caste Gurjar community and how she is publicly disgraced in the court and denied justice. Nandita Das won Best Actress Award at Santa Monica Film Festival (2001) and the film also earned multiple awards at various international film festivals.
The film gained lots of attention from media reporters and NGOs because of its story being based on real life of Bhanwari Devi and due to bold visuals and depiction of inappropriate gestures in the film. The film faced some criticism from State Government and police department too for showing uncouth behavior of Gurjar community and policemen. Bhanwari Devi also dragged the film into controversy by accusing filmmakers for not discussing the story with her and not showing her the film.
Directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, the film raises questions against male chauvinism, spousal abuse and most importantly, true independence of women. ASTITVA centres on Aditi (by Tabu), a housewife happily married within a patriarchal set-up and lives with her husband and son. Things turn worse when she suddenly inherits a large fortune, and it is later revealed that Aditi’s son is actually sired by her music teacher Malhar (by Mohnish Bahl). Despised by her husband and son for her momentary mistake, Aditi decides to leave the family and search for her own individuality.
The film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Marathi and helped Tabu win numerous awards including Filmfare Best Actress (Critics). Mahesh Manjrekar was also praised for his screenplay and story writing and won many awards in these categories.
Chandni Bar (2001)
This Madhur Bhandarkar film unearths the miserable life of bar dancers in Mumbai, underworld, gun crime and other social issues. The story is based on a village girl Mumtaz (by Tabu) who loses her family in a communal riot and is forced into bar dancing by her own uncle. That does not end the tragedy in her life as one night her uncle rapes her under influence of alcohol and she continuously finds herself from frying pan to fire.
The film won four National Awards and gained Tabu many awards (in Best Actress category) for her role in CHANDNI BAR including National Film Award, IIFA Award and Zee Cine Award. Madhur Bhandarkar was nominated for Best Director in several venues but only won Star Screen Award for Best Story.
Daman: A Victim Of Marital Violence (2001)
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Kalpana Lazmi, the film depicts marital crimes against women in male dominated Indian society. Durga (Raveen Tandon), a low-caste girl from a poor family is subjected to domestic violence since the day of her marriage to a hot-tempered, philanthropic, alcoholic man. The movie boldly shows that a woman can be raped even by her husband – a fact, which is yet to be admitted in conservative pan socio-cultural Indian society.
Raveen Tandon won the prestigious National Film Award for Best Actress for her incredible performance in DAMAN. The film was distributed by Department of Family Welfare, Government of India because of its stirring storyline giving voice to women empowerment.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
Based on the controversial life of South India’s most sought-after erotic actress Silk Smita, the movie chronicles the journey of a dancing diva from just being on the frill of a film set to a most-wanted actress for concupiscent portrayal in the 80s. Scrumptious and unbridled Silk Smitha shrugs off age-old inhibitions to portray sensuousness of women. Vidya Balan as Silk Smitha, the protagonist, plays a role of rebellious woman who runs away from home at a young age in order to nurture her dream of becoming an actress. She is uninhibited in expressing her sexuality and has scandalous affairs with several men.
THE DIRTY PICTURE won three National Film Awards including Best Actress, three Filmfare Awards including Best Actress and six Screen Awards including Best Actress, Best Picture and Best Director. Box Office India declared the film a Blockbuster after its fourth week and it ended with a lifetime gross of around 850 million.
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