Movies, Pop Culture

Six Bollywood movies that got feminism totally right

Bollywood movies have traditionally been, well, sexist, with male heroes rescuing damsels in distress and defeating villains.

Bollywood movies have traditionally been, well, sexist, with male heroes rescuing damsels in distress and defeating villains. Thankfully, this is now changing and the past few years have seen quite a few gems where the stories unfold from the perspective of the leading ladies.

Whenever such a movie comes out, I make sure to watch it and then watch it over again until I know all the lines by heart (yep, that’s me).

[bctt tweet=”Bollywood movies have traditionally been sexist.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Maybe it’s because each of those movies inspires me in some way or the other to become a better version of me; seeing those heroines kick ass and make fearless decisions motivates me to do the same.

[bctt tweet=”These new movies are inspiring.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Anyhow, here are my six absolute favorites: while some have broken box office records, others have not fared so well; nonetheless, they are all very close to my heart — and I’m sure they will win you over as well, if you approach them with an open mind.

1. Fashion (2008)

My Movie Bazar

All Bollywood lovers must have heard of this movie — but for the uninitiated, this is the story of a small-town girl who dreams of making it big in Mumbai’s fashion industry. It follows her journey closely, and the movie is said to be highly realistic. Watch this for the incredible performances by both the lead actress, Priyanka Chopra, and Kangana Ranaut, who is shown in a supporting role.

The confidence and ambition displayed by the characters inspired me to develop those qualities in myself, and the ending is a bittersweet one, which accurately portrays how life is — we can’t have everything.

2. Break ke Baad (2010)


While this is not a strictly female-centric movie — as it focuses on the challenges faced by a couple as opposed to just the heroine — I was infatuated with this movie because of the boldness and badassery displayed by the lead female character, Aaliya. She dreams of becoming an actress, but her mom is fervently against her doing so. In the meantime, she works four jobs and acts in plays behind her mom’s back while on the lookout for scholarships from foreign universities.

Watch this for the (spoiler alert!) wedding proposal from Aaaliya to her boyfriend: who would’ve thought we’d get to see this in a Bollywood movie?!

3. Aiyyaa (2012)

While this one may not be very well-known, it’s probably the most relatable movie I’ve ever seen. A dreamy but shy girl falls in love with a dark, brooding character, but she can never muster up the courage to go talk to him. So instead, she asks around about him and absorbs any information she can find about him like a sponge. And of course, she swoons each time they lock eyes and she can’t find her voice when he talks to her. Sound familiar?

[bctt tweet=”While ‘Aiyyaa’ may not be very well-known, it’s the most relatable movie I’ve ever seen.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This is literally the story of my teenage life, and watching this movie made me cry — I felt like it was made for me! Aiyyaa is meant for all those one-sided crush-ers out there who are willing to go to any extent to glean info about their beloved.

4. English Vinglish (2012)

Bollywood Hungama

A homemaker-slash-entrepreneur is underappreciated and belittled by her husband and daughter due to her poor English. When she goes to New York to help with her niece’s wedding preparations, she enrolls in a 4-week crash course in order to learn English, where she meets an eclectic mix of people from different ethnic backgrounds.

[bctt tweet=”I found it very refreshing to watch a woman find her feet and gain self-confidence.” username=”wearethetempest”]

This is a heartwarming story about dignity, respect, and the superiority of one language over another and its subsequent implications. As a feminist, I found it very refreshing to watch a woman find her feet and gain self-confidence for the first time in her life, perhaps.

5. Queen (2013)

A timid girl gets jilted on the day before her wedding by her fiancé, who thinks she’s not “modern” enough for him. She is devastated, but nonetheless decides to go on her honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam on her own, even though she’s never travelled alone before. This movie is a must-watch for anyone and everyone: it is the uplifting story of a girl who, in an attempt to forget about her misery, ends up finding herself and transforming into a wholly different person — one who is independent and self-confident.

[bctt tweet=”A timid girl gets jilted the day before her wedding, who thinks she’s not ‘modern.'” username=”wearethetempest”]

I watched this movie right before leaving for the US to pursue my studies, and having never travelled alone or stayed on my own before either, this movie gave me hope that it could all turn out to be a wonderful ride (and it did!). 

6. Mary Kom (2014)

Feminism in India

This movie is a dramatized biography of World Amateur Boxing champion Mary Kom. It follows her from the beginnings of her passion back in a small village in Northeast India to becoming a world champion and training (and winning) again after having given birth. It will make you yearn for a husband like Onler, who tells his wife to go ahead and fulfill her dreams while he takes care of the children. It will also give you a close look into the lives of female athletes and the adversity that they face in India.

This was the first Bollywood movie I watched in the US, and at a time when I was feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work I had to do, this movie reminded me to aim for the stars and to never settle (trite but true.)