Changing trends- Portrayal of woman in Indian Cinema

After  much thought, I decided to write on the portrayal of women in Indian Cinema…a topic which has been making rounds after the super success of Vidya Balan at the box office with two hit movies back to back- The Dirty Picture and Kahaani. Controversies about women in lead roles have always existed, and they still do. Nowadays,  I hear old people giving out their remarks about the earlier times, and what the world was like. They talk about how, in their time, REAL actresses like Meena Kumari, Vyjayanthimala  and even my all time favourite Madhubala acted…and how today’s actresses like Katrina Kaif and Kareena Kapoor and the rest of their brigade don’t match up.

This got me thinking. If this were true, then why do these actresses get awards? Why are their movies blockbusters?

And I got an epiphany..”It is not the portrayal of woman in movies but our own misconception of the woman of being weak that has changed for the better and become more FREEDOMISTIC (A new word I made up just now)”.

In earlier times, in the 1950s or 60s, a woman was just seen as someone who would do the domestic work and be submissive to her husband and in-laws. The portrayal of women in cinema however changed with the movie ‘Mother India’ But there was still a long journey ahead to see a woman as someone who could BE the entire movie, with no mention of the “hero”.
In the1970s and 80s, many movies were

made but still there was nothing that I can think of that portrayed women in a strong light. This was the reign of the portrayal of women as “damsels in distress”,

Shabana Azmi and Rekha were icons who somewhat changed the way acting for a woman was thought of…their roles in movies were about a strong women fighting it out for their rights. Shabana Azmi’s Godmother and Rekha’s Umrao Jaan were splendid examples of the arrival of women as leads in movies.

After them, actors like Nandita Das, Priyanka Chopra, Konkana Sen Sharma and Tabu acted in films that changed the perception surrounding women and even gave the society some issues to think of. Even prompting them to rethink their views that women were not just objects of desire, but forces to be reckoned with. Chandni Bar, 1947, Earth, Page 3 and other movies created an impression and some of them were box-office hits.

But still, it was only after Vidya Balan’s blockbuster phenomena that really it was time for the Indian actresses to come forward and say proudly that they had arrived and can rule the box office without the need of heroes!

Movies and our society represent each other. The changing portrayal of women in cinema reflects the change in attitudes towards them, and perhaps a change in womankind themselves. I hope that cinema fosters a positive image of women.

Varun Gopal

Someone who is trying to find what potential he actually has...loves watching movies and reading novels and quizzing...with a passion for writing..

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