Director: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Cast: Tapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Tariang, Amitabh Bachchan
Sexual consent is an easy concept to understand. No means no. But for some men, it’s hard to grasp and in Pink, lawyer Deepak Sehgal firmly said, “No is not a word but an entire sentence. It doesn’t matter if the girl is your girlfriend, a sex worker, or even your wife, no means no.” The story revolves around three young and independent women fighting for their rights in a case of sexual assault and going against intimidation and corruption to bring their attackers to justice. They live alone, party, have male friends, drink, and wear short clothes, all of which makes Indian society classify them as sexually available and of low standards. The girls’ only mistake was partying with the wrong men who can’t accept consequences of not understanding the simple one-syllable “NO”. The film addresses deplorable double standards of Indian society that women are subject to daily: male privilege, slut-shaming and misogyny, thus making this movie a must-watch.
Get a glimpse of the arresting court case:
Director: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, Lisa Haydon, Rajkummar Rao, Mish Boyko
When Queen was released, it restored my faith in good quality Bollywood cinema that puts feminism in a right perspective. It’s a rare film with a realistic plot that’s entertaining from start to finish. The story follows the adventures of Kangana Ranaut’s character Rani, an Indian woman on her solo honeymoon after her fiancé dumps her a day before the wedding. The portrayal of real and obvious emotions is where the true beauty lies as we see Rani transform from a frightened girl in a foreign land to a strong, street-smart woman who travels to various countries and makes the greatest friends. Ranaut maintains a balanced set of characteristics for Rani, showcasing a bold yet soft woman and throwing stereotypes out the window. It tackles the gender disparity of educated women sacrificing their careers for a family by displaying a true Indian woman’s fight against the injustice committed against her.
Enjoy a few Rani’s shenanigans:
Chak De! India (2007)
Director: Shimit Amin
Cast: Shilpa Shukla, Chitrashi Rawat, Vidya Malvade, Tanya Abrol, Sagarika Ghatge, Shah Rukh Khan.
Chak De! India is unapologetically one of the boldest feminist films in Indian cinema. The film follows a fictional story of the Indian women’s national field hockey team in India, inspired by the team’s win at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. They start out as underdogs but rise up the ranks of the international tournament to beat the 3-time winner Australian team. What makes it special is that it explicitly portrays that girls should be allowed to get out there and do anything and that they’re just as good as men, while never losing heart, vulnerability, and humour. This film is a personal favourite of mine as it’s got a cast of terrific characters with fascinating dynamics between women, which were usually reserved for relations between both sexes or just men. The story also effortlessly explores religious bigotry, the India-Pakistan partition legacy, and regional prejudice and sexism in modern India. Overall, this gem of a film combats various important issues in contemporary India and is definitely a must-watch for everyone.
Catch these amazing women in action here:
Director: Imtiaz Ali
Cast: Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda
In the coming-of-age road film Highway, Alia proves women are more than just pretty faces with her portrayal of the mature and charismatic kidnap victim Veera, who ironically finds freedom while being kidnapped and on the road. Her conventional life is interrupted in the best way as she escapes the life of a rich industrialist’s daughter sleepwalking her way into a luxurious but domesticated marriage. She bonds with her captors and begins to blossom, free from the shackles of her family’s overprotectiveness. Veera’s history with rape shows how confining girls within their homes doesn’t prevent them from sexual assault and it’s a story that, sadly enough, a lot of young women connect with.
Watch snippets of Veera’s transformative journey here:
Director: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Indraneil Sengupta, Saswata Chatterjee
Set in a visually striking version of Kolkata, Kahaani (Hindi for story) perfectly showcases woman power in its true essence, when Vidya Balan’s anxious, pregnant but resolute character is seen heading to the police station immediately after leaving an aeroplane from London. Now, despite her desperation showing, Vidya’s mannerisms reflect commitment and determination. Her pregnant body shows helplessness but she’s smart to take advantage of that. All this floods Kahaani’s narrative, which is full of twists and turns, while exploring motherhood and feminism in a different manner. It plays on how people blindly trust a pregnant woman because well, she’s clearly “harmless,” right? Watch the film and see it’s interesting presentation of exactly that “harmlessness” and doesn’t miss out on the sequel.
Take a sneak peek of both films here:
There are lots more feminist Indian films that sadly didn’t make the cut like Mardaani, NH10, Dedh Ishqiya, Dor, No One Killed Jessica, Dear Zindagi, and more so definitely check them all out! You won’t regret it!