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Recalling 21 Women Centric Films From Indo-Pak Cinema

Today, we celebrate women empowerment and talk about celebrating women quite often, as if this is something new; actually, in India and Pakistan, filmmakers have always tried to come up with subjects and films which celebrated women. Right from the inception of film industry in Indo-Pak, women-centric and women oriented subjects have been discussed and showcased where women are shown as the strongest pillar of the society. In almost every decade, films on women have been made to highlight that woman is the example of love, affection, sacrifice and can actually build a nation by developing a society that stands on the preaching of them. Following are just a few films from a huge list which celebrate and highlight the role, traits and significance of women in Indo-Pak.

  1. Mother India – 1957

Mehboob Khan’s Mother India is a classic tale of love, sacrifice and discipline. This film is considered as the finest classic in Bollywood and showcases the hardships a woman goes through in her life as a wife and a mother. Nargis outdid herself in making the character look so authentic and original. If you want to see how tributes are given to mothers then Mother India is a timeless classic.

  1. Saheli – 1860

S.M. Yusuf’s Saheli is a tale of two friends who fall in love with the same man. There are elements of friendship, love, sacrifice, jealousy and a lot more. Shamim Ara and Nayyar Sultana became most prominent leading ladies of 60’s after this film because of their impeccable performances. The film also featured Darpan the superstar of that era. Saheli is a simple story filled with great portrayal of women’s life.

  1. Bandini – 1962

Bimal Roy was a genius, after making classics like Do Bigha Zameen and Devdas he made a film which inspired many filmmakers to make women-centric films by making Bandini. Nutan played the main character in Bandini as a prisoner serving life imprisonment. There are many contrasts of a woman shown in Bandini; she’s shown as sacrificing, strong-willed, selfless and distressed. The film received critical acclaim and also won many Filmfare Awards.

  1. Guide – 1965

Guide is definitely a film that is titled for Dev Anand but the film highlights the story of a married woman who rediscovers herself and her love for dance, with the help of the Guide i.e. Dev Anand. What happens next in her life is a treat to watch. Waheeda Rehman gives a brilliant performance and is still remembered for this film. Vijay Anand’s Guide is smartly penned and executed which not only keeps the leading man in limelight but also highlights the leading lady with grandeur.

  1. Zarqa – 1969

Riaz Shahid’s Zarqa which featured Neelo in the title lead is another classic which tells the story of a woman and how far she can go. A film which celebrated the woman empowerment and ability of a woman to take bold steps in the times when they are actually needed, even today the “Raqs Zanjeer Pehan Kar Bhi” is remembered by millions for multiple reasons. The film revolved around Palestinian liberation movement against Israel.

  1. Pakeezah – 1972

Kamal Amrohi’s Pakeezah is another classic film which revolves around the character of a woman, who is strong and has the ability to go through any situation in life. Meena Kumari’s one of the most unforgettable characters and most talked about films is Pakeezah. Amrohi celebrated women with his own way of perception and Pakeezah is a brilliant example of the same.

  1. Society Girl – 1976

Sangeeta’s debut film as a director was a cult classic titled Society Girl. The film was ahead of its time and featured a story that was not easier to digest by Pakistani audience but the way it was penned, executed and how everyone performed their characters made it a classic.

  1. Khushboo – 1979

Nazar Shabab’s take on women in Khushboo was very interesting. He showed two extreme ends of a woman one played by Raani and the other by Mumtaz (who played Raani’s daughter in the film). At one place woman is shown selfless, chained in her societal do’s and don’ts and on the other hand she’s shown daring, smart and impressive in whatever she does. Khushboo is beautifully penned and offers some clap-worthy dialogues which are very realistic and relate-able in our society. The antagonist in the film was played by Shahid.

  1. Umrao Jaan Ada & Umrao Jaan – 1972 & 1981

Mirza Hadi Ruswa’s novel Umrao Jaan Ada was so powerful that in India and Pakistan filmmakers couldn’t resist but make a film on the same. In 1972, Raani played the lead role in Pakistani film, directed by Hasan Tariq, where she displayed the charisma, charm and beauty as Umrao Jaan opposite Shahid.

In 1981 Rekha mesmerized her audience as the lead role; the film was directed by Muzaffar Ali. These two films displayed the character of a woman in a totally different aspect and they were really well-made films. However, 2006’s Umrao Jaan featuring Aishwariya Rai and directed by J. P. Dutta was the weakest one and had nothing substantial to offer, keeping the previous classics in mind.

