There is a bunch of bold and gutsy actresses today, who are defying the stereotypes and proving to be more than just props in the Bollywood films.
For years now, Bollywood has been considered a male-dominated industry, consistently using women as ornamental pieces in films. However, one can’t also refute the fact that time and again, in its varied spectrum there always have been a bunch of actresses who flouted the gender stereotypes with a flourish and made their mark not just with the powerful depiction of the characters they played on the screen but also with their off-screen lives.
We take a look at some of the more recent stand-out actresses, who not only struck a chord with their audiences but also showed us there is much more they can do than dance around the heroes and play eye-candy. Defying the judgmental glances, which are often thrown at them, these gutsy actresses stand as an inspiration to every other woman out there. Read on…
The Gehraiyaan actress is the perfect example of what a woman can do simply with sheer determination. Named as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2018, by Time magazine, Deepika Padukone is one of the highest-paid actresses in India today. She has not only proved her mettle as a versatile actress by essaying stand-out female characters in films like Cocktail, Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express, Piku, Bajirao Mastani, Padmaavat, and Chhapaak but has also boldly spoken on the subject of mental health, which is often considered as a taboo topic in India. The pretty actress has come out and spoken about her battle with depression and has even founded a non-profit organization — Live Love Laugh Foundation, which creates awareness about mental health in India. Never to shy away from calling a spade a spade, Deepika has often been vocal about issues such as feminism. She once said in an interview, “New feminism isn't about being aggressive; it's about reaching the top yet being soft. It's about being you – feminine, strong and full of willpower.” What’s more, while most artists from the entertainment industry are known to refrain from making political statements to avoid backlash towards their films, in 2020, despite having a film release in the pipeline (Chhapaak), the gutsy gal threw caution to the wind and attended a protest for students who were brutalised during the 2020 JNU Attack due to their protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Now that’s a bold move which deserves to be noted. What’s more, Deepika is also an entrepreneur and a producer. Well, this diva successfully wears many hats, take a bow girl!
Bollywood undoubtedly is blessed with a ton of beautiful and talented actresses, however, there is none like Vidya Balan. What sets her apart from the rest, is not just her exceptionally brilliant acting chops. Behind that effervescent smile and pretty face is a woman who stands out for her grit and is scripting her own success story. Vidya has boldly defied the pressure to fit in the archetypical heroine mould of the film industry and has made a place for herself as one of the most versatile actresses of Bollywood, who has never been afraid to make unconventional choices. When most actresses were happy in their snug space, playing second fiddle to the heroes most of the time, Vidya came in like a breath of fresh air and created history right before our eyes by her choice of roles and stellar performances. And this certainly is no small feat, especially in an industry, which, whether you like it or not, is essentially male-driven. In times when women-centric films were almost off the marque, Vidya took the risk and daringly chose characters and films where women were not looking like typical caricatures woven straight out of male-dominated minds. Be it playing the strongminded and beautiful Lolita in her debut Bollywood film Parineeta, to playing Amitabh Bachchan’s mother in Paa, to effortlessly portraying the shrewd and manipulating Krishna in Ishqiya, and of course, her bold move to play Silk in The Dirty Picture is another commendable story altogether. Not to forget her powerful portrayal of Vidya Bagchi and Vidya Sinha in the Kahaani series and the admirable homemaker Sulu, who is determined to be a businesswoman in Tumhari Sulu – all her characters celebrated the varied hues of womanhood with aplomb. Not only did Vidya give her women peers a chance to hope for more, but she also showed them a path with her success. Vidya is also the first female actor to experiment with different promotional strategies. One can never forget how she grabbed the media and public attention by wearing a fake baby bump throughout the promotional activities for her film Kahaani. Interestingly, Vidya’s gutsy attitude is not just restricted to her films. Be it her sartorial choices or film promotional strategies or taking a stand for something she firmly believes in, Vidya has time and again, audaciously broken the norms. Truly, this Balan babe is one of the gutsiest actresses B-town has seen in recent times.
