Bollywood films are known for being stereotypical; they focus on love and romance. In India, the hero runs the movie; they are more often than not given more importance than their female counterpart. The movies rely on the name of the hero for publicity and the box office collections. You see the heroine dancing in the background or playing the victim, trying to woo the hero over. Even if there are movies that focus on the female lead or female friendships, they are labeled as chick-flicks, and not much attention is paid to them—marketing as women-only films that men will not enjoy.
They say movies reflect what goes on in society, and our community is undergoing many changes. There have been some exciting and successful movies that are focused on female characters in the recent past. From portraying the role of decorative objects in movies, women have come a long way in our movies. These Bollywood women-centric movies have also proven to be a hit at the box-office. From being portrayed as the ‘Abla Indian Nari’, the women in our films are now displayed as strong. They know how to stand up for themselves and demand what is theirs.
They will not let you take away their rights. Women are done playing the victim. If you are interested in such movies then you need to check out these best women-centric movies. From Mother India to Lipstick Under My Burkha and English Vinglish, the women in Hindi cinema have depicted the transformation the country has been through very well.
Best Women Centric Hindi movies
In this list, we bring 20 films, both old and new, that show women as heroes. These movies are the top women-centric movies that have been made by Bollywood. All of them had a significant impact on the audiences and have changed Bollywood movies’ face. We will be starting the list with the oldest movies and gradually move on to the newer ones.
1. Mother India
Mother India is a classic; no list about women-centric movies is complete without this movie. Made in 1957, Mother India was a path-breaking movie of its time. Starring Nargis Dutt, it is one of the most iconic movies ever made. Nargis played Radha’s role, a poor village girl who fights against all odds to raise her two children. But when pull comes to push, she kills her immoral son for justice’s sake. Even after so many years, Mother India still ranks among the all-time Indian box office hits.
2. Mirch Masala
Mirch Masala was a 1987 movie directed by Ketan Mehta. The movie starring Smitha Patil, Deepti Naval, and Naseeruddin Shah is considered one of Smitha Patil’s most iconic performances. It narrates an ordinary village woman, Sonbai, who chooses to say no to the village’s powerful subedar. Deepti Naval plays the part of the village headman’s wife, who takes a stand for her daughter’s education. Mirch Masala is truly a fantastic story of women empowerment during regressive times.
This 1982 film directed by Mahesh Bhatt stars Shabana Azmi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda in the lead roles. Smitha Patil was also a part of this movie. It is the story of a wife betrayed and ditched by her husband for another woman. It shows how the life of a woman can change once she takes charge of her happiness. The movie was well-received that it was remade in Tamil.
Damini, directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, is a 1993 story of how a woman fights against society for justice. The movie starred Meenakshi Sheshadri alongside Sunny Deol, Rishi Kapoor, and Amrish Puri. Damini is a common woman who got married into a wealthy family. One day she fights with her brother-in-law, whom she catches physically abusing the maid. However, the family opposes her, and she is forced to leave the house. She is helped by an ex-advocate played by Sunny Deol to gain justice.
5. Bandit Queen
Bandit Queen is a biography of an Indian dacoit, Phoolan Devi, sent to prison in 1983. Made in 1994 by Shekhar Kapoor, the film was based on the book India’s Bandit Queen: The True Story of Phoolan Devi by Mala Sen. The movie saw Seema Biswas play the role of Phoolan Devi. She was prosecuted by the police and later turned into a legend by the people of India. It’s the story of a woman who fights all the mayhem surrounding her by the men, be it the police or the goons.
This 2000 movie, directed by Mahesh Manjrekar, works towards uncovering the male chauvinist culture of Indian society. This film depicts a woman’s life, played by Tabu, trying to find her own identity outside of her marriage. She then moves away from her husband and son, empowered by her to-be daughter-in-law, who too leaves the chauvinist boyfriend. This movie unveiled issues like extramarital affairs and spousal abuse prevalent in the society but unspoken at that time.
7. Chandni Bar
Chandini Bar brought to light the plight of numerous women in Mumbai who are caught in the underworld web, prostitution, dance bars, and crime. This 2001 movie directed by Madhur Bhandarkar featured Tabu. She played the part of Mumtaz in the film. Mumtaz strives hard to give her children a better future, but alas, the situation she is in gets the best of her.
Lajja is a 2001 movie based on the plight of women and feminism in India. Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi, the film satirizes the honor placed on women and the restrictions on them. Starring Rekha, Madhuri Dixit, Manisha Koirala, and Mahima Chaudhary, the movie highlights the wrongs done by Indian society towards women.
9. The Dirty Picture
The Dirty Picture is a 2011 movie that was inspired by the life of Silk Smitha. She was a South Indian actress noted for her erotic roles. The movie directed by Milan Luthria starred Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, Naseeruddin Shah, and Tusshar Kapoor, who received praise for portraying women as powerful unapologetic. Vidya is receiving the highest accolades for her performance in this movie.
