The journey of the traditional ‘Heroine’ in Indian Cinema

Kangana Ranaut in Queen

Kangana Ranaut revolutionized women character portrayals in Queen

As an audience of Indian films at large, observing different aspects of this fraternity is something that I enjoy the most. Because of my love towards Indian films they were also my subject for dissertation while pursuing film studies for post graduation.

When it comes to Indian movies, the industry is ruled by different trends during different phases. At a time when art of film making is evolving incredibly, new subjects are presented on screen and the makers do not shy away from taking risks, there is something that continued to remain constant for all these years. Our beloved HEROINES! Yes you heard me correct the role of Heroines in Indian films have somehow managed to remain prototypical for all these years. Don’t be surprised even today when films like Queen or Iti Mrinalini are adorning the big screen, the number of films that treat their leading actresses not better than a beautiful prop, is still exceeding.

Very recently, actresses from Hindi film fraternity, popularly known as Bollywood raised their concern over huge disparity between the pays of male and female actors. If we go by the reports female actors are paid mere 20 to 30 percent of what our favourite actors in Bollywood are paid. Indian film audiences are changing and so are the films made for us. Directors are eager experimenting with different subjects and pamper their audiences with a variation in taste. We see the trend of women-centric films once again registering their presence felt on the Indian silver screen.

Madhuri Dixit in Gulaab Gang

Madhuri Dixit in Gulaab Gang

Among all the films released recently featuring strong female characters, there was only a handful to have etched onto our collective memory. I would like to mention in this regard, that success of a Bollywood film is attributed mainly to the Heroes in their larger than life avatars and big bucks spend by the producers to cast such actors in the movie. Thanks to few courageous filmmakers like Gauri Shinde and Vikas Bahl, films like English Vinglish and Queen were successful to garner huge appreciation from audiences. But then again if there is one Gulaab Gang, there are tens of such other movies which feature their leading ladies just as the actor’s arm candy.

Meena Kumari in Pakeezah

One of the classics in Indian Cinema history – Pakeezah

This is not something that Indian films have nurtured from their emancipation. If we travel back half a century, films like Pakeezah and Mother India – considered two of the finest classics of Indian cinema, were made. They were path breaking films that is revered and loved even till this day. But something strange happened to the industry in 80s and 90s. Macho and super hero like leading actors of the movie stole all the limelight relinquishing their female counterparts as mere objects to flaunt around their arms. While parallel cinema dint dare to dabble in stories that deal with strong feminist issues, the commercial players took their chances and films like Mrityudand (directed by Prakash Jha) and Lajja (director by Rajkumar Santoshi) ushered the hope to bring back women as an equal on screen. But alas these films couldn’t do much on box office as they only earned meager response. By this time audiences were already habituated watching the actresses draped in chiffon sarees and dancing in rain around trees.

They gave out some invisible cue of trying not to experiment any more with ladies as the “hero” in films. Thankfully the trend seems to wither out slowly and the audiences are responding gladly to feminist issues portrayed on screen and presented aesthetically. Films like Goynar Baaksho, Take One, No One Killed Jessica, Dirty Picture and Kahaani registered huge success at box office. They were also appreciated with a number of awards.

Here’s hoping we get to see more such films being made in India where women have proper roles to play instead of running around the trees or emerging from water wearing bikinis.


Crazy writer, Wacked Out reader & a Stumped observer! Call me a Film maniac or a Mythology enthusiast, a GK monger or an Economics gazer, I am one girl/woman who suffers from chronic attack of optimism and is the owner of a voice which is pretty loud and opinionated.


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