Men and Women are the two sides of a coin that is supposed to be the balance of society. Unfortunately, it’s society itself that assigns pre-conceived roles to both female and male individuals that causes hindrance in performing the roles as they end up limiting the capabilities of the said individuals. Films, taking a clue from the society, to which it so closely mirrors, more than often portray women in a different shade by limiting their prowesses. However, there are filmmakers, who have made efforts to paint an accurate picture of a woman, her strengths and her capabilities. Here are some of our favourite moments of the movies where the better gender of the two, took the cinematic experience to a whole new level. Please note, this is not any form of ranking in any order. Just our gratitude to the wonderful women out there!
Bimal Roy’s ‘Bandini’ (1963)
Made in 1963, Bimal Roy’sBandini’ is much more than just a film. It is a stinging commentary about women, their plights, their sacrifices and their love. If you haven’t seen the film, do watch it. Look out for the moment when Nutan decides to leave the village to look for Ashok Kumar. It’s a poignant moment of the movie where her actions decide her course of life. A power-packed performance by Nutan armed with a haunting “O jaanewale ho sake to laut ke aana” makes you tremble to your bones.
Emerald Fennell’s ‘Promising Young Woman’ (2020)
Once a promising young medical student, Cassie was forever damaged, deeply traumatized after her best friend was raped at a frat party, an event witnessed by the party goers. Left to care for her friend, she did so until the young woman took her own life, supposedly, so ashamed at what had taken place. Though Cassie took the crime to the authorities and the college Dean, she got no action, it was quietly swept away leaving her devastated and disillusioned. Looking or revenge, each night she goes out, much to the chagrin of her parents and pretends to be drunk, waiting for a guy to pick her up and take her back to their place. She allows them to get just so far, and as they are moving in to rape her she sits up and asks clearly, the frightening words, “What are you doing?” stunning them. Mercilessly, Cassie leaves with their manhood in tatters, destroyed, the men quivering in terror for what she does to them. Realizing she is not an easy mark, hell no is she not, they panic, they sputter, they proceed to make utter fools of themselves while making clear they are predators and rapists. Carey Mulligan is astonishing as something far more than your average avenging angel, she is an intelligent hellion very aware of the price she might pay for what she is doing, but that intelligence also tells her everything she does is worth everything she is doing.
Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Masoom’ (1983)
A child out of wedlock, looking for his dad reaches the Malhotra household and all hell breaks loose. At the centre of this maelstrom is Shabana Azmi’s character Indu who despises this child at first. Love for a child makes this woman gradually warm up to him as a dotting mother, which soon takes over a hurting wife. Shabana Azmi played this role with amazing nuances that are now the subject of folklores. And who can forget the soulful melodies such as ‘Tujhse Naaraz Nahin Zindagi’ and ‘Do Naina Ek Kahani’?
Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ (2019)
It is a scalding, often seething study of the end of a marriage between a red hot stage director, Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), a one-time rising film actress who gave up her career to come to New York and build a theatre company with Charlie. Married for years now, with a young son, Nicole leaves him in New York, takes her child and files for divorce when offered a TV job in Los Angeles. Reeling in shock Charlie fights back, wanting his boy to know he at least fought for him, but he cannot really believe she gave up on him. In astonishing performances, Driver and Johansson capture the love, the anguish, the deep rage and disbelief of two people coming apart who still love each other, but cannot be together anymore. One of the finest scenes of their argument, shows the depth of their confusion, they say terrible things to one another and finally, Charlie tells her he wishes her dead, before sobbing and dropping to the floor ashamed, at which point she comforts him. Scarlett Johansson, in the more difficult role as the aggressor who wants out of the marriage, but without flesh on her teeth, is equally superb, breaking new ground as an actress. The courage and pain are on every frame. And how brilliant was Laura Dern with her fiery speech about society’s take on women – ‘You will always be held to a different, higher standard. And it’s fucked up, but that’s the way it is !!’
