Right, so we all know about the great women’s pictures from Mother India to Arth to Pink. But there are some absolute gems featuring female heroes that never got their due. Now is your chance to catch them.
1. Bhavna (1984): In the period between 1982 and 1986 Shabana Azmi did some of her most important work. These included Shekhar Kapoor’s Masoom, Gulzar’s Namkeen, B R Ishaara’s Log Kya Kehenge, Kalpana Lajmi’s Ek Pal and Mahesh Bhatt’s Arth. These were films that changed the way we defined the Hindi film heroine and also brought a radical reform in the way the new Indian woman is perceived by society at large. Cinematographer Pravin Bhatt’s first directorial venture Bhavna is a very special film in Shabana’s oeuvre. Playing strong assertive characters who constantly challenged the predominance of patriarchy came naturally to Shabana. But Bhavna occupies a very special niche in Shabana’s glorious unparalleled career. The story of a woman’s journey from a betrayed marriage to a murder convict, Bhavna deals with the protagonist’s journey with tempestuous velocity without losing out on the quality of grace and restrain. Of course Shabana’s ingrained power to convey implosive emotions without toppling into the realm of over-statement went a long way into making Bhavna Saxena a character far ahead of her times.
2. Aaina (1975): At the end of her career when Mumtaz was ready to quit stardom for marriage she gave her career’s best performance as the eldest daughter of an impoverished Brahmin family forced into prostitution to feed her parents and sibling. It was a rousing performance honest and gut-wrenching. Director K Balachander’s masterpiece went unnoticed because back then the heroine as a sex worker just didn’t work. Now is the time to see what a fabulous actress Mumtaz was under all that glamour. Her favourite co-star Rajesh Khanna sportingly put in a guest appearance as the man who gives her a hand when her own family rejects her.
3. Doosri Sita (1974): The great Jaya Bhaduri has rightly been praised for her bravura performance in a slew of female-oriented films like Guddi, Uphaar, Kora Kagaz, Abhimaan and Mili. Try this. In Doosri Sitashe plays a pregnant woman on death row after murdering her abusive husband. A stunning story directed by the neglected Gogi Anand with one of Lata Mangeshkar’s most accomplished songs penned by Gulzar: ‘Din jaa rahen hain ke raaton ke saaye apne sali (cross) weh aap hi uthaye’. Goosebumps.
4. Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengi (1966): Mala Sinha was never acknowledged as one of the all-time greats in spite of rock-solid performances in Dhool Ka Phool, Pyaasa, Dharmputra, Anpadh and Aasra. Watch her in Baharen Phir Bhi Ayengias the slightly spinterish elder sister who falls in love with her sibling Tanuja’s beau. Dynamite waiting to explode. Mala’s fiesta of expressions of newly discovered love and bitter disappointment will stay with you.
5. Judaai (1997): In Sridevi’s oeuvre Judaai is not regarded as one of her great performances. The truth is, she is earth shatteringly good as a screechy overbearing housewife who loses her husband to greed. An average film lifted to lingering like ability by the central performance. I regard Sridevi in Judaai to be superior to her lauded performances in Chandni, Sadma, Lamhe and Mr India.