Considered to be a male-dominated industry, Bollywood sometimes celebrates woman power with aplomb. In the past decade, several such movies with power-packed female characters have come to the fore.
On the occasion of International Women's Day Saturday, here's a dekko at ten such movies:
"Murder" (2004): During the year when "Dhoom" defined the Hindi film heroine as the air-headed eye-candy, Mallika Sherawat came to the forefront as a horny wife cheating on her husband. The last time that a screen wife had an affair under her husband's nose was when Mala Sinha took a shine to adultery in "Gumrah". This was different. This was a lot more physical. Mallika didn't mind taking off her clothes during sex. Women's innerwear became as important as their inner thoughts.
"Black" (2005): Rani Mukerji's proudest moment. As a deaf and mute girl who climbs over every mountain to reach her goal, Rani's performance in this Sanjay Leela Bhansali film was bravura and inspirational. She swept the awards and made her name as an actress who can be relied on to excel in an author-backed role. Her personal association with the Yash Raj Films banner has cost Rani plum roles in outside productions. After a disastrous heroine-oriented turn in "Aiyya", she will again be seen in an author-backed role in "Mardaani".
"Water" (2005): Deepa Mehta named her incandescent heroine Kalyani after the timeless Nutan in "Bandini". And Lisa Ray as the new-age Kalyani in this tale of forbidden love between a widow and a social reformer did not let her namesake down.
"The Namesake" (2007): Aushima Ganguly stranded in the US after her husband's death shakes and weeps uncontrollably ...that one sequence defined Tabu's impressive ability to shoulder films with the aplomb that her aunt Shabana Azmi showed throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Tabu had the makings of another Shabana. She ruined it with her smug laid back attitude. Her histrionics today seem outdated when pitched against Parineeti Chopra and Alia Bhatt's zest for excellence.
"Fashion" (2008): Madhur Bhandarkar's hard-hitting saga of a small town girl's rise as a supermodel and then the tripping over drugs and the fall. This was Priyanka Chopra's career-best performance matched only by her brilliance in "Barfi". She lives out the model's dreams, nightmares and ambitions with a conviction that scoffs at the artifice that defines the glamour world. Chopra was so hot in the film that she made her co-star Arjan Bajwa look like a lost kid in her presence.
"That Girl In Yellow Boots" (2011): Kalki Koechlin's made-to-order role as a foreigner trying to eke out a decent living in Mumbai through underhand means in a massage parlour was a portrait of peril under pressure. She seemed to not act at all. And boy, that is quite something.
"Kahaani" (2012): Now the kahaani can be told. Vidya Balan pretended to be pregnant all through this film. Her final denudation of the artificial baby bump at the end signified how far the heroine's image had come in our film. In "Kahaani", Vidya and Kolkata were the heroes. Bengali star Parambrata Chatterjee joked he was the heroine of "Kahaani". Some years ago, Shilpa Shetty had played the 'hero' of "Phir Milenge" while Abhishek Bachchan and Salman Khan sportingly stepped in to be cast opposite her. Times, they are a-changing. Sujoy Ghosh wrote Kahaani specially for Vidya and even named the protagonist after the actress.
"English Vinglish" (2012): Sridevi's comeback film, released during the same year as Vidya Balan's "Kahaani", featured the 50-year-old actress as a housewife on a journey of self-realization. Debutant director Gauri Shinde was obviously a crazy Sri fan. That helped. Sadly, no other film since then has found place for Sridevi's indomitable talent.
"Heroine" (2012): This film did not set the box office on fire as it was expected to, but Kareena Kapoor's descent into a cocaine-sniffing nervous wreck of a movie star was stark, raw and moving. Too bad, director Bhandarkar seemed to be making "Fashion" all over again. Kareena, though, still has a lot to give to the camera.
" Queen" (2014): Rani gets jilted at the altar and decides to alter her life irreversibly. Kangana Ranaut's interpretation of a girl's journey through darkness into the light is so bouncy, bubbly and burnished that you want to stand up and applaud this film about a small-town Indian girl's journey of self-realisation.
Yes, girl power lives on in our movies.