There’s a lot that happened this year concerning feminism. One good thing was the number of women-centric and feminist films released this year from various regional languages and on various platforms. Although, most of these films had issues of its own and could have been better represented, we still world like to encourage the wave of having women lead in the film industry. Here is a roundup of some feminist films that you could watch, critique and learn from!
1. Manikarnika (Hindi) | Dir. Kangana Ranaut
Manikarnika is the story of the bravery of the Queen of Jhansi. We all have heard ‘Khub Ladi Mardaani vo to Jhansi wali rani thi’ but only a few of us have had a slight peak into her life. This film gives a detailed and much-celebrated account of her life. It shows her resolve and her determination to serve her country. Today, while we still argue about gender roles, Manikarnika is a story to remind everyone that some women broke those barriers long, long ago.
One good thing was the number of women-centric and feminist films released this year from various regional languages and on various platforms.
The character of Rani of Jhansi is played by Kangana Ranaut and despite all the controversies, Kangana’s acting does justice to the character and the story.
2. Soni (Netflix) (Hindi) | Dir. Ivan Ayr’s
Soni is director Ivan Ayr’s debut feature film. The film was released on Netflix and it is a slice of life drama that captures the professional and private lives of two women police officers – Soni (Geetika Vidya Ohlyan) and her superintendent Kalpana Ummat (Saloni Batra). It shows how these characters navigate their way through the patriarchal structures of everyday life. Inspired by the horrendous event of the Delhi gang rape and murder case in 2012, the director presents a cold, grim and a very real-life like Delhi, where misogyny seems to be there at every corner.
Soni is a compelling and gripping watch and hence it makes to our list of feminist films this year. The only thing that this beautiful film lacks is a woman director.
3. Anandi Gopal (Marathi) | Dir. Sameer Vidwans
This Marathi film is based on the life of Anandibai Joshi who was India’s first female physician and the first woman to graduate with a degree in western medicine from the US. It is based in the times when child marriage was a ‘normal’ tradition. It highlights the point that even at those times there were exceptions which further became inspirations. The film also points out the fact that how Anandi’s husband Gopalrao Joshi, who was 20 years older to her encouraged her to go to school and supported her to pursue her education.
Feminist films like these at present is only a boost to the feminist movement. It not only compels the society to revisit its traditions but also highlights the fact that even after marriage a woman can have her identity and how men should empower women to break anti-feminist traditions.
4. Sand Ki Aankh (Hindi) | Dir. Tushar Hiranandani
Despite the controversy of old age roles played by young actresses, this film is still worth a watch. The film gives glimpses of a toxic patriarchal setup. It is based on the true-life story of Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar (Tomar sisters), who later go on to become shooters and also encourage their granddaughters to do the same.
The film very beautifully depicts the patriarchal structure of our society and everyday struggles in the lives of the women. The behaviour of men is simply the true portrayal of men in India in such feminist films. The characters of Chandro and Prakashi are empowering and inspiring to many other women. One more aspect that the film highlights is the portrayal of sisterhood and how solidarity of women means the most to fight systemic and useless norms of patriarchy.
5. Uyare (Malayalam) | Dir. Manu Ashokan
This year the Malayalam industry saw a wave of feminism where feminist films became an epitome of changing nature of roles in the films. Malayalam industry has always been male-centric and has had a patriarchal dominance. But this year the new wave of Malayalam films portrayed the personality of the woman quite differently from the traditional mild, calm, coy and chaste woman. The biggest example of this was Uyare staring Parvathi Menon as Pallavi Ravindran, who deals with dreams, aspirations, violence, toxic masculinity, self-actualisation and survival. The film is the story of a girl wanting to become a pilot but her dreams are given a halt by the toxic masculinity of her boyfriend who in the angst to not accept her rejection, throws acid on her.
