Time and again, women have set their own trend and inspired the rest of us to live life on our own terms. They have let their individuality stand out and refused to conform to societal standards of so called ‘appropriate life choices’.

Let’s take a look at some women from Indian television industry who defied societal norms:

1. Neena Gupta

She got her big break on television with Khandaan (1985) and then went on to do various other shows like Gulzar’s Mirza Ghalib (1987), Saans (Star Plus), Saat Phere (2005), and Chitthi (2003) to name a few. One of the most popular actresses on Indian television and cinema, Neena took a bold move when she decided to go ahead with her pregnancy with cricketer, Vivian Richards, without marrying him. Her daughter Masaba, now a famous fashion designer, was 19 years old when Neena married Vivek Mehra in 2008. Whoa.

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2. Mona Ambegaonkar

She has been a singular parental force to her daughter who was born out of wedlock in December 2005.

After working in TV serials like CID, Dhadkan and Amber Dhara, Mona Ambegaonkar broke all societal norms when she decided to go on with her pregnancy in 2005. She allegedly has a love child with Dayananad Shetty (Daya from CID). She also did a negative role in the movie, Mardaani.

Maratha TV

3. Bharti Singh

Bharti Singh redefined the face of Indian television with her incredible comic timing. 

Considered as one of the funniest woman on Indian television, Bharti Singh successfully broke all the stereotypes surrounding female comedians when she bagged the second runner-up trophy in The Great Indian Laughter Challenge (season 4). Her child character named ‘Lalli’ became famous overnight and there has been no stopping her since then. She currently hosts the show, Comedy Nights Bachao on Colors.

India Today

4. Sunny Leone

She defended her choice of being an adult entertainer before and after she made her debut on television and subsequently, went on to do movies.

Sunny Leone worked in the porn-industry before she grabbed eyeballs with her personality in Bigg Boss. Even after facing criticism, she bagged several movies roles and TV shows and went on to stand up for her life choices, just like she did before. She is not afraid to answer questions about her past and refuses to be bullied if questioned the provoking way.

5. Urvashi Dholakia

Married at the age of 16, she became a mother of two a year later; got divorced one and a half years after her marriage and has been a single mother since then.

Best known for her iconic role as Komolika Basu in Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Urvashi Dholakia defied norms when she decided to raise her sons as a single mother after her failed marriage. She was only 17 years old then. She also starred in other TV shows like Dekh Bhai Dekh, Ghar Ek Mandir, Kabhii Sautan Kabhii Sahelii, Bigg Boss, to name a few.

TV Talks

6. Smriti Irani

From playing the Bahu Superior in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi to becoming the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani has come a long way.

Smriti Irani is a former model, television actress and producer who is the current Minister of Human Resource Development in the Government of India. Her character of Tulsi Virani in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi holds the record of winning five consecutive Indian Television Academy Awards and four Indian Telly Awards for Best Actress (Popular). After her successful stint on the Indian television, she moved to politics and turned out to be one of the youngest ministers in the Modi Cabinet as Minister of Human Resource Development.

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7. Gul Panag

This former beauty pageant winner and TV actor is active in politics as a member of the Aam Aadmi Party and runs an NGO. Her bad-ass is a motorcycle aficionado and unafraid to take a stand against corruption

After her bollywood stint with movies like Dhoop, Dor and Manorma Six Feet Under, to name a few, Former Miss India Gul Panag did a TV series named Kashmeer. Along with her acting and modelling career, she runs an NGO named Colonel Shamsher Singh Foundation. Not holding herself back from helping the society, she actively participated in the India Against Corruption movement in 2011 and also works for the Aam Aadmi Party.


8. Gurbani Judge

Apart from her work on MTV, this fitness freak has come a long way and is now acting in several movies.

Be it her love for the tattoos, her body piercings or her fitness avatar, Gurbani Judge aka VJ Bani never ceased to charm people since her first appearance on Roadies as a contestant. Along with her successful stint on MTV, she has appeared in various movies like Aap Kaa Surroor, Soundtrack and Zorawar. Not to forget, it’s her on-screen sassy and funny personality that has made her a youth icon.

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9. Shweta Tiwari

She spoke up about domestic violence after separating from her husband in 2007.

With her groundbreaking role in Kasautii Zindagii Kay, Shweta Tiwari became a household name in the country. But everything was not fine in her personal life. After getting a divorce with actor Raja Chaudhary, she opened up about domestic violence and how she managed to get past it. She is now happily married with Abhinav Kohli and is raising her daughter responsibly. 

Filmi Beat

10. Mandira Bedi

She became the first female cricket host in India when she hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2003 and 2007, after doing several groundbreaking roles on TV.

After her groundbreaking role in Shanti (first ever daily soap on Indian television), Mandira Bedi followed up her career in TV with shows like Aurat, Dushman and Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. It was the year 2003 during the ICC Cricket World Cup when Indian audience got acquainted with its first female cricket host, Mandira Bedi. After that, there was no stopping for her. She went on to host cricket World Cup 2007 along with the Champions Trophies in the years 2004 and 2006 as well as the Indian Premier League season 2 for Sony Max. Not only this, she also fronted the coverage of IPL season 3 for the British Network – ITV.


11. Shama Sikander

Shama Sikander fought a tough battle with bipolar disorder and came out as a winner.

After her successful acting career with TV show, Ye Meri Life Hai, Shama Sikander dealt with the pain of a debilitating mental condition. She was suffering from bipolar disorder for a long period of time and finally overcame it with proper medical treatment, counseling and meditation. Recently, she spoke to people about how she conquered her mental health and came out as a winner. After a long break, she is back on the track with her short film named, Sexaholic. More power to you, lady!


12. Kaneez Surka

Kaneez Surka is a top-notch comedian and a host of Indian satirical late night television programme, The Week That Wasn’t with Cyrus Broacha. She is one of the first Indian women comedians who is into improvisation.

Apart from being the host of of the show The Week That Wasn’t, Surka is a part of the group called ‘The Improvisers’ along with comedians Abish Mathew, Kanan Gill and Kenneth Sebastian. Be it Weirdass, All India Bakchod or The Improv Comedy, Mumbai, she has been a part of all of these groups. Watch out for this charming woman!

Deccan Herald

13. Sudha Chandran

Sudha Chandran did not let her hopes and aspirations die after she lost a leg in an accident. Along with her successful film and television career, she become one of the most highly acclaimed bharatanatyam dancers of the Indian subcontinent.


A dose of inspiration!