The ability to choose makes a lot more difference than we can imagine. Almost all movements that talk about women’s rights focus on getting the choice to make our own decisions. Because having control is liberation. So whether it’s wanting to wear a certain type of outfit or getting married, there’s no one right idea, even if society wants women to believe that there is.
And some Bollywood films have managed to talk about it, in some empowering moments.
1. Gully Boy
Safeena, the character portrayed by Alia Bhatt literally points out the lack of choice, which forces her to lie. She talks about making her choices in life – going out, wearing what she wants, or even choosing her friends. In a small yet important scene, she puts forth how a lot of women have to juggle between the different lives that they live just because they don’t get to choose.
In a scene from the film, Vidya Balan’s character highlights the ‘choice’ that must be attached to motherhood, which usually isn’t. Vidya’s (character of the same name) mother and mother-in-law visit her, and soon, they start talking (read, pestering) her to start a family. After both she and her husband dodge the questions, she’s ambushed by her mother. After this action, she clarifies that she doesn’t want children and the fact that motherhood is a choice.
The film tries to deal with body-shaming, and while it focuses on the impact that it has on a person dealing with it, it also finally calls out the action. During the climax, Isha points out how she loves herself for who she is, despite the fact that her potential ‘husband’ blatantly cracks jokes on her weight and body. She makes it clear how it is her choice to eat what she wants, and doesn’t feel the need to ‘fit’ in the conventional standards of beauty.
4. Badhaai Do
After coming out in front of her family, Sumi, the character portrayed by Bhumi Pednekar receives quite the judgment from her family. And while it was exactly how she expected it to be, she also wanted her father to understand and respect her choice to love whom she loves. Sumi confronted her family and her father about it, in one of the final scenes of the film.
5. Dil Dhadakne Do
While divorce is a no-no word in our society, and no reason is good enough to move on from a relationship, Dil Dhadakne Do tries to focus on how society treats it. In one scene from the film, Ayesha confronts her husband, mother-in-law and the entire family that there isn’t any compatibility in their relationship, and she won’t be able to stay or keep him happy. This or anything that makes a relationship feel toxic, is a good enough reason to not choose to stay in a marriage, which is hardly talked about.
6. English Vinglish
Most often than not, when women work in the kitchen or do chores it’s not a decision that comes out of their choice. And hence, it’s treated more as a responsibility – which is exactly what Sridevi’s character pointed out in one of the scenes from the film. She talks about the fact that when men cook it’s considered art, and when women are good at it, it’s looked at as a duty. This is exactly why most women are also underappreciated at home, which is a result of the lack of choice.
While the film called out society’s class divide in all subtlety and honesty, there’s also a scene in the film where Shefali Shah’s character Ruksana stood up for her daughter’s right to choose. After her daughter’s accident, people questioned the fact that she was out, late at night, as if blaming her for the accident. Victim blaming is something that happens very often (read, every time) when a woman is a victim – it takes away the right to be or to choose. And hence, this scene with Ruksana saying the simple words – “Bahar thi, toh thok dene ka?”, made a huge impact.
8. Lust Stories
In Karan Johar’s short from the anthology film, Kiara Advani’s character confronts her husband about female pleasure, and sex being more than just about procreation. She tells him that using a vibrator or even exploring her sexual desires wasn’t a wrong thing, and she has complete control over it. She even mentioned that she was not guilty for having or wanting to have an orgasm – as it should be. And shaming women for wanting or not wanting sex, is also a lot about taking away a choice.
These films focused on conversations that matter.