  1. Namkeen – 1982

Gulzar became phenomenal with the selection of topics on which he made films at a very young age. With actresses like Waheeda Rehman, Sharmila Tagore and Shabana Azmi with cherry on top – the veteran Sanjeev Kumar, Namkeen is an amazing film to watch and learn from. The film highlights the character and traits of 4 different women in different phases of life and by far it is definitely one of the fewest films which tend to describe a woman’s perspective with such flawlessness. It’s a Gulzar’s classic released in the same month when Women Day is celebrated.

  1. Jeevan Dhara – 1982

T. Rama Rao’s family drama, Jeevan Dhara, rests on the subject of responsibility towards family which is one of the significant features of a woman’s character. Rekha plays the pivotal role and gives another enthralling performance with such flawlessness that viewers can never ignore her expressions. For those who look out for decent and subject oriented family dramas, Jeevan Dhara is a jackpot.

  1. Bol – 2011

Shoaib Mansoor’s Bol is a Pakistani film which elevated the standards of films in Pakistan and talked about women in totally different perspective. Shoaib Mansoor will be remembered for a film which discussed issues faced by women in Pakistan. Even Mahira Khan came in to spotlight on silver screen with this film.

  1. English Vinglish – 2012

One of the most talked about films of recent times by R. Balki and Guari Shinde which features Sri Devi in the avatar of a simple and easy going housewife, English Vinglish is a classic. The film not only showcases the ability of a woman to surprise society at any age but also highlights the elements of women empowerment. The film also talks about family and why family shouldn’t be judgmental but should always be there to support one another.

  1. Queen – 2014

Vikas Behl’s Queen revolves around the life of a 24 years old girl who is dumped by her fiancé and then she lives her dreams out by going on her honey-moon all alone. What she discovers on the trip to Europe is what which makes this film worth a watch. It is Kangana Ranaut’s career-defining film.

  1. Dukhtar – 2014

Afia Nathaniel’s Dukhtar is a very well made film on a very serious issue that is faced by girls and women in Pakistan. Dukhtar talks about how a mother plans to safeguard her daughter’s life by not letting her getting married to the tribal leader.

  1. Mary Kom – 2014

A film which is not just a tribute to the Olympic pride of India but also strengthens the image of woman by showcasing what she has to go through in daily life; it is definitely worth a watch. Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom pays homage to many women striving and struggling in their lives. Priyanka Chopra’s performance and dedication to transform physically as Mary Kom made her stand in the list of finest actresses with this film.

  1. Mardaani – 2014

This film depicts one woman’s fight against female trafficking and forced prostitution. When the antagonist underestimates Shivani Shivaji Roy (Rani Mukherji) because she is just a “woman”, she becomes his ultimate nightmare. Not just the movie itself, but the Mardani anthem too is pretty empowering for women.

  1. Neerja – 2016

A true story based on the life of Neerja Bhanott, a flight attendant on Pan Am flight 73, which was hijacked by terrorists. The fearlessness and courage of this one woman led to the passengers’ lives being saved, as she protected the people and performed her duty till her last breath.

  1. Mom – 2017

Ravi Udyawar’s Mom received appreciation by critics and masses. The film featured Sri Devi in the title character and she nailed it. The film spotlights the power of a woman, especially a mother, who can go to any level to achieve her goal. Mom is a modern day classic which shouldn’t be missed.

  1. My Pure Land – 2017

This is one of those films that can be described as the most feminist, most empowering tales to emerge out of the industry in recent times. A tale of women in rural Pakistan uniting against scheming male family members and mercenaries, and holding them off despite limited resources, My Pure Land highlights the potential our industry has to shed light on women’s issues and their perspective, as well as successfully making a film that can best be described as a feminist western

  1. Tumhari Sulu – 2017

Suresh Triveni’s Tumhari Sulu features Vidya Balan in a typical housewife’s character. Sulu has many shades in her personality which Triveni brilliantly showed and Balan gives a pitch perfect performance to make it realistic and genuine. From women empowerment to a homemaker and from a dedicated yet headstrong housewife to a business-minded strong willed woman, Tumhari Sulu displays it all.

Women In Cinema – PIFF For Women

This makes us recall just a few films made on women out of so many to name. Pakistani cinema is still trying to come up with interesting topics and subjects which highlight issues and strengths of women. Recently, Pakistan International Film Festival (PIFF) celebrated Women In Films by organizing a huge event which had some prominent names in the panel and attendees like Haseena Moin, Sultana Siddiqui, Reema, Zeba Bakhtiar, Bushra Ansari, Runina Ashraf, Momina Duraid and Sania Saeed apart from many other giant names. One must appreciate the steps taken by the film and media fraternity of Pakistan for their never say die approach and keep striving towards making films on topics which discuss women and show them as they are that is very strong and focused.