Films, Bollywood and cinema have always been an integral part of the Indian lifestyle.
The role of female protagonists in Indian cinema has evolved with the times and today a typical Bollywood flick would have you meet leads who break taboos and play parts that today’s audience can relate to.
Both Bollywood and regional Indian cinema has been to some extent, male-centric.
Male actors have more often than not, held the responsibility of the entire movie on their shoulders with the female actors providing a refreshing break with a sultry song and dance sequence or merely playing the supporting actor in the production.
The 1950’s, 60’s and early 70’s saw heroines being cast in roles that were of the “Sati Savitri” mould. They played society’s perception of what women should be like, ideally good wives and mothers.
Lead actresses shied away from these roles and those who did end up playing the “bad” role of the other woman, i.e.: a raunchy secretary or a woman with loose morals who had no inhibitions in shedding off her clothes and morals.
It was, however, always the “good” woman who triumphed sending out an unconscious message to the impressionable society on how women should behave. Movies such as “Mother India”, “Madhumathi” and “Kagaaz ka Phool” illustrate this point.
While the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s saw Bollywood actresses breaking away from this mould and taking on more daring roles, they, unfortunately, fell into another bracket.
Playing the damsel in distress became the trend with heroines performing dance sequences around trees with the heroes and dress up as glamour dolls.
While this trend brought about the “feel good” factor that Hindi movies are famous for, it reduced the role of the female protagonist from an actor to that of a heroine.
Nevertheless, these films brought about a change to Bollywood movies, transforming them from solemn films to entertaining movies.
The 21st century saw Bollywood movies undergo a new transformation. The new breeds of actresses were ready to pave their own paths in cinema like never before.
They understood that being an actress was just a job and the characters they played did not define them as individuals.
This realization gave film-makers the chance to experiment with roles and subjects they did not dare to venture into before. Even the actresses of previous generations were inspired to take on new roles.
Take, for example, Tabu in the Amitabh Bachan starrer “Cheeni Kum”, plays the role of a 34-year old woman in love with a man 30 years her senior in an unconventional love story.
In another movie, “Page 3” set against the glamorous backdrop of media and celebrity life, Konkona Sen Sharma plays a journalist reporting on the glitzy world of celebrities only to get disillusioned by it in the end. These movies touch on topics that are relevant to today’s audience.
The role of women in Bollywood has undergone an awe-inspiring journey over the past five decades. Women have evolved in their roles and have seen several transformations from playing the ideal wife/mother to glamour doll to a serious actress.
They have continued to break conventions and set the bar higher for their male counterparts. Most importantly, they continue to make cinema that touches their audiences, both in India and worldwide.
Priya Florence Shah is the publisher of Naaree.com and the author of an emotional self-care book for women. In the book and online course, you’ll learn how to throw off the shackles of your own limiting beliefs, come into your power and design your destiny.
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Image source BollywoodBuzz
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