Nobody in Bollywood has to reinvent themselves as much as actresses. More than the celebrities, it's the roles they play that stick with an audience. At some point, those roles become a part of that image they have built over time.
As cinema grows, so is the way women are seen in films. Their roles have now taken centre-stage and are making a lasting impact on audiences. As Women's Day approaches, let's take a look at some of the iconic roles we've witnessed in recent times.
10 roles actresses brought into the mainstream
There may be thousands of characters actors play on a daily basis, but very few make the cut in being memorable. It's even harder for women to make that kind of mark on the audience, or so we think. Here are some actresses who have pushed the lid with their acting, and broken numerous glass ceilings. These characters are the ones that truly opened the floodgates when it came to bold and strong female characters. Thanks to them a strong female character is now in fashion.
In no particular order:
1. Rani (Queen)
When Queen came out in 2014, nobody expected that the film would become one of the most iconic films of the decade. For the modern woman, Kangana as Rani hit numerous relatable notes. There's nothing more impressive than a woman finding her own sense of self and independence. From the shy and scared girl to a confident woman, Rani taught us that women don't come in boxes. Women are whoever they decide to be. You can't argue with that.
2. Laila (Margarita with a Straw)
Margarita with a Straw (2015) is one of the most poignant stories we've had in Indian cinema, also one of the more underrated films. Laila played by Kalki Koechlin broke numerous stereotypes with her character, to show the human side of disability, sexuality and sense of self. Laila is a character that showed us life, at its truest.
3. Meera (NH10)
NH10 (2015) was dark and real all at once, at points so real it felt impossible. The movie with a dark premise for a thriller, Anushka Sharma as Meera proves it's a one-woman show. There are no heroes in the film, quite literally. Meera rips the system apart like nobody else. Here's one where law takes a backseat, and the woman is in the driver's seat.
4. Veronica (Cocktail)
Veronica in Cocktail (2012) was a liberated character, but so in love. Deepika Padukone who brought Veronica to life tells the story of another kind of woman, one who makes you realise, liberation isn't in the stereotypes. Love has shades and Veronica shows us how love can be toxic, of course with a lot more style than any of us can ever hope to have.
Perhaps one of the most relatable and independent female characters of our time is Piku in the film of the same name which released in 2015. This is one case, where the transformation is different and the love is between father and daughter. Piku is a working woman, irritable, and cares deeply about her father. One that stays single because of him as well. Deepika Padukone as Piku is a whole mood. This is one movie that should have a sequel.
6. Jhilmil (Barfi)
Barfi (2012) was Ranbir Kapoor's film, but Jhilmil was a character you couldn't ignore even if you wanted to. Jhilmil as an autistic girl is all heart and only heart. Priyanka Chopra pulled off the role so well that at some points with a simple expression she can make you smile, and just as easily make you cry. Jhilmil is unforgettable.
7. Vidya Bagchi (Kahaani)
If Kahaani (2012) didn't make you think up is down and down is up, then you're one of the very few. But, Vidya Balan as Vidya Bagchi was a force to be reckoned with, in Kahaani 1 and 2. Rarely do we get to see female characters this strong, and this capable? We know capable and strong women, however, we rarely see them on screen. Therefore on screen, they become an anomaly. Vidya Bagchi is one every woman secretly aspires to be.
8. Shashi Godbole (English Vinglish)
Sashi Godbole is a woman many of us may know. English Vinglish when it came out in 2012, created some excitement because we'd get to see Sridevi on the big screen again. What she did with Shashi was magic, but it's the simplicity of the character that touches you. Even simple characters have emotional complexities we rarely make an effort to understand. Sashi Godbole's quest for respect hit a very deep chord.
9. Veera (Highway)
Veera in Highway (2014) is a character that stays with you much after the film is done. Alia Bhatt imbued innocence and emotion into Veera, which is why her monologue moves you to tears. Veera leaves you conflicted about what is more threatening. Veera found herself through a kidnapping, not the best way, but perhaps a lot more effective for all the wrong reasons.
10. Sehmat (Raazi)
An Indian Muslim spy, a woman, and a true story. Sehmat is a triple threat for all those who hold stereotypes very dear to themselves. Sehmat played by Alia Bhatt in Raazi (2018) is perhaps the most recent film in this list, but is one that is profound. Sehmat shows us numerous sides, numerous questions, throwing us into an entanglement of stereotypes, political ideology, gender notions, love, and sacrifice. With so much to address the film and the character could have gone very wrong. That was clearly not the case here. She is a product of all the divisions we've made in society. When they show that she has lost so much of herself at the end, that's when you question the idea of sacrifice. Sehmat is a character that makes it to the History books, quite literally.
It's necessary to acknowledge that there are numerous characters played by amazing actresses that didn't make it to this list. That is not to say that they are any less worthy. Like these characters and many more, perhaps Bollywood will create more lovable female characters, of all shapes, forms and sizes that diversity becomes the norm. Hopefully, there'll come a day when lists like these serve no meaning. Happy International Women's Day!