Bollywood used to be simple. The dashing hero falls in love with the shy heroine, all’s well in paradise, until the ‘bad guys’ force them apart; the hero then fights the villains and wins the heroine back. Most movies would follow this format and it worked for many years. There was just one problem. People began to realize that having a hero bursting of testosterone was a tad too sexist (and unrealistic). Maybe not as much as compared to the heroine, whose only job was to be ‘sugar and spice and everything nice’. Heroes and heroines were thus replaced by lead actors and actresses, who would have equally balanced roles in the movie. But stereotypes do not simply fade away. In many movies, the actors still save the day, while the actresses are meant to be a visual treat.
There are movies though that have tried to do away with gender stereotypes. Here are some examples of changing gender roles in Bollywood:
Rani Mukerji in No One Killed Jessica
One of the strongest female supporting characters in a Bollywood movie, Rani absolutely slayed in this film. An extremely potty-mouthed journalist, Rani’s character had no inhibitions when it came to speaking her mind. She was fearless and not one to turn down a risky job for the sake of safety.
Lisa Haydon in Queen
Lisa’s character provided quite the contrast to that of Kangana’s in this film. While Kangana Ranaut played the ‘perfect Indian daughter’, Lisa was an unmarried mother. She was unapologetic and proud of who she was, no matter how others perceived her.
Kangana Ranaut in The Revolver Rani
In this movie, a political giant tries to protect the lover from their enemies. The twist in the story is that the politician is a female, while her lover is male. In a bid to overthrow her, her enemies capture her lover, only for Revolver Rani to show up and save the day.
Parineeti Chopra in Shuddh Desi Romance
The actress plays a runaway bride in the film, who prefers live-in relationships over marriage. This attitude is usually seen in Bollywood only among the city-dwellers, but Parineeti’s character is a simple, small-town girl, who simply does not want to be married. Girl has her priorities straight!
Vidya Balan in Dirty Picture
Most actresses lose weight for movies. Vidya Balan, however, put on 12 kgs to fit into her character of Silk Smitha. Her character was supposed to be fat and have a paunch, which was made visible on-screen. The actress had no qualms about her weight and fit into the role with ease.
Sridevi in English Vinglish
Being a housewife and a mother of two does not stop Sridevi’s character from becoming better at something. She takes up English-speaking classes and works assiduously on her diction. In no time, she is fluent in the language, eventually garnering the respect she deserves from her family.
Prithviraj Sukumaran in Aiyya
This hilarious comedy had Rani Mukerji play the lead role, who is smitten by Prithviraj’s character. At the same time, his only job in the film is to look good. Talk about a reversal of roles! Rani’s character is shown stalking him, obsessing over his body, and completely objectifying the guy. A must-watch at your next girls’ sleepover!
Arjun Kapoor in Ki & Ka
Can a man be a housewife? Arjun Kapoor says yes! This movie challenges the set norms of marriage in Indian society, by portraying Kareena Kapoor‘s character as the bread-winner and Arjun as the home-maker.