7 Bollywood Movies that Bring the Indian Feminist Movement Forward

Priyanka Chopra, a renowned Bollywood actresses (and Nick Jonas’s wife), once said that “films are a reflection of society and society is a reflection of films.” It is well known that India can do better when it comes to the treatment of women. They have been oppressed, dehumanized and treated as second class citizens in many parts of India. Bollywood followed suit.

Bollywood has been notorious for the ill-treatment of actresses. This includes a large gender wage gap, objectification in songs, less substantial roles in movies, etc. However, times have finally been changing. After the #MeToo movement and actresses finally speaking out on the discrimination, significant change is being seen in the movies. I’ve listed 7 (out of many) movies that have taken the feminist movement in Bollywood forward.

1. Raazi (2018)

via IMDb

When people think of spies, they normally think of a man. This true story is about a young, naive girl that becomes a spy for India by marrying into a family of Pakistani army officials. This movie pushed many boundaries by allowing a female to take on a role that is more commonly thought of as “masculine”. The icing on the cake is that this film was one of the most successful in terms of box office in 2018. This means that the Indian population is growing to accept the fact that women don’t have to conform to stereotypes placed on them.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

2. Padmavaat (2018)

Via India Forums

The lead actress, Deepika Padukone, states that she finds the journey of her character, a queen that goes to extreme lengths to protect her land, is relevant today because this is the era women are finally standing up for their rights with dignity. This movie was controversial on whether it was progressive or regressive for feminism. However, it was the most expensive movie made, had only Padukone on the poster and made her the highest paid actor in the business. It was also the most profitable movie of the year, earning a grand total of over $27.50 million. Despite having two very successful male actors in the movie, Padukone still got paid the most, making the statement that the gender pay gap has the potential to be diminished.

Where to stream it: Amazon Prime

3. Queen (2013)

via IMDb

Queen is known to be the trailblazer of female-led films. It came at a time where “women-oriented” movies were notorious for not making profits. The movie shows the journey of a shy, sheltered girl who morphs into an independent fierce woman. It attempted to normalize many taboos Indian girls have to face and highlighted that women don’t need men to truly be happy. This movie became the first of many films that had a female lead that saw ample success by earning $15 million worldwide and opened doors for other such movies to be made.

Where to stream it: Netflix

4. Pink (2016)

via IMDb

Despite having a population of 1.3 billion, sex is a topic that India typically shy away from. Unfortunately, that also means consent is a topic that is not discussed. This movie brought the concept of sexual consent and the systematically patriarchal judicial system to mass audiences. This movie follows three women who attempt to challenge the pre-existing legislation that perpetuate the rape culture in India. It touches upon sexual assault, treatment of women in court, and the hypocrisy that is ingrained in society. What added to the impact of this film is that Amitabh Bachchan, India’s most celebrated and respected actor, also acted in this movie. His support not only brought in larger audiences but also promoted the idea that the feminist movement also needs men like him. The movie got immense critical acclaim and won multiple awards.

Where to stream it: Netflix

5. Mary Kom (2014)

via Cine Material

A girl from a small town called Manipur goes on to become an Olympic level boxer. This biopic showcases the reality of women in sport. Her parents told her, “boxing gloves are not toys of women” and the boys in her community constantly teased her for having so much aggression. This movie showed Mary’s determination and endless hard work that led her to make the entire country proud. Priyanka Chopra changed her physique for this movie and trained for months to mimic the successful boxer. The movie not only showcased her acting skills, but also questioned the notion that only men can be successful as boxers.

Where to stream it: Netflix

6. Thappad (2020)

via IMDb

What happens when a husband slaps his wife out of anger during a party? The story centers around Amrita, who refuses to get over the slap, and stands up for herself despite everyone’s warnings. Her mother-in-law once tells her, “Women have to learn how to tolerate.” The entire movie works hard to prove her statement wrong. The movie weaves the story of 3 women of varied classes to show that misogyny and oppression can happen anywhere and everywhere.

7. Stree (2018)

Via IMDb

This horror-comedy was not only entertaining, but had a powerful message beneath the chaos: don’t mess with women. The movie flips gender roles as a witch comes out every year to abduct men, leaving only their clothes behind. For a refreshing change, it’s the women that have the responsibility of protecting the men, and the men shed the hard skin of machoism.

Where to stream: Netflix

These movies are many more go to show that the feminist movement is taking Bollywood by storm. In need of some girl power in your life? Stream these movies ASAP!

Comment below what your favorite female empowering movie is!

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