The dark clouds of patriarchy have shadowed the Indian culture for centuries. It has taken a considerable amount of struggle to get rid of evil practices like sati and purdah; and it will probably take a considerable amount of struggle to get rid of dowry, female infanticide, objectification of women, rapes, assaults, etc. They say that cinema is a reflection of society. Cinema not only mirrors the society but it also depicts what can become of it – in both negative and positive ways. As we approach the end of 2017, we feel happy and hopeful for the future of women in our country. 2017 saw some incredible characters portrayed in main stream as well as art movies. If Hollywood gave us “Wonder Woman”, we were not far behind in celebrating ‘sheroes’ in Indian cinema. Let us raise a toast to some of the most substantial female roles that Bollywood gave us in 2017.
Vidya Balan has challenged herself with exceptionally strong roles time and again. “Parineeta”, the “Kahaani” franchise, “Ishqiya”, “No One Killed Jessica”, “Paa”, “The Dirty Picture”, “Bombay Talkies” – the list of strong female roles taken up by this woman is quite long. So, when it came down to sheroic roles, Vidya did not disappoint her fans even in 2017. She came out with two movies – “Tumhari Sulu” and “Begum Jaan”. We doted over the sweet happily married housewife Sullu’s transition into a popular RJ with a sensual accent in the former; whereas, we were floored by Begum Jaan’s fearless persona in the latter. Since, Vidya gave us two quintessentially strong Sheroes, hence hers is the first name here. With the Clean India Campaign in full swing and rightly so, this movie could not have come out at a better time. And to see a fresh face portray Jaya – the woman who files a divorce petition on grounds of lack of a toilet in her husband’s house – was indeed a treat. Defecating outside is not only bad for the environment but absolutely unhealthy and unhygienic. However, there is no dearth of cities, villages, districts and towns in our country where open defecation is a routine activity. The way Bhumi Pednekar convincingly imparts the message of how important it is to have toilets, is a much-needed and welcomed portrayal. Bhumi’s debut “Dum Laga Ke Haisha” delicately spoke against body shaming and was appreciated by audiences and critics alike. She does not disappoint with “Toilet Ek Prem Katha” also.
Swara Bhasker plays a Bihari folk performer in Anarkali of Arah and convincingly gives the message of consent. The best part about this character was that she has not been shown as the ‘ideal’ Indian woman. She is a dancer who performs at weddings. She is assaulted by the VC of a premier organisation and is not taken seriously on retaliating. The police, her friends – no one takes her complaints seriously. She struggles for justice by herself and eventually gets it. She closes her act in the climax scene saying be it a prostitute, your wife or any woman – seek consent before touching. This one was definitely a shero! Konkona Sen Sharma is yet another actress who has given us many impressive characters. She has done amazing movies like “Page 3”, “Life In a Metro” and “15 Park Avenue” to name a few. 2017 saw the controversial release of yet another feather in her cap – “Lipstick Under My Burkha”. This movie revolves around four women from different walks of life. Starring aside Ratna Pathak, Aahana Kumra and Plabita Borthakur; Konkona plays Shireen Aslam. Shireen is a housewife married to unloving and orthodox Rahim (played by Sushant Singh). Rahim sexually dominates Shireen and forbids protected sex. Shireen secretly takes pills to prevent pregnancy and also gets multiple abortions. She is secretly an amazing saleswoman. Konkona Sen’s impeccable acting brings this character to life and takes us on a journey of pain, anger, struggle and freedom. In addition to the ones mentioned above, there were some more names that pushed the envelope a several notches further. Kangana Ranuat’s “Simran” was a unique story of a notorious thief. The fact that Bollywood is taking up stories without any heroes and audiences are responding to them if the content is good, is in itself a win-win situation. So, kudos to “Simran”!
Other honorable mentions include Sridevi’s “Mom”, Sonakshi Sinha’s “Noor” and Taapsee Pannu’s “Naam Shabana”. All these films had one thing in common – a shero for us to draw inspiration from.
All these stories told us that women can have their own identities. They can be fearless, strong, passionate, reliable and even notorious. These beautiful sagas reminded us that women deserve their share of attention, respect and dignity.