If there is one word to describe this petite feisty actress, it is unstoppable. She may have started as a typical heroine in a big production flick like — Student Of The Year, but it was impossible to keep this Shaandaar girl trapped in the cliché mould for too long. Often accused of having it all easy because of her filmi roots, Ali Bhatt has been subjected to unnecessary criticism and trolling, but the go-getter never let any of her naysayers crush her spirit. Instead, she boldly treaded the path less taken and did substantial, character driven roles in unconventional films. Be it Highway, Dear Zindagi, Raazi, Gully Boy or the recently released Gangubai Kathiawadi, Alia has never shied away from experimenting and has delivered hard-hitting performances that made her heroes look like the second lead. She is not only redefining the mainstream heroine but is also stealing her co-stars’ thunder. Apart from her film career, she has also been vocal about social issues and has participated to spread awareness in issues that are easily neglected. She took part in a campaign for PETA to raise awareness on homeless animals in the year 2013. In 2017, she launched an ecological initiative named CoExist to raise awareness about the welfare of street animals. She also collaborated with Facebook to campaign for Find Your Green; where she urged people to be greener conscious and reduce, reuse and recycle. Recently, she has also launched the kids wear brand Ed-a-mamma which is completely Indian and has expressed how she wants to nurture a love of nature among children with the theme and fabrics of her brand. So, not just a fine actress for the country, but Alia is slowly also becoming a successful entrepreneur and a conscious human being.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Be it in front of the camera or behind it, our desi girl aka Priyanka Chopra Jonas is certainly a force to reckon with. She has not only changed the perception of the heroine in Bollywood with her films like Barfi, Mary Kom, Bajirao Mastani but has also shown to the industry that a Bollywood heroine can also carve a niche for herself in Hollywood. Speaking in an interview, the actress once said, “I was rejected many times. I cried. I was told that female actors are replaceable in films because they just stand behind a guy anyway. We’re told we’re too provocative or that being sexy is our strength, which it can be, and it is, but that’s not the only thing we have. So, there are so many things that you will be told. It’ll be scary. There will be strife. But women have incredible endurance and incredible strength. Your ability to deal with it is within you.” With her bold attitude and go-getting spirit, Priyanka today is one of the highest-paid Indian actresses. She is considered to be one of the most influential actresses today and is listed by Forbes among the World's 100 Most Powerful Women. Apart from her career, Peecee, as her fans call her, has also challenged the conventional norms several times. Be it marrying somewhere younger than her, or becoming a mother through surrogacy — Priyanka Chopra believes in living life on her terms. That apart, this global sensation also spearheads a production house – Purple Pebble Pictures and has also launched her autobiography — Unfinished. More power to you girl, you simply rock!
The former Asia Miss Pacific, who was recently seen in the Netflix series Call My Agent: Bollywood, defines bold in the truest sense. The actress and activist, who regularly promotes awareness about social and environmental issues, has always been in the news for all the right reasons. Time and again she has daringly broken the regular norms and done the unthinkable. Like when she got married to Vaibhav Rekhi last year, the actress left everyone stunned by having her wedding solemnized by a woman priest. That is not all, Dia Mirza even said no to kanyadaan and bidaai as she felt that women aren’t an item to be donated. Kudos to this feisty one.
From playing the quintessential love interest to the hero in her debut film Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi to nailing the dhobi pachads in Sultan, not to forget her powerful portrayal of the courageous woman who fights back her husband’s killer in NH10, to playing the supportive wife Mamta in Sui Dhaaga: Made in India — Anushka Sharma has definitely added some new dimensions to the stereotypical heroine of Bollywood. Other than being a stellar actress, Anushka is also of the most successful female producers of Bollywood. The actress under her production company — Clean Slate Films has churned out some pathbreaking content like NH10, Pari, Paatal Lok, and Bulbbul. Well, that’s not all, Anushka has also launched her clothing brand- Nush and is also a successful entrepreneur and an animal activist.
Known to not mince her words ever since she set foot in the industry, Neha Dhupia has made an impression not only with her acting prowess but also for her unabashed nature. The Roadies judge is extremely vocal about societal issues, especially the ones dealing with women's rights. The headstrong lady has often openly spoken about stigma topics like breastfeeding, menses and domestic violence. Soon after her delivering her baby, Neha, who is quite active on her social media was subjected to lewd comments when a user asked her to share a video of herself breastfeeding her daughter. Neha, who is known to effortlessly take on internet trolls, shared a screenshot of her breastfeeding her daughter and commented, “I usually delete or ignore such comments. But I had to put this in the limelight. People like him make the whole breastfeeding situation embarrassing for many moms.” Similarly, Neha had penned her strong opinion about the taboo around women’s menses. She wrote, “Even today taboos and stigma around periods hold many young girls and women back from achieving their true potential. Being a mother, I feel that nothing should come in the way of young girls achieving their full potential. This Menstrual Hygiene Day let's talk about periods openly and help women and girls most in need get through these trying times.” Recently, the actress, brought a new wave of change in the industry, when she shot for her recent OTT film —A Thursday, while she was pregnant with her son. Now, these are the kind of gutsy women changemakers this world needs. May their tribe rise.