The way feature films look at its women characters has drastically changed over the years. From a time when heroines were only meant to up the glamour quotient to the last two years when women-centric films have become the norm. Not only are we seeing more and more films that tell the story from a women’s perspective but the movies can now also boast of some of the strongest and most level-headed female characters.
However, there is no denying the fact that the way mainstream cinema looks at its women is still pretty skewed. But that is not reason enough to take credit from filmmakers who have time and again took it to upon themselves to bring to the celluloid stories centered around women. This International Women’s Day, we list down 10 recent films that talk about women like never before. (In no particular order)
Vikas Bahl did something terrific with his 2014 film Queen. One of the best coming-of-age stories Bollywood has seen, Queen sees Kangana Ranaut’s Rani transform from a timid small-town girl to a strong independent woman, who has the guts to speak her heart out to the man who broke it in the first place. Together with Rajkummar Rao’s marvellous performance, Queen shines in its light-heartedness, simplicity and normalcy.
Another film devoid of the glamourous Bollywood sheen, it focused on the middle-class suburban household. Sulochana’s achievements may not be so noteworthy on the surface but the fact that she doesn’t lose her identity even when she transitions from being a housewife to a sensuous RJ is truly remarkable. While Vidya Balan is completely in her element as Sulu, Suresh Triveni’s writing and direction are able to add various shades of a woman to Sulu who walks a tight rope between her domestic demands and overnight fame.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
This Oscar nominated 2017 Hollywood offering deals with the story of vengeful mother frustrated from the lack of action in her daughter’s murder case. Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes is a no-nonsense badass and she takes some bold steps. As a fearless vigilante, she stands up against the police by painting three billboards leading to her town with provoking messages. Somewhere down the line, her fight becomes one against the system, one against male abuse while Mildred’s out to take it all down.
Teenage stories have always been a risky territory. But Greta Gerwig is able to reflect a coming of age girl’s experience and viewpoints in the most genuine way in her Oscar nominated debut film Lady Bird. Its protagonist Christine, who likes to go by the name Lady Bird, is a Sacramento girl dreaming of a life beyond her family and hometown. Devoid of sexist stereotypes, Lady Bird’s feminism is a simple and quite kind of feminism which relies on its true-to-life characters and an honest portrayal of the relationships they share.
Anaarkali of Aarah
Far from a conventional female lead, Swara Bhasker’s Anaarkali is a Bhojpur folk singer who songs are replete with sexual innuendoes. On being molested by a university Vice-Chancellor (Sanjay Mishra), Anaarkali wages a battle against the male-dominated, misogynistic world and raises a very pertinent question about consent. It delivers a very strong “No means No” message with its flamboyant realism questioning a lot of societal stereotypes.
Wonder Woman has been quite the anomaly in the superhero universe. In being the first female superhero film directed by a woman and in much more. While most women in the much male-dominated superhero universe are seen through the male gaze, Wonder Woman is a celebration of the very feminine traits of its Amazonian warrior princess Diana. Israeli actress Gal Gadot looks tailor-made for the role. Director Patty Jenkins even became the highest-grossing female director in Hollywood history after making this film.
Lipstick Under My Burkha
Lipstick Under My Burkha is a one-of-a-kind movie. The way Alankrita Shrivastava talks about the sexual urges of its four female protagonists, who range from an 18-year-old college girl whose father doesn’t allow her to leave the house without a burkha to a 55-year-old widow who has been dignified to the status of a universal “Buaji” by her family, is not the only thing that is special about this film. Lipstick Under My Burkha goes much beyond that, it talks about a woman’s free space, her desires and her right to live life on her own terms.
Director Gauri Shinde brings to the screens a very relatable scenario of a middle-aged woman living in the shadows of her family, struggling with the English language and looking for a chance to go out and do something for herself. But Shashi not only decides to embark on trip to a foreign land all alone but she also learns English and silences everyone who had ever doubted her confidence. Sridevi is brilliant in her craft, as always.
In 2016’s Moana, a coming-of-age tale of a young girl forging her own way in the world, we finally get the Disney princess we deserve. Born into a long lineage of Polynesian leaders, Moana Waialiki is always told she will lead her people one day. Struggling with her yearning to test her limits, she digs deep within herself to find the confidence to fight some loathsome enemies. With no distracting romantic sub-plots, Moana is the princess movie about things that really matter — survival, independence and identity.
Insia Malik is an ambitious young girl. She dreams of becoming a singer but faces opposition from her father. What makes Secret Superstar an inspiring tale is its realistic portrayal of a middle class Indian household and the beautiful mother-daughter relationship. It is a gentle and nuanced reminder of how the times are a changing. While the ending might be a little too dramatic, strong performances by Meher Vij and Zaira Wasim keep the film going.