At a time when society is constantly attempting to pit women against each other, we must be confident enough to negate such boundaries and come together as one. Indian cinema, or let’s say even world cinema, has been mostly male-dominated. However, it is good to come across a few good films that are heart-warming and justify female bonds and friendships in realistic ways.
Here is a list of ten Indian films that portray women friendships and support for one another:
Under stringent conditions, two women meet and gradually develop a close bond of friendship. Ayesha Takia and Gul Panag did justice to the roles that they played in the film that is about these two women, one of whom is a widow and is trapped in the cage of tradition, and another who is is burdened with saving her husband from a murder trial. The conviction and support for each other, as wonderfully portrayed, makes this one of the most loved women-oriented films. If you haven’t watched it already, please do!
This film shows three young women living in an apartment in New Delhi trying to break free from the shackles of a false case of assault against them. The support the friends show towards one another when society had shunned them, helps them go on to win the case against the perpetrator. This film not only portrays female friendship but also how male-dominated society works towards marginalising survivors of sexual assault.
This film was released in India in 2016, battling against all odds and social stigma. The film shows three women from Gujarat coming together, creating an unbreakable bond, and discussing life as it is while battling with their own selves in this oppressive society. We can see these friends talking openly about sex, sexuality, men and attempting to break free.
4) Angry Indian Goddesses
While this is more like one of the mainstream films of Bollywood, it does bring out the essence of female friendship and support. This 2015 film shows a group of friends from different backgrounds gathering for a party in Goa and going on an adventure of their lifetime, in terms of talking about life, sex, their lovers and other things that make up their world!
Being one of the most popular and talented directors in the world, Satyajit Ray did obvious justice to the idea of female friendship in this Calcutta (Kolkata) – based film. Set in the black-and-white frame of old Calcutta, the film shows a sweet friendship that developed between a Bengali woman who took to working ‘outside’, due to the financial crisis in the family and an Anglo-Indian woman who was subject to stigma due to her race. The female protagonist, Madhabi Mukherjee, made an excellent match for the role in which she eventually quit her job in support of her friend, after realising that her boss was racist and arrogant. This masterpiece is definitely a fine film to watch and learn lots about Indian society.
This is one of the most underrated films that Indian cinema has witnessed. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the film portrays the story of two best friends, played by Tabu and Sushmita Sen. The film, which was rather “way too progressive for its time”, dealt with the issue of surrogate motherhood and pregnancy. Throughout the film, the relationship between the two friends was depicted very well and in a realistic manner. This should definitely be on your list!
For a film that shot in the recent years, Queen is a film that looks into the trauma of a woman, played by Kangana Ranaut, who was brought up in a conservative setting that did not give her the opportunity to realise her self worth. As the story progresses, we see how she was dumped by the guy she was in love with, and how she takes on the world for the very first time. During her trip to Europe, she meets a woman (played by Liza Haydon) whom she befriends and opens up to. The two women in the film develop an intense bond that helps both of them realise their potential in the male-dominated world.
Madhur Bhandarkar took to the portrayal of the dark underbelly of the fashion world in this 2008 film. The film goes on to show the rise and fall of the lead character, played by Priyanka Chopra. During her modelling career in Mumbai, she develops intense bonds with two other fellow models, who help her realise her worth and vice versa. The best part about this film is that the friendship does not end with the protagonist’s downfall, rather, it strengthens while she tries to climb up again. The women band together with the conviction to reclaim their lost spaces.
9) Dedh Ishqiya
Much to the comfort of our eyes, we can see in this film the close relationship of friendship and mutual support between a helper and the ‘mistress of the house’ – a widow in search of love. This film did break down the class barriers that society creates. The two power actresses of Bollywood, Madhuri Dixit and Huma Qureshi, efficiently play their roles and turn our minds into thinking openly about the inbuilt class barriers and pitching women against one another.
10) Lipstick under my Burkha
Although this film is not quite about female friendships, it did justice to the idea of mutual support towards the end – in the film climax. Portraying the lives of four different women separately, the film broke all the conventions of female sexuality and “purity”. This 2017 release, which was initially banned by the censor board, must be on your holiday watch-list!
While there are many more to look out for, given the fact that these days Indian films are gradually changing and taking into account women’s experiences, the abovementioned are a must-watch for ardent learners. There is much more to learn while we keep experimenting with whatever popular culture and parallel cinema has to offer!
This list does not claim to be a comprehensive one. Suggestions for more such films are welcome in the comments section.