8 Indian Films For The Feminists’ Soul

Who said feminism sprouted to destroy men? Its only intent was to shoot straight at the patriarchal motifs stitched in society and that’s that. But like a bullet from a gun it burns a few sentiments, no it’s not a scary time for men. Just listen to women because trust me you cannot fathom the female experience, trust me because I grew up a girl.

I didn’t grow up in Bollywood. In fact, far away from it. But I did grow up a girl. Do I have a heart? Yeah, of course. But I had to put my feelings on pause. I realised no one was listening, because no one was there to tell. The hero was everything, it’s the hero’s heroism and the heroine’s beauty. If not entirely but a bit, Bollywood is, to a great extent, to blame for our country’s inability to deal with reality. With a jaded lens, we filmed stories after stories. Come 2019 and our rear view is not so foggy anymore, we do feel good about the coming years!

Compliant females with ‘desirable’ hourglass figures don’t work anymore. Muscular, machismo dripping heroes with the ‘perfect’ jaw line don’t work anymore. The reel needs to reflect the real. The hero in the movies is the struggle one partakes, the hero now is the story. And a feminist film is not a sequence with a group of women plotting evils against men, it’s a narration from a female perspective and that’s that.

Arth (1982)

The filmmaker pedals through themes of love, lust and infidelity. Our heroine isn’t left for dust in the face of betrayal, she in fact rises from the ashes of her past like a phoenix, with a newfound sense of freedom she didn’t know about before. This film taught women, love is not so unconditional for what’s not right is never acceptable. Whoever said ‘a woman without her man is nothing’ needs to watch this film right now!

Astitva (2000)

For many, Astitva is a feminist manifesto, it’s a film with a strong flavour of feminism, sour for many to devour. For me, it’s a story about a woman who’s searching for her identity, do people even realise the gravity of such a crisis? I doubt.

Women come into the world with a name that changes to her husband’s, she is never her mother’s or her father’s, how could she be her own? She then gets married to a clan of strangers she has to call her own.

Her time, her strength, her thoughts, she gives it all to her family, so much so, she’s left vulnerable, reliant on her husband and even her son. Our protagonist is exploited, so much so, she’s exhausted to a point of no charge.

Astitiva also hits on the theme of ‘equality’. If a man has a ‘thirst’, can’t a woman? The male pettiness bewilders me to a point of insanity.

Queen (2014)

A man does not rescue our protagonist, rather he abandons her. Rani is not your usual damsel in distress, instead of sulking behind closed doors she becomes her own. This film embodies feminism in the right spirit, Rani sure is bold and strong, but Rani is also a woman with an innocent heart that respects and yearns for more.

If you tilt the your vision toward other characters in Queen, you’ll see how the film has vindicated that our grandmothers can be the most progressive member of the family, single moms are not ‘abla naris‘, men cry too no matter a lizard is the reason, a girl does not have to be ‘proper’ and that it’s totally okay to be your boisterous self if you are. A girl’s life does not end if she’s left all by herself at the alter.

Piku (2015)

Our female lead is not entangled in a toxic romance acting as a side piece or an ornament in the film. Piku is a fiercely independent architect, yes a-r-c-h-i-t-e-c-t. Piku is a woman who enjoys pre-marital sex that’s often casual and before you establish anything in your head, her father knows. He in fact loves to introduce her as ‘financially, emotionally and sexually independent’, because isn’t she? Bhaskor who thinks marriage is a ‘low IQ decision’ is perhaps Bollywood’s most radical father.

While old parents may become a man’s load for daughters are married away to take care of their ‘own’ family, Piku is a woman who takes care her of hypochondriac father. She is not a woman playing victim, she is not a woman who needs a prince charming to come riding in through the harrowing clouds in her life, to steal away all her problems, she is far away from cliches, a real woman in a real household, calling the shots.

Parched (2016)

Lajjo is childless, Rani is a widow and Bijli is a dancer, a sex worker, and together they’re all fighting their own demons. Parched is a story of women simply ‘thirsting’ for ‘more’. If you’ve watched the movie, according to the filmmaker, her friends abroad who’re per se nothing like these ‘Indian’ ‘rural women’ have too stamped witness to similar patriarchal terms.

The women in this film are real women with real problems, these are those women who were lost in the wilderness of complacent ones (a caricature our male-directors have often filled with big names). These women don’t need saving for Lajjo, Rani and Bijli very well know they are capable of saving themselves. These women are not those you often see put in a pit wrestling each other, these women are not the epitome of sacrificial love, these women are those who know how to take a charge despite the circumstances.

Very few films claim to be embedded in feminist philosophy and even fewer than that number actually live up to the standards. Parched is undoubtedly one such film.

Pink (2016)

Pink is a hard-hitting film. Think for yourself, how many times has consent been taken for granted? The women in this film stand guilty to their own charges of ‘character assassination’. Meenal, Falak and Andrea are constantly cornered by a man with not the right intentions and a society that thinks girls like ‘them’ need to be ‘punished’.

Pink opens the eye to a world plagued with illogical prejudices, widespread misogyny and outright injustice.

Dear Zindagi (2016)

Alia Bhatt in this film plays a relatable ‘Kiara-cter‘. Difficulties strike like lightening bolts as she struggles to conform to a fixed-salaried job, the norm of getting married, not expressing one’s opinions before elders and being with a single partner for life – These things make no sense to her, the fact that she has to validate the steps she takes in ‘her life’ digs a hole in her heart which leaves a scar on her mind.

The film’s plot is a crusade against those who want to mould girls into a woman they think she should be. Her sleepless nights land her into a chair opposite the therapist’s. Kiara then learns to accept herself for who she is.

Dear Zindagi is a vitreous, cognisable depiction of the duplicity that exists in society. The best part of this film? Our ‘heroine’s’ life doesn’t not revolve around a man she dearly loves, she does brood over men but she’s not a ‘boyfriend’s girlfriend’, a ‘man’s wife’, a ‘father’s daughter’ or a ‘brother’s sister’, she is Kiara.

Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017)

This film is about women looking for freedom from oppression. The women in this film, however, pursue their dreams in secret, under a metaphorical ‘burkha‘. While it burns to see them not raise a finger in the face of toxic patriarchy, it is somewhat liberating to see them soar high in the blue skies of their secret lives. The women in this film only get what they want by lying, a deep reflection on the mirror of society.

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