6 Great Women Characters in Hindi Cinema

Statutory warning : This list is by no means exhaustive. This is a reflection on the part of the author of the women characters who have wholly fascinated him in Indian Cinema.

The sad lot of women in cinema is due to them being treated like a) Wall Paper b) Scenery (see : wallpaper) c) sex objects d) objects. Thus films with women in powerful central author-backed roles come few and far in-between (and Madhur Bhandarkar's films don't count, because they a-suck). Thus there are few opportunities for strong women characters getting portrayed on screen. There are of course numerous (and yet too few) instances of such celluloid sizzle, and below is a list of six such instances wherein the lady in picture (literally) packed a punch.

6) Sweety (Kaminey)

In a film full of anti-heroes, Sweety was the ultimate anti-heroine. She was perhaps the first 'Overly Attached Girlfriend' before the meme became popular. She literally cons her naive boyfriend into getting her pregnant, then compels him to get married to him, and before he can take another breath she ensures that her honeymoon is completely planned. Then she goes into an endearing jig during her own wedding

But make no mistake, Sweety isn't some back-stabbing bitch of a character. She really loves her boyfriend, and when she finds out that her own brother (a big shot Don) is about to murder the hell out of him, she dons this avatar

She sprays bullets across her bhai's entire gang and doesnt hesitate before pulling the trigger against her evil brother (unfortunately she runs out of bullets by then). Sweety was an interesting foray into a different female character, she was all that heroines aren't supposed to be, and this is what makes her different.

5) Paro (Dev D)

Speaking of women dancing at their own weddings, we present to you Paro :

Picture this first in Hindi Cinema. A girl who outdoes her boyfriend in sexual banter (at long distance in ISD), and who plans their sexual encounter (instead of acting coy and saying yeh sab paap hai etc), never before and never after have we seen a girl in hindi cinema carrying a mattress on her cycle in the field for a planned sexual tryst with her doomed lover.

And when he dumps her for reasons stupid, she promptly dumps him back (to coin a phrase) and tells her that she is getting married to someone else. When the hero asks if she is making fun of him for doing this, she says, 'Nahi, tumhari auqat dikha rahi hoon'.

And she too does an impromptu dance at her wedding thus

Later in the film Paro goes and tries to clean up the act of the self-destructive DevD, but draws a limit at love. She frustrates his sexual attempts and leaves him, her only motive being his well being (both physical and clinical), she has moved on and she is strong enough to leave the loser who left her.

4) Mammo (Mammo)

Moving onto a totally different kind of character, we present to you a film which shows what Shyam Benegal was capable of during his hay days. It starred everyone's favourite grandma in the titular role of Mammo

It is part of Benegal's Khalid Mohammad trilogy (the other two movies being Sardari Begum and Zubeida), and it tells the story of a woman who has been forced to move to Pakistan post partition, but once her husband dies she moves to Mumbai to live with her sister on a temp visa. She is truly Wodehousian in her ways, and gets by with a few bribes (to the neighbourhood Police Inspector, so that he extends her visa indefinitely), some lies (to protect her grandson and to be his cool grand aunt) and a lot of laughter (to generally improve the lot of her sister and her grand-nephew (by making her life happier, and sharing with the boy among other things, a packet of cigarettes).

Unfortunately once the neighbourhood inspector gets shifted, she is deported back to Pakistan, but being the artful character that she is, she fakes her own death and comes back to India permanently.

3) Vidya Bagchi (Kahaani)

Kahaani is one of the best movies to come out of our cinema in the past two-three years. There, I said it.

And the biggest reason for that is the character of Vidya (Bidda) Bagchi, so convincingly portrayed in the film by Vidya (Bidda) Balan that she fools every character in the film (including the friendly neighbourhood policeman) and everyone in the audience

Dreamboat and 'simple' Policeman
She even makes mincemeat out of the cunning Khan, and most of all when in the end at the big reveal she leaves entire theaters gasping.

We see, love, caress, explore Calcutta through her eyes and her painful story, and once when the story ends we are loathe to leave the hall because we want to see more of Vidya Bagchi literally kicking ass on the screen.

2) The Village Women (Mirch Masala)

The central character in the movie was the lovely Smita Patil, it was a story set in Colonial times about a village headed by a tyrannical subedar (Naseer sir) who believes that all he surveys is rightfully his.

And this includes the lovely Smita Patil. During the course of the film and the subedar's oppression, the heroine becomes the object of illicit desire of the Subedar. He promptly gets slapped by her for his advances, as one thing turns to another it culminates into her taking refuge in a Mirch factory while the Subedar literally stands outside the doors with his entire army. Because he is one of those stubborn idiots who likes taking things to the extreme.

The entire village gets caught in this with most of the men folk asking the heroine to give into the Subedar to ensure no harm comes to the rest of the women, and this is where the rest of the women come into picture. 

What follows is the entire village women (consisting of a stellar supporting cast of the Pathak sisters and Deepti Naval) using one of the most novel methods at defense/retribution. Taking advantage of the fact that the heroine is at a mirch factory, the women bomb the subedar and his army with raw spices leaving a flabbergasted subedar helpless.

1) Bandini (Nutan)

Bimal Roy had a penchant for presenting strong female characters on screen. And in his films, Bandini reigns supreme. It had the heart-breakingly beautiful Nutan in the title role

In fact Nutan was so pretty that one can easily forgive her for Mohnish Behl. The film was also blessed with everlasting songs (Mora Gora Ang Le le, Mere Sajan hai us paar)

The movie is about a woman who gives up most of her life and serves stoically a prison sentence. Circumstances hurtle her towards committing a crime which she commits and then owns up immediately. She serves out her predicament and leaves prison when her term gets over with her conscience clear. She finds love (or love finds her) in Prison in the form of a young and handsome Dharmender who plays a jail doctor.

Fortunately/Unfortunately she bumps into the lover she committed the crime for, and it turns out that her lover sacrificed their love life for the good of the nation. In the end she decides that love can be given another chance.

These are just a few of the great women characters in our cinema, please feel free to add your own to this list in the comments section below.


{ madhulika sinha } at: March 7, 2014 at 9:19 AM said...

you forgot the best ever, Nargis Dutt in Mother India

{ Hardik Meisheri } at: March 7, 2014 at 9:44 AM said...

And one more i guess From Gangs of wasseypur Nagma...!!

{ aashu } at: March 7, 2014 at 9:51 AM said...

Useless list ( for me ) without nargis ji in mother india

{ SK } at: March 7, 2014 at 10:19 AM said...

You mentioned some brilliant characters.
However, I would like to add Shabana Azmi in Arth. Her transition from a helpless housewife to a woman who would eventually save life of her husband's girlfriend was so natural and bold at the same time plus she did not fall in love with the first nice and supportive guy she met after her life fell apart ( which was so reassuring).

{ abhi } at: March 7, 2014 at 1:42 PM said...

bandit queen



there r many good roles

{ abhi } at: March 7, 2014 at 1:44 PM said...


{ rusty } at: March 7, 2014 at 9:18 PM said...

Sweety is not a character that should have been included. In-fact I totally agree with others that nargis should have been part of it.

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