Pallavi doesn’t get an indefinite cinematic fairy tale to turn her life better. Instead what she does get is a chance to get the satisfaction and feeling of self-actualisation for a day. It deals with the fact that no one can take away the hopes and dreams that stem from that memory. The most remarkable thing about Uyare is that it makes so many points by saying so little. The script caters to the emotions of the audience through effective storytelling and brilliant acting of its lead actor.
6. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha (Hindi) | Dir. Shelly Chopra Dhar
This film starring Sonam Kapoor, Rajkumar Rao and Anil Kapoor in pivotal roles not only deals with the concept of the importance of choice in the life of women but also makes an attempt to represent the LGBTQIA+ community which has been longing for sensitive screen space since a very long time in the mainstream media.
Sweety’s character played by Sonam Kapoor strikes a chord in many hearts. She is that sweet character that holds a quiet storm. Her character can be any one of us! Who has at times suppressed our desires because of fear of prejudice and being unaccepted. Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga is a true ray of hope for representation to the community to find acceptance not only in the big screen but also in the minds of the people.
7. Super Deluxe (Tamil) | Dir. Thiyagarajan Kumararaja
Super Deluxe is among the first few films in Tamil cinema where women openly talk about their priorities and try to own their actions. Directed by Thiyagarajan Kumararaja this film shows that storylines around strong female characters need not be a tragedy. The film remarkably upturns stereotypes about gender and morality.
The film has four different stories that form an embedded narrative. There is Vaembu (Samantha) and Mugil (Fahadh Fassil), a couple facing extramarital affair issues and are also meanwhile trying to get rid of a dead body. In this ruckus, they come to understand each other. Another story is about Jothi (Gayathrie Shankar) and her husband, who is a trans woman, played by Shilpa (Vijay Sethupathi). The third story is about a bunch of teenage boys which leads us to one more story about a yesteryear porn actor Leela (Ramya Krishnan) and her husband Arputham (Mysskin).
Dealing with aspects of a trans woman, a narrative sympathetically portraying an extramarital affair of a wife and one of a mother opting to become a porn actress the film touches many aspects and tries to break down the usual norms of our society. In the film, all the female characters are gentle, yet bold, grounded and practical, making it to our list of feminist films of 2019.
8. Totta Pataka Item Maal (Netflix) (Hindi) | Dir. Aditya Kriplani
This Hindi film directed by Indie Director Aditya Kriplani is easily available on Netflix. It revolves around the lives of four women who have plotted to make men experience the same fear for safety that girls in Delhi live with. From making the man go through all what many women go through in the patriarchal society to installing fear of rape this film has it all.
With amazing character graphs, dedicated performances, intricately written storyline and realistically depicted scenes this particular film leaves a deep impact. To some it might look like a ‘revenge tale’ but if watched closely, it can be seen that the film explores the dark, misogynistic aspects of the society.
9. Oh! Baby (Telugu) | Dir. Nandini Reddy
Nandini Reddy’s Oh! Baby starring Samantha is the Telugu remake of a Korean film titled, Miss Granny. The film deals with the aspect of women and femininity. The film is about a 70-year-old patriarchal Savitri who suddenly gets her 24-year-old body back. One aspect that the film shows through old Savitri is that how women are the carriers of patriarchy. Another aspect is the absence of the male gaze in the film. We see Savitri-Swati being goofy, funny and what not but the objectification is not there.
One thing that could have made the film better is was if Savitri would have apologised for the internalised misogyny and patriarchy.
10. Game Over (Tamil, Telugu and Hindi) | Dir. Ashwin Saravanan
Game Over directed by Ashwin Saravanan starring Taapsee Pannu, is brilliant in all senses. The best aspect of the film is that it is centred only on women. All the women characters are written and portrayed so neatly, forming an emotional bond among themselves.
The film shatters the stereotype that ‘Women are women’s best enemies’. The film shows how women can bring transforming changes in another woman’s life just through kindness and an open heart. It deals with sexual assault PTSD and tries to highlight the prejudices of the society.
Also read: 15 Feminist Films We Loved In 2018
This is by no means an exhaustive or representative list. Suggestions to add to this list are welcome in the comments section.