10. No One Killed Jessica
No One Killed Jessica is a film based on the real-life incident of the Jessica Lal murder case. This 2011 film directed by Rajkumar Gupta saw Vidya Balan and Rani Mukherji fighting for justice. The movie depicts how Sabrina Lal, Jessica’s elder sister, fights the wealthy and influential man who shot her sister. Rani Mukherji played the part of a journalist who helps Sabrina get justice for her sister. The film depicts that even a common woman can fight all odds and rise above society to achieve justice.
This 2012 movie is a must-watch for everyone. It is a true masterpiece with twists and turns that are so well written and portrayed that you will not know what is a lie and the truth until the end of the movie. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the movie starred Vidya Balan. Parambrata Chatterjee has also done a phenomenal job in the movie. Vidya indeed took the cake with her portrayal of a pregnant Vidya Bagchi.
12. English Vinglish
English Vinglish, directed by Gauri Shinde, is a 2012 film starring Sridevi. It takes us on quite a journey. Sridevi plays the role of a housewife who is looked down upon by her husband & kids because of her inability to speak English properly. All of this changes when she finds new opportunities while traveling to the United States for a wedding. There she finds time for herself and ends up taking a course that improves her English making new friends along the way. The movie was very well received and enjoyed by the audience.
Queen is one of the most trending women-centric movies of Bollywood. Directed by Vikas Bahl, the film reached the audience in 2014. This movie changed people’s perception of women and was a confidence booster for every girl out there. It is the story of Rani, played by Kangana Ranaut, who gets dumped by Vijay, played by Rajkumar Rao, one day before her wedding. Later, she decides to go on her honeymoon alone and discovers how big and wonderful the world is. She comes back full of confidence, ready to take control of her own life.
14. Marry Kom
This 2014 movie, directed by Omung Kumar, is inspired by the Indian boxer’s true-life story, Mary Kom. She has won many medals internationally and has made India proud of her achievements. Priyanka Chopra brought the character to life on the big screen. The movie depicted Mary Kom’s journey of becoming a boxer and overcoming all the obstacles that came in her way to win the 2008 boxing championships.
Mardaani is a 2014 action thriller film directed by Pradeep Sarkar. It follows the journey of a female cop Shivani Roy played by Rani Mukherji. Following the kidnapping of a teenage girl, Shivani uncovers a vast human trafficking racket operating in India. She then fights the leader of the ring and manages to free the girls involved. This movie was followed by a sequel titled Mardaani 2.
Piku is a 2015 comedy-drama directed by Shoojit Sarkar. It stars Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, and Irrfan Khan in the lead roles. The movie was full of humor and was loved by audiences belonging to different age groups. It was the perfect family movie that won people’s hearts. Set in Delhi and Kolkata, the movie saw Bachchan and Deepika in very different roles. They were the ideal father-daughter duo.
This 2016 movie is based on the real story of the model and head purser of a flight Neerja Bhanot. Neerja had sacrificed her life in the line of duty. She made sure that hundreds of passengers of the hijacked Pan Am Flight 73 were safe and sound. The movie directed by Ram Madhvani, starred Sonam Kapoor, who played the role very well. There was no single person who was not moved after watching this story of great courage and strength.
This 2016 movie made the country understand that NO means NO. Directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, the movie was an eye-opener and considered one of the most potent movies made in Bollywood. The film saw Amitabh Bachchan playing an advocate to fight the legal battle for three girls, played by Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, and Andrea Tariang. Pink made the people realize that no matter what clothes a woman wears or what kind of a lifestyle she leads, no one has the right to force her into doing anything against her will.
19. Lipstick Under My Burkha
Lipstick Under My Burkha is truly a coming of age film for women’s sexuality directed by Alankrita Shrivastava. It is a fearlessly feminist film that discusses a topic which we Indians never really talk about. It was initially banned in India because it was “lady-oriented” and had bold female characters. However, later the movie was made available for the Indian audience. The film shows the secret lives of 4 women who are in search of their freedom. The movie’s cast includes Ratna Pathak, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aahana Kumra, and Plabita Borthakur.
Mom is a 2017 crime thriller that conveys how a simple woman can change to harness her inner Goddess when someone she loves and cares for is in danger. Starring Sridevi, mom was a story of a mother who takes revenge on the people who raped her daughter. This movie is also unique as it was Sridevi’s last movie before she passed away.
This list has the names of the oldest and the Latest women-centric movies available to the Indian audience. All these movies had a significant impact on the people and reflect the changing perceptions of women in our society and boost the confidence of women throughout the country. They let women know that it is okay to be yourself, focus on yourself, and be whoever you want to be it can be a cop like in Mardaani or a simple housewife like in English Vinglish.