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International Women’s Day 2018: From Mother India to Simran, the changing face of Bollywood women

Even as top heroines like Deepika Padukone are now able to charge an equal fee as the male lead in a film, most women are still struggling to find a respectable position in the industry, at par with the men. However, the onscreen image of women has certainly changed a lot over the past few decades in Hindi cinema.

bollywood Updated: Mar 08, 2018 17:01 IST
Sweta Kaushal
Sweta Kaushal
Hindustan Times
International Women’s Day 2018,Women’s Day 2018,International Women’s Day
Kangana Ranaut is one of the few Bollywood heroines who refuse to bow down to the prevalant male-dominated norms and work on their own terms.

In the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion on women oriented films. While Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and the likes are cheered for choosing female-centric cinema, several others are slammed for becoming the mouth piece of male chauvinism in the Hindi film industry.

Even as top heroines like Deepika Padukone are now able to charge an equal fee as the male lead in a film, most women are still struggling to find a respectable position in the industry, at par with the men. However, the onscreen image of women has certainly changed a lot over the past few decades in Hindi cinema.

This International Women’s Day, here’s a look at how female roles have changed over the past six decades in Bollywood:

50s: The stereotypical but strong
She was the face of Bhartiya Sanskar but she also had individuality. Be it Nargis from Mother India or Waheeda Rehman from Pyaasa, most of the women in iconic films of the 50s maintained a stand and opinion of their own.

In the legendary Mother India, we saw a mother shooting down her own son because he had refused to follow the law of the land and even abused women against all implorations by our protagonist.

Guru Dutt’s Pyaasa may have focused on the story of the failure of an artist and how the world deals with him but in the process, he showed a prostitute (Waheeda) who not only brings calm and peace to the protagonist’s life but also takes things in her own hands when needed. After hearing death rumours of Vijay (Guru Dutt), she takes it on herself to get his book of poetries published by the best publication house.

60s: Traditional and subtle
The 60s saw traditional women mostly subdued to the male power in Hindi cinema. The heroine would don traditional clothes, practice all that is stereotypically expected from a woman and submit to all demands of the men around her.

For example, Anarkali and Bahar in K Asif’s epic drama Mughal E Azam are puppets in the hands of the king and his son. When the king wishes, he honours or forgives Anarkali and punishes her when he feels like.

70s: Defining the good and bad
The idea of vamp was well established by the 70s. More often than not, the sari-salwar kameez-clad woman would be the heroine and the vamps would be dressed in western attire. If Manoj Kumar saw the knee-length tunic-clad Saira Banu as a case for improvement, Saira’s character herself changed into a sari and pull her pallu over the head when she believed she has learnt Indian culture.

The major hits in the 70s - Sholay, Deewar, Anand – did not have any major female character in the main narrative.

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80s: The cause for trouble or reunion of heroes

Reiterating the old saying that all wars are fought for either women or land, the 80s filmmakers had women as the pivotal cause behind the troubles their heroes faced. From Feroz Khan’s Qurbaani to Amitabh Bachchan-Shatrughan Sinha’s Dostana, it was this decade when the mothers and girlfriends or wives would get kidnapped right when the hero was gaining his footing against the villain.

90s: The love interest of hero
By the 90s, filmmakers decided to reduce their heroines to nothing more than mere love interests. Dancing, singing songs and crying were the major jobs of our heroines onscreen. Romantic hits like Aashiqui, Dil and Baaghi are cases in point.

2000s: A pivotal role in the narrative
Directors and writers started experimenting by mid 2000s. With films like Vidya Balan’s Ishqiya, Preity Zinta’s Kya Kehna and Tabu’s Astitva, women played the main pivots in the films’ narrative.

2010s: The solo lead
It was only in the past few years that producers have finally begun trusting the women power to back projects with female solo leads. Be it Kangana Ranaut’s Queen and Simran or Vidya Balan’s Tumhari Sulu, Sonam Kapoor’s Neeraj or Madhuri Dixit’s Gulaab Gang, all films managed to make a decent collection at the box office.

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First Published: Mar 08, 2018 16:56 IST