Winds of Change: Bollywood Women

Winds of Change: Bollywood Women

The Indian film industry is a rather industrious space. It has even been considered far bigger and better than Hollywood in the recent years. Being a Hollywood buff, this news got my eyes rolling in awe! In totality, the industry churns at least a thousand films a year as compared to Hollywood’s 400 films (Now that is some figure!!). If we calculate the commercials, it totals to a voluptuous 5 billion dollars, and continues to grow annually. Of course, a medium such as this pretty much works as a driving force to inculcate social norms, which pretty much evolve and change with time.

radhika apte
Radhika Apte

If you look at the Bollywood films from the 50’s to the 70’s, the women were shown in such a different light. They assumed the role of being problem solvers, sometimes breadwinners, and graciously carried the film on their shoulders procuring box-office hits. Now thats what we call “Girl Power!” Films such as ‘Mother India’ and ‘Badle ki Aag’ taught women to fight societal evils such as fraudulent means adopted by moneylenders, and tackle issues such as rape. This gave women the impetus to fight and get back on their own feet.


The era faded into portraying the ‘angry young man’ in the 80’s. Patriarchy was at its best as men were shown as taking to a more decisive part and also going all out looking for a demure wife who worships her husband. This was an era where women were perceived as very humble, and would give up all that they loved for the happiness of their family and their loved ones. The way women were portrayed in this era, won raving responses amid the masses, as they though that filmmakers finally struck the right chord. Sounds so boring, right? Well, since the profits were soaring there were a number of hits delivered using a similar pattern. If you delve into the truth of the matter, all through the 80’s and 90’s female protagonists were paid far less, and when they exhausted their ‘shelf life’ they were compelled to take a back seat, and park their careers.

Sonam Kapoor Sonam Kapoor

It was only for the good that the millennium youth got absolutely bored of unrealistic flicks. There was more to life than two women fighting for one man, or even being the ‘Sati-savitri bahu.’ That is when heroines like Priety Zinta and Priyanka Chopra come in. They manage to break several glass ceilings that was created by the male protagonists in the 80’s and 90’s and took a step up in the game. They delivered serial hits like ‘Kya Kehna,’ ‘Mary Kom,’ ‘Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna,’ and more.


Biopics like ‘Mary Kom,’ typically explore the success of Indian sportswomen who haven’t gain due recognition. Even ‘Dangal’ explores the birth of women wrestlers in India. These films are path breaking as they proved to be eye-openers for an audience who need to brush away the hoses blinders.


While Priyanka Chopra and Priety Zinta did a lot of groundwork to break the pre-conceived notions, there were films like Raazi (Aliya Bhat), Highway (Aliya Bhat), Heroin (Kareena Kapoor Khan), Ki and Ki (Kareena Kapoor Khan), and Aitraaz (Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor Khan), Neerja (Sonam Kapoor) Chameli (Kareena Kapoor Khan), and Gulab Gang (Madhuri Dixit Nene and Juhi Chawla), that breathed life into the Indian film Industry. Even though R.Balki wrote Ki & Ka, it was because he took a sneak peak into the future that is fast becoming an urban reality. The responses received for the film were mixed, but I must add that women across various age groups, in one way or another, recognized that men have an equal part to play at making their house a home.

Swara BhaskarSwara Bhaskar

From 2010 onwards, directors have started thinking very differently. I thought the trend changed as directors were now more accepting of taking risks. It wasn’t really about the profits, but it is about breaking pre-conceived notions and accepting reality as is. Take the movie ‘Veere De Wedding’ for instance. I genuinely thought it was a brilliant film! This is the urban reality, where women are torn between societal expectations and giving up on their individuality that they have painstakingly earn, by excelling in their chosen careers.


I cannot call this a typical chick flick, but it is a wonderful plot that revolves around four friends who reside in various parts around the world and are caught up in uniquely different circumstances that pretty much circumvent the life of every urban woman today. The movie has beautifully explored what women want out of their life which involves every aspect right from childhood, to being teenagers, to careers, to getting married and everything in between. It is probably the only film that does away with what women should be, but actually shows who they are.


The wave of change in the film industry is overwhelming, but refreshing all the same. It pretty much rests on an artist to think and probably foresee the future of society and display it in their films.


However, the one thing that always remains true, for the actresses of Bollywood and Hollywood, is that there talent is there own and they deserve all the recognition and representation.

Written by Heer Kothari

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