Men in most societies were seen as breadwinners while role of women was restricted to being a good homemaker and a good mother. This applies to women in a highly patriarchal society of India. As societies entered the world of modernization, the role of women changed dramatically. Media played an important role in the modernization of societies and greatly affected the image of women in today’s modern world. A number of researches have been done on the role of women in different societies. However little has been said about the importance of movies in portraying women in shifting roles over different decades and the impact it has on societies in general. Over past decades, Indian cinema has witnessed a significant transformation in the way women are portrayed through movies. Contemporary movies portray women as more independent, confident, and career oriented.
Mother India (1957)
A 1957 Hindi epic melodrama film, directed by Mehboob Khan, Mother India is one film that comes to every mind when thought of top women-oriented films of all time. The film represented India after Independence, being the avant-garde in introducing the woman to her inner strength.
Suchitra Sen's portrayal of a politician stands unbeaten so far. It's interesting to see how her personality changes with circumstances in the film. The film was banned by the ruling government at that time, but later premiered on television. Yet it enjoyed immense popularity and is considered one of the best films Bollywood has ever made about a woman's choices.
Seeta aur Geeta (1972)
Hindi comedy, drama film starring Hema Malini in a dual role, and directed by Ramesh Sippy. The story is about identical twins who are separated at birth and grow up with different temperaments. The twins then swap places like The Prince and the Pauper. This theme has been repeated in other movies before and after. However, Hema Malini was at her best and won her only competitive Filmfare Best Actress Award of her career. The film was shown in Soviet Union where it was a success.
Bhumika: The Role (1977)
The film explores the life of a female actor, who starts off as a child artist, and then becomes a successful actor in her prime. Smita Patil gives it all up and becomes a recluse. It was perhaps the first Hindi film that belonged to the New Indian Cinema movement that managed to reach large audiences, and was able to receive a significant release
Shabana Azmi plays the role of a loving housewife who's betrayed by her husband for an actress played by Smita Patil. This film is all about her struggle to get back on track and fight against all odds to lead an independent and successful life. It also touches upon the issues of domestic violence faced by the lower strata of the Indian society.
Mirch Masala (1987)
This film is an epic in its own right! It's all about women power and the mental fortitude and courage of a woman to stand up against all odds. This film by Ketan Mehta has power-packed performances by the elite set of actors such as Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil, Deepti Naval and Suresh Oberoi. However, it is Smita Patil's character (Sonbai) that stays on your mind days after watching the film. The famous climax scene is unforgettable, in which the women in the spice mill throw fists full of spice on the Subedar (Naseerudin Shah) as an act of defiance.
Meenakshi Sheshadri portrays the story of a woman who fights against her own wealthy family, to give justice to a maid gang raped by her brother-in-law and his friends. She is proved unstable, but yet later emerges to be someone who fights her way out for justice.
Chandni Bar (2001)
Madhur Bhandarkar's Chandni Bar was again the heartwarming story of a sex worker played by Tabu and how she struggles to provide a better lifestyle to her kids, keeping them away from the gritty world of prostitution. Tabu walked away with the national award for best actress.
No One Killed Jessica (2011)
Rani Mukherjee is locked in a passionate embrace but the moment her work-phone beeps, she is ready to leave her lover high and dry and asks him to 'fly solo'. Rani's (Meera Gaity) is a no-nonsense journalist who does yoga at work, smokes non-stop and mouths expletives without thinking twice.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
'Mujhe jo chaiye, uska mazaa sirf raat to aata hai', Vidya Balan tells a blushing Tusshar Kapoor. Vidya's (Silk) is blatant about her sexuality, which almost borders into arrogance. In a country of repressed sexuality, Vidya's role was a breath of fresh air and her cheeky lines were an instant hit. Naturally, the film managed to deliver what it promised- 'Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment.' Vidya also bagged her first National Award with this film.
Vidya Balan's success story enhanced the status of Bollywood women from a hero's sidekick to centre piece. In her latest film, she portrays a seven-month pregnant lady in search of her missing husband and how she finds him
Indian comedy drama film with Kangana Ranaut in the lead role, and Lisa Haydon & Rajkummar Rao playing supporting roles. Rani, an under-confident Punjabi girl from New Delhi embarks on her honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam by herself after her fiancé calls off their wedding. On her return back to Delhi, Rani visits Vijay at his home and hands him her engagement ring. After saying "thank you", she walks away with a smile on her face. At the 60th Filmfare Awards ceremony, the film won a leading six awards, including Best Film, Best Director, and Best Actress for Ranaut. At the 62nd National Film Awards ceremony, the film won the Best Hindi Film and Best Actress awards.