The best way to understand the times and lives of an era is through documentaries. You might say the same about movies but a medium that does not mostly deal with fiction would be a better bet. It is great to see that India has kind of hit a sudden boom when it comes to documentaries. A lot of these deal with subjects ranging from gritty to tragic.

Of these documentaries (some of which might change your life) we have selected a few on Indian women that you must miss at not cost whatsoever.

1. Gulabi Gang

Revolves around the vigilante group and its leader who fight against oppression of women

This documentary is about the real Gulabi Gang, headed by the fiery Sampat Pal. Gulabi Gang fights against every form of oppression and violence that rural women face. The movement started at Bundelkhand and has spread across North India now. The documentary shows how they go about their business. 

2. Love In India

Explores the duality in the perception of love in the country

Love In India explores the complex concept of love. On one hand we have the moniker of the Land of Kamasutra and on the other, love marriages are still seen as a violation of societal norms in some places, something that is best avoided. Filmmaker Q indulges in a personal narrative parallel  to the idea of love across the country.

3. Purple Skies

Gives a voice of sorts to the LGBT community of the country

Purple Skies gives a voice, and a much important one at that, to the lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities of India. Members of the LGBT community narrate their personal stories and voice their opinions in this very important documentary.

4. Menstrual Man

Is focused on the man responsible for producing and distributing low-cost sanitary napkins to women in rural areas

“Finally, India needed a school dropout to make sanitary pads for Indian women.” And this documentary is about that school dropout who started a silent movement of producing and availing low-cost sanitary napkins for women. He is Muruganantham, fondly known as the Menstrual Man.

5. The World Before Her

Throws light on the complexity of the country by juxtaposing the regimes of the Miss India pageant and a Hindu national camp for young girls

This brilliant documentary focuses on the strict regime of a Miss India pageant and the violently intense regime of a Hindu national camp for young girls. The World Before Her manages to expose the two Indias that reside in the country, the modern urban one that breaks all the cultural rules and the one where culture is so deeply rooted that they are willing to do anything to protect it.

6. Blood On My Hands

Discusses the taboo topic of menstruation

Menstruation has forever been a topic not to be discussed openly. Blood On My Hands explores the concept of menstruation, what young girls go through during that period and why is it a taboo.

7. The Holy Wives

Explored the pathetic world of the sexually-exploited devadasis

With the focus on devadasis, mahatammas and bedinis, The Holy Wives exposes the ghastly world of women who are sexually exploited in the name of religion. This documentary talks about the victims of caste-based sexual exploitation.

8. A Body That Will Speak

Revolves around women and their struggle to keep up with the ‘ideal body’

This documentary focuses on women who are struggling to keep up with what is the ‘ideal body’, something that does not exist but nevertheless gnaws every woman from inside. But society is obsessed. A Body That Will Speak discovers women who are battling these expectations from society and from themselves.

9. Mango Girls

Focuses on the village of Dharhara that plants ten mango trees every time a girl is born

Female infanticide and dowry might as well be a myth for this village in Bihar called Dharhara. The villagers plant ten mango trees every time a girl is born. Mango Girls focuses on this village that is not only one of the most progressive villages but is highly eco-friendly too.

10. My Sacred Glass Bowl

Why is virginity so important when it come to marriages? The documentary looks for an answer

This documentary explores the concept of virginity in India, something that is considered of utmost importance when it comes to marriages.

11. Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyan

Looks at the rules of a regressive world and the women who are determined to break them

Izzatnagari Ki Asabhya Betiyan takes on the unfair world of honour killings and khap panchayats by its horns and shakes them. The documentary focuses on the brave men and women who are questioning the regressive rules of a regressive world.

12. Tales Of The Night Fairies

Explores the scandalous world of sex-workers in Kolkata and tells us how normal their lives are

Tales Of The Night Fairies focuses on the sex workers of Sonagachi, Kolkata. It does not attempt to bring out the pain or shame that is associated with their profession but shows that they are normal people going about their normal day.

13. Beyond Women’s Stereotypes

Tackles the issue of television reinforcing stereotypical images of women and how in reality it is such a far cry

Television, especially Indian television reinforces stereotypical images of women, breaking which invokes the ire of the society. Beyond Women’s Stereotypes juxtaposes these images and what is real.

14. It’s A Boy!

Looks at the highly-skewed sex-ratio of the country and why it is so

It’s A Boy looks at India’s horrifically imbalanced sex-ratio and delves deeper into how that has come to be. This documentary also looks into government initiatives and exposes the belief that families hold about their sons and daughters.

15. Prostitutes Of God

Another documentary that explores the world of devadasis

This is another documentary that deals with the reality of devadasis that is usually veiled by the protective and impenetrable layer of religion.

16. Ladies Special

Shows how the ladies special in Mumbai locals are the best part of the day for a lot of women

The subject of this documentary is the ladies compartment of Mumbai local trains, something that is a world onto itself. It might look like a long, arduous journey from afar, but the women do not think so as for a lot of them it is the only space where they find some time and peace for themselves.

17. Can’t Hide Me

Story of three women who fought to reclaim their space in public

This documentary narrates the stories of three women – Parvati, Mallika and Henna – who fought to reclaim their space in public because girls are not only made to look after the household. Can’t Hide Me is a masterclass on unfairness for people who believe that the world does not need feminism.

18. Much Ado About Knotting

Focuses on the crazy world of marriage market and the predicament of people looking for a partner

Much Ado About Knotting looks inside the insane world of marriage market and approaches the subject in a light-hearted manner. It exposes the predicament faced by people who are willing to marry but are unable to find anyone.

19. India’s Daughter

Tells what happened on the fateful night of 16th December with the focus on Jyoti Singh

India’s Daughter is a controversial documentary that focuses on the 16th December gangrape victim, Jyoti Singh and the incidents of that fateful night. It also has interviews with Jyoti’s parents, friends and her perpetrators.

Watching these might change your perspective on a lot of things and show you a different face of life.