From Neerja’s bravery to Kia’s role reversal, Bollywood finally embraced feminism in 2016

Another year is about to end, and it’s time to analyse the best and worst performances, applauding the ones deserving and honour the ones that overwhelmed us. Bollywood is bidding 2016 a goodbye, and what a diverse year it has been in terms of cinema. Agreed, we were subjected to remakes that need not be made and recreated versions of classics that had us cringing, but this year, Bollywood finally came around and attempted at showcasing feminism in actual light. It was an unsteady step, but a step nevertheless, and a positive one.

If you were wondering that ‘Piku’ and ‘NH10’ in the year 2015 took all the cake for featuring female protagonists that are fierce and gutsy, here was 2016, to offer that, and much more.

The first breath of fresh air came in the form of ‘Neerja’, a biopic on the brave purser Neerja Bhanot, who died a martyr’s death while saving passengers from a hijacked flight. The movie gave us an insight into the character like never before; we laughed, we cried, and we mourned for the loss of a strong 23-year-old, who fought an abusive relationship, made a name for herself, and showed bravery of an iron woman at an age when no one could have imagined so, and an era when women were not thought so capable. Sonam Kapoor, despite being criticised, carried the movie on her shoulders and made us salute the brave heart with her heart rendering portrayal.


Moving on, we were introduced to IPS Abha Mathur, aka Priyanka Chopra in ‘Jai GangaaJal’, who fights corruption in the lesser-known district, despite facing jibes for her gender. But, the biggest game changer came in the form of R. Balki’s ‘Ki & Ka’, which was one movie which took a big risk by showing a house husband (Arjun Kapoor), and an ambitious corporate woman wife (Kareena Kapoor). Though the movie was well intentioned, a not so well execution led to its failure. But one certainly cannot negate the fact that this was a very bold step in Indian cinema, reversing the roles. Small things like Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) telling Kia’s (Kareena Kapoor) mother that she would not have asked a girl the question of whether she would eat out of her son’s earnings had her daughter been a guy, made this movie special in its own way.

In the middle of the year, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan won praises for portraying the sensitive character of Dalbir Kaur, sister of Late Sarbjit Singh. The fight of a woman, a sister, who was a mere village belle, the plight, the emotions, was all beautifully conveyed by Aishwarya.

Then came Anushka Sharma as Aarfa Hussain in ‘Sultan’, the blockbuster sports drama movie. The change was visible as for the first time the lady took the cake away with her phenomenal performance, in a Salman Khan movie. Aarfa’s character faced flak for choosing pregnancy over her flourishing sports career, but one reply from Anushka shut all. Freedom of choice, with imposition from none, is what Aarfa’s character stood for. Only a woman has the right to decide what she wants to choose, and should not be judged for the same.

‘PINK’ taught us how slut shaming confines and terrorises even the most confident urban women, but they have to stay strong, and emerge victorious. ‘Parched’ told us that no shackles of age-old traditions and superstitious beliefs should come at the cost of a woman’s freedom and life, and that patriarchy’s ugly head is still thriving in rural areas. Both the movies portrayed the lives of woman, in two completely different scenarios, and made a strong mark. Bollywood’s idea of female hero was coming around.

The year ended on another thumping note with Aamir Khan’s ‘Dangal’, which is the real life story of Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari, who were trained against all odds by their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, to excel in the man’s sport, wrestling. Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, and Sanya Malhotra breathed their life and soul in the characters. The movie broke and shattered norms of patriarchy in every aspect, with a father fighting the world for his daughters, in an area where girls are a liability, only to be passed on as soon as possible, by means of marriage.

These movies are not perfect. But they are an attempt. There are many intellectuals who have criticised different aspects, but, it’s the thought process that matters. This is a first step, with many more to come. Bollywood has finally grown up and embraced the fact that it does not always need a ‘hero’ to save a damsel in distress, and that the concept of feminism is real.