Gulzar’s ‘Ijaazat’ (1987)
In Gulzar’s tale of the other woman, we see a beautiful, strong and determined woman Maya living life to the fullest without caring about the storm she brought into the lives of Mahender and Sandhya. On the other hand, there is Sandhya who’s aware of her husband’s affection towards his old flame but is unwilling to share him with her, as she should be. A mature romance between the trio pulls a lump in the throat where ultimately cruel fate is the decider. ‘Aap Ki Bhulne Ki Aadat Nahin Gayi, Mere Rakhne Ki Aadat Nahin Gayi’
Ivan Ayer’s ‘Soni’ (2019)
It’s tough to be a woman. In a world that reeks of toxic masculinity, a woman barely manages to speak up. Those who do, are labelled audacious but at the same time, victimised and largely marginalised. The notion of someone’s gender, which’s not male, is often considered weaker by default. Which opens up a bigger problem in society. We consider ourselves broadminded yet we look down and judge a woman, especially in an authoritative position. We question their decision-making ability. We mansplain them to the hilt. We. The male gender. And that’s the beginning of the problem. Debutant director Ivan Ayr’s ‘Soni’ explores this theme, through the eyes of two female police officers, struggling hard in a man’s world, in this case, the Delhi Police. The film is led by a fine Saloni Batra, who plays Kalpana and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan, playing the titular role. The women shine in their respective performances. Almost as the yin to the yang, they support each other to come up with a superb portrayal of two righteous women. Saloni’s restrained act is equally matched with Geetika’s ferocious portrayal of a woman, who is provoked at the hint of injustice.
Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ (2012-2013)
The gun-totting Corleones of Wasseypur and the revenge saga of Sardar, Ramadhir and Faizal took centre stage. While the macho men ruled the majority of the screen time, the womaniya were on the top of their games equally. Richa Chaddha as the feisty Nagma, Reema Sen as the vindictive Durga and Huma Quereshi as the quirky Mohsina blazed the screen in this five hours epic. Lethal was never this cool. Even behind the screen, the trailblazing music was helmed by the supremely talented Sneha Khanvilkar. Truly in every aspect – ‘Teri Keh Ke Lunga!’
Sujoy Ghosh’s ‘Kahaani’ (2012)
The mother of all stories – ‘Kahaani’ brought countless laurels to the director and the involved actors. The astute portrayal of a woman in distress, in search of her missing husband, was wonderfully portrayed by Vidya Balan. After the rousing success of ‘Dirty Picture’(2011) where she played Silk Smitha, Vidya solidified her position as one of the best actors of her times. But ‘Kahaani’ brought out a rare side of Ms Balan- her vulnerability. As the climax unfolds, the audience gets bamboozled as the so-called vulnerability turns into a cold-blooded vendetta. Truly, hell hath no fear like a woman scorned!
Rahul Chaturvedi’s ‘Forbidden Tikka Masala’ (2018)
Who or what is forbidden? Isn’t it just a point of view, from a different frame of reference? Someone’s truth, is always another’s pretension. A revolutionary for someone is a terrorist for another. Then, something which is unacceptable for someone, can that become their way to perceive life, in a whole new light? Can the ‘forbidden’ become ‘life-altering’? ‘Forbidden Tikka Masala’ is the story of Gayatri, a strict vegetarian, who mistakenly ends up eating chicken, at her farewell party. Her world goes topsy turvy as she realises her folly. Haplessly praying to her gods for her innocent mistake, Gayatri somehow cannot forget the delicious taste of the curry. A lifelong vegetarian, she is unable to comprehend the fact that the food which’s condemned by her religion, can taste so good and can even give competition to her culinary skills, which she’s so proud of. In a tryst to find the life-altering chicken recipe, she sets out on a journey of a lifetime. Ms Balindar Johal plays the protagonist Gayatri who portrays the old school charm in a manner, that’s quite adorable. Her character is modelled after the countless sub-continental immigrants, who find it difficult in adjusting to an entirely unfamiliar culture.
Asit Sen’s ‘Khamoshi’ (1970)
Waheeda Rehman played the heartbroken nurse Radha who falls hopelessly in love with her patient in the process of his treatment, thus blurring the line between personal and professional. Her portrayal is so brilliant that she towers over her peers like Rajesh Khanna and Dharmendra. There shall always be a constant comparison between her performance and that of Suchitra Sen’s from the Bengali original “Dwip Jele Jaaye” which’s nothing short of phenomenal. But the romantic in me tilts towards Ms Waheeda Rehman’s performance. Every time I see the last scene where she goes insane, my heart breaks a little more!
Finally, to all the beautiful ladies who graced our lives in many forms and roles, thank you so much. May we not only celebrate this one day but our entire lives of being in debt of you and your ilk.
Happy International Women’s Day!