In recent years, Bollywood has attempted to reinvent the way women are shown in movies. From abla naari, it moved to able naari – or at least, attempted to! But sadly, when it came to depicting a strong, independent woman, these movies failed and failed hard: 

1. Guilty

The movie’s premise was centered around women coming together and rising against rape culture and victim-blaming. Sadly, the women in the film were riddled with so many stereotypes that they did more disservice to the idea of women with a voice than even the film’s cliched plotline. 


2. Love Aaj Kal

If we were to go by this movie, then the modern Indian woman is one who can still not balance work and personal life and is okay with being stalked in the name of love. SMH!


3. Tribhanga

Despite a commendable star cast, the film was a disappointing mess that painted its central characters in extreme, affording them no nuance, and at times, no humanity. The token representation of issues such as domestic abuse, childhood trauma, sexual abuse, only furthered the alienation of female characters, turning them into stereotypes, rather than relatable women.  


4. Akira

Far too many creators make this mistake, where, in an attempt to make a woman the hero of the story, they write her as they’d write a male protagonist. Considering most of our male protagonists anyway leave a lot to be desired, this fails in creating a female character that is relatable or inspiring. And Akira is a fine example of this failure. 


5. Namaste England

A film that attempted to deal with women’s empowerment was wrong on so many levels, you were left feeling severely disappointed. Let’s just say, this is not what empowerment, or strong female characters, look like. 


6. Aisha

I have no problem with showcasing flawed or entitled women characters – but does it have to be so insipid? Sonam’s rendition of Aisha left a lot to be desired, most of all the depiction of a woman confident of her choices, and mature enough to deal with her mistakes – like Emma was. 

India Today

7. Cocktail

The greatest disserve Cocktail did to women was showcase two young, vibrant women fight over a man-child like Gautam. Archie Comics had more nuance than this film, where even the little agency Veronica had, was eviscerated when the film reduced women to flawed polarized versions of bad vs. good girl.

India Today

8. Haseen Dillruba

Supposed to be a whodunit set in the style of smutty murder thriller, Haseen Dillruba had far too much going on, and most, if not all of it was illogical. But the most illogical bit was Rani’s character development that was nothing short of a hot mess, completely destroying the idea of women who own up to their desires. 


9. Begum Jaan

If you’ve ever wondered how a single film can let down the audience, the star cast, and feminism, then watch Begum Jaan. Sex work, patriarchy, and partition were muddled together in the film to create a mess that just perpetuated the flawed beliefs it claimed to debunk. It also taught a lesson that just having a cast of mostly women, doesn’t automatically make a film a feminist tale.


10. Mardaani

Cops with over-inflated egos who break rules and bash criminals’ heads are not modern or badass, but just annoying, no matter the gender! While the first film was still bearable, we could definitely do without the sequel or the weak character development.  

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Of course, this list excludes the series of movies where the existence of a woman is only, and only, to serve the hero’s interest and character arc. 

Strong, independent women are not unicorns. These women exist in real life, and portraying them realistically and making them appear relatable, should not be so hard.