How Anurag Kashyap's brazen heroines are the perfect antidote to Bollywood's damsels in distress

In this unapologetically male-centric world of Bollywood, Anurag Kashyap is that ray of hope movie fan deserves.

Bollywood is undoubtedly a male-dominated empire. The fact that the list of “superstars” in the industry is shy of a vagina just goes to show that there’s more truth to it than one would assume. While one might find blame in the actress’ talents, it has more to do with the roles they get assigned. The masses often run off to the theatres for a movie with a testosterone-packed hero at its helm. You can’t ever fall short of adjectives for the description of the quintessential Bollywood hero. There, standing by his arm, is the heroine- preferably skinny, unquestionably beautiful, and… Well, there must not be the need for a third quality.

Women in Bollywood tend to have more song lyrics than lines. And, of course, they are mere plot devices to help accentuate the hero’s grit and bravery when they embark on ‘Mission- Rescue Laila’ during the climax. Fortunately, not every writer/ director slacks off at writing roles for women. Anurag Kashyap, for one, seems to have mastered the art of featuring powerful yet, believable women in his movies. From being self-sufficient to sexually empowered, the characters from his films can kick some serious butt and are certainly not afraid to take a stand for themselves in man’s world.

Here’s a quick look at the females in Anurag Kashyap films and how they are breaking ground for more fierce women to come:

1. Dev D (2009)

Although the character of Chanda is young, she brushes past a debilitating experience owing to her strong sense of individuality. She becomes her own person as she steps into the shoes of a prostitute by her own choice and takes charge of her life.

On the other hand, Mahi Gill’s Paro is no less a strong woman than Chanda. She decides against marrying the love of her life for she believes she deserves better. Even later, when Dev wishes to return to her, she enjoys her right to say no and refuses to fall into a toxic relationship.

2. Gulaal (2009)

Gulaal happens to be a typical “masculine” cinematic experience yet, in the midst of the political drama, there sits a not so defenseless woman. Ayesha Mohan’s Kiran is one of the important players in the political game of thrones and never does she feel inferior to her competition. She uses sex as a weapon to gain the upper hand and in the end, she always gets what she wants.

3. That Girl in Yellow Boots (2011)

Kalki Koechlin’s Ