When you think of Bollywood, what comes to your mind? Karan Johar was one answer that came up the most from different corners of the room, followed by romance, extravagant sets, songs (oh-so-many songs!), dancing, and favourite celebrities. Nobody's answer was a story or a film. It only took me a quick survey to learn that that's what Bollywood stands for. Sadly, that's not what cinema is all about. Sure, entertainment is a big part of showbiz, but that's not enough especially in 2019 when people crave infotainment, real stories, and movies that have a moral obligation to the society.
For that, Bollywood buffs turn to these women who have a brilliant understanding of cinema and it reflects in their work. These filmmakers and actors are known for giving hard-hitting performances that leave a positive impact on us all. Thriving in a historically male-dominated industry, these women have changed the direction of the wind and reminded us of the power of cinema.
The Indian-origin Canada-based director and screenwriter, Deepa Mehta is best known for her Elements trilogy titled Fire (1996), Earth (1999) and Water (2005). Her choice of topics is just as selective as her choice of actors for her films. Having repeatedly worked with brilliant actors like Nandita Das, Shabana Azmi, Lisa Ray, Rahul Khanna as well as Aamir Khan, Deepa's films revolve around real matters such as communal violence, homosexuality, patriarchy, misogyny and ill-treatment of widows. For this and her courageous efforts of making such films in a 1990s India, the filmmaker has been honoured with numerous national as well as international awards and accolades, including an Oscar nomination for Earth.
Didn't you just love Dear Zindagi? And late actress Sridevi's English Vinglish? Well, of course, you did! And Gauri Shinde is the director and writer of these two brilliant films. Films that told us beautiful stories of women and talked about their insecurities, proving that Bollywood is much more than just mirch masala. Mental health and struggling with spoken English are issues that most of us have faced at one point or another. But Bollywood didn't offer enough representation (positive representation) until Gauri came along. The award-winning director made her debut with these films and both of them got praise from movie buffs and critiques alike. From a middle-aged homemaker to a career-oriented, urban woman, her feminist narratives offer a take away for all.
By doing Bollywood films like Gully Boy, Ribbon, Margarita With A Straw, Waiting, Dev.D to name a few, Kalki Koechlin has proved time and again what cinema means to her. The actress has carved a niche for herself in the industry by doing unconventional films with a social message and stories that have more to offer than just entertainment value. In fact, not a lot of people know this but Kalki also does theatre and writes a lot of plays. The French-Indian actress and writer has also received a National Award for her performance in Margarita With A Straw in which she played a rebellious young woman with cerebral palsy who unexpectedly discovers her bisexual orientation.
When talking about women in Bollywood who are redefining the scenario, one cannot not talk about Kangana Ranaut. The actress, who has been in the industry for around 13 years, recently made her directorial debut with the historical epic Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi. The self-made woman entered Bollywood with no backing and made a name for herself by choosing movies that are like her--badass and beautiful. Queen, the Tanu Weds Manu series, Simran, Judgementall Hai Kya, to name a few, are proof enough. Her unabashed, outspoken personality may have landed her in controversies, but nothing can sway her determination to be a better version of herself. Not just a feminist, Kangana is also quite politically aware and promotes her patriotic ideologies to the youth of the country.
Having done women and youth-centric movies like Mr. And Mrs. Iyer, Page 3, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag: Journey of a Woman, Wake Up Sid and Lipstick Under My Burkha, Konkona Sen Sharma established herself as a phenomenal actress in the very beginning of her career. Daughter of legendary filmmaker Aparna Sen, Konkona also ventured into directing with A Death in the Gunj, a Hindi film that won her and the film multiple awards including Best Director (foreign language) at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. All her roles reflect a feminist edge thereby paving way for a paradigm shift.
Director, producer and writer, Meghna Gulzar is known for making films around real people and real incidents that need to be known. Her subject choice and emotional quotient are what leave people teary-eyed when they leave the theatre after watching a Meghna Gulzar film. The most popular example would be the award-winning film Raazi, followed by Talvar. In fact her next film, which stars Deepika Padukone, Chhapak is also based on the life of Laxmi Agarwal, an acid attack survivor. Her 2002 film Filhaal talked about surrogacy which was quite a bold choice at the time. All her films have one thing in common--an urge to inspire people, to make them think. And the daughter of the famous poet and lyricist, Gulzar Saab, does a seamless job at it.
Radhika Apte is our #WomanCrushWednesday, Thursday, every day! Hard-hitting films like Andhadhun, Parched, Phobia and her many Netflix originals including Lust Stories, Sacred Games and Ghoul have received global recognition. So much so, that Netflix India's Instagram account once called itself 'Official fan account of Radhika Apte'. The theatre actor has worked in different (read seven) language films including Hindi, English, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam, and has received many national and international accolades for her gripping performances. Is there anything she can't do? Hell no!
The brain behind Kalki's Margarita With A Straw, Shonali Bose is a National Award Winner who is all set for her next big release with Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Farhan Akhtar in The Sky Is Pink. Having seen the much-hyped trailer, the audience is expecting nothing short of brilliance from the amazing filmmaker. Shonali's films have a history of going places including international film festivals like TIFF and Berlin. Her films MWAS and Amu were played in over 150 film festivals and won over 40 prestigious international awards. But what she is most proud of is being a mother, and that kind of emotional connect reflects in her narratives too.
If there's anyone in the industry who has redefined "Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment," it is Vidya Balan. Her most famous works include The Dirty Picture, Paa, Parineeta, Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, and lately, Mission Mangal. See what's common in these films--strong and unafraid characters that are full of estrogen, emotions and badassery. Known for pioneering a change in the portrayal of women in Bollywood with her roles in female-centric films, Vidya is the recipient of several awards, including a National Film Award as well as a Padma Shri among others.
Find us a list of top filmmakers in Bollywood in which Zoya Akhtar's name is not included, we dare you. If you do manage to find one, you're clearly reading the wrong article. After Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do, Zoya is celebrating the success of Ranveer Singh's Gully Boy and there's no stopping her. Her content is the whole package with contemporary, relevant and entertaining angles coming together to form one genius story that can be enjoyed by everyone alike. As an artist, Zoya has always been receptive of criticism but, as a human being, she never let that change what she truly believed in. Her films address urban issues with nuance and poise which has helped her make a niche for herself, despite hailing from a famous family. You go, girl!
Featured Image: Instagram