Women’s Day Marathon: 7 female Bollywood characters who inspire

Some Bollywood characters stay in our minds even after the movie is over. They make us question things. Sometimes, they ignite in us a feeling to be better. And at other times, they make us want to raise our voices.

As a child, the meaning of belonging to a particular gender was lost on me. I was a child, enjoying my childhood just like my neighbour’s son. It was only after growing up that I discovered the not-so-subtle differences between the two sexes. And while differences are meant to be accepted and even celebrated, the distinction was very obvious.

Even in this modern day and age, there are things that our mothers and sisters do that go unnoticed, like taking care of an entire household. There are sacrifices women make at work and in life that are taken for granted in most families and communities simply because women hold the title of primary caregivers in almost every set-up. While it is a continuous journey towards equality that we all undertake, a day like Women’s Day makes you sit up and think about how you can educate and better your society.

Cinema is a great lens to understand issues that our society deals with. And to that end, there are some very inspiring Bollywood characters that stay in our minds even after the movie is over. They make us question things. Sometimes, they ignite in us a feeling to be better. And at other times, they make us want to raise our voices. Soulveda takes this special day to highlight some inspiring Bollywood characters that are female and are made up of ingredients we all desire to have.

Vidya Bagchi in Kahaani (2012)

Imagine a pregnant woman going from pillar to post asking about her missing husband to cops, seedy people and just about anyone. In just one attire for the whole film, exhausted but determined Vidya Bagchi roams the City of Joy relentlessly in the award-winning Sujoy Ghosh film Kahaani.

Vidya Bagchi, played by the versatile actor Vidya Balan, is a powerhouse. She is one of the strongest characters written for Indian cinema. A woman who avenges her husband’s wrongful death but not in an ordinary manner, Vidya is a force to reckon with. She is heartbroken in more ways than one, but she picks up the pieces to create an elaborate plan of revenge that is not for the weak-hearted.

Kahaani captures Kolkata’s nooks and alleys in ways that match Vidya’s sombre moods and her resilience. On Women’s Day, there is no better treat for a cinephile than watching Vidya Balan’s portrayal of a wronged woman on her road to revenge.

Piku in Piku (2015)

Piku Banerjee is a delight. She is a working woman. She is a daughter of par excellence. She is nobody’s fool. Piku, played by Deepika Padukone in the film of the same name, is a woman we all want to be. A modern woman who takes care of her hypochondriac father like a nurturing mom, Piku knows she has her hands full and yet chooses to smile at life’s challenges – she is perfectly okay not finding a companion in a hurry and isn’t ashamed to say she wants to take care of her father even after she gets married. Ofcourse, life throws a curveball every other moment, with her ageing father’s health scares and society’s constant nagging about her biological clock ticking. But Piku is self-assured and happy making lemonade with the lemons life gives.

We either wish we were Piku or would want to have a Piku as a friend who has our back always.

Sulu in Tumhari Sulu (2017)

Sulu is another charming and inspiring Bollywood character we loved watching onscreen. In Suresh Triveni’s Tumhari Sulu, Vidya Balan plays the role of Sulu, a housewife who manages her home and family with a smile and efficiency for all to see. That she can’t win them all is a fact of life we all deal with. Even with all her efforts, she gets brickbats from her family.

By chance, when she makes it as an RJ, and her skills find the fame they deserve, she faces trials of a different kind, with her husband and son both misunderstanding her. How Sulu rises above tribulations is an example of strength and resilience. A lot of women among us can relate to Sulu. Is it because she portrays the housewife with dreams to a tee? Or because she tries to get out of a typically patriarchal system that constantly tries to rein her in? Whatever the reason, Sulu gives us all major goals on how to traverse an ordinary life extraordinarily.

Kaira in Dear Zindagi (2016)

Kaira has everything an urban Indian woman desires. She has a rocking job where she is prized, she has relationships that are exciting, and she has the money to do what she desires. And yet it is her mental health that takes a hit in the rigmarole of life. In Gauri Shinde’s Dear Zindagi, the young Kaira, played by a super-talented Alia Bhatt, goes seeking answers to life’s more difficult questions and finds them on a therapist’s couch.

We live in times where we are torn trying to balance work, relationships and our equation with our inner selves. Many of us have had to seek a therapist, especially after the pandemic, to understand what makes us anxious and how we can help our body and mind feel at peace again. Dear Zindagi is an ode to this episode in our lives.

Kaira, in her attempt to understand her childhood trauma and abandonment issues, unwraps the reasons behind her cynicism and bad mental health. She shows the way to be courageous while seeking help. An inspiring Bollywood character for keeps, we say. Because as Kaira shows us, nobody can offer us our mental well-being. It is something that has to be worked on by ourselves.

Safeena in Gully Boy (2019)

A brilliant doctor in the making, Safeena from Gully Boy does everything with truckloads of passion. She studies with all her heart, and she loves fiercely. If Ranveer Singh won awards for his portrayal of a rapper from the gullies of Mumbai, it is Alia Bhatt’s Safeena who was the atomic personality that gave the rapper his wings.

Made up of sugar and a lot of spice, Safeena is a personality that has flaws, much like any of us. She is angrier, smarter, bolder, a case of maximums. But that is exactly why her character is so cool to watch. She shows us what the angry young woman looks like, much like how the legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan did in the 1970s and 80s for his portrayal of the angry young man.

This Women’s Day, we can learn the art of saying no, putting our foot down and fighting for what we love from dear ol’ Safeena.

Shivani in Mardaani (2014)

Extremely macho cops seem to be the norm for Bollywood movies. But rarely comes a film where a female cop takes on crime in a manner that’s not just to show heroics but to spread a message. Rani Mukerji’s portrayal of a no-nonsense policewoman in Pradeep Sarkar’s Mardaani makes for an inspiring watch. Inspector Shivani deals with criminals in the drugs and trafficking business with a fervour that is as severe as it is personal. A thorough professional with odd hours at work, she also has a husband who understands her life’s mission, a rare feat.

Shivani is the embodiment of the goddess Kali when taking on absolutely ruthless villains who have zero morals. Yet she is like the nurturing mother goddess when dealing with a little girl from the streets who is struggling.

While the movie is hard to watch with its difficult themes, Rani’s cop act shows us that women don’t need to stop the good fight for anything or anyone. If it’s a fight worth fighting, we women don’t need to back down, do we?

Shashi in English Vinglish (2012)

Shashi Godbole might be my favourite on this list, but that might be because of my Sridevi bias. That said, Shashi in Gauri Shinde’s English Vinglish is one of the most inspiring Bollywood characters ever. For starters, she is all our mothers. As the name of the film suggests, meek Shashi doesn’t know how to speak English, and that translates into her being something unworthy in the eyes of her husband and children. This is the kind of prejudice we see a lot in our surroundings, where education and language divide us into the cool ones and the ignored ones.

The previous generation of women often didn’t get the kind of education we get today. It was and continues to be a social malady that isn’t just personal but plays into the social fabric of a community.

In the film, Shashi is a fantastic mother, wife and cook. But all of that is overshadowed and put into question because of her inability to speak in English. As she starts taking English classes, she learns not just the language but more about herself. Her self-worth shines through as she discovers her family and their opinion don’t solely define her. A must-watch for every one, English Vinglish is a master class in appreciating the women in our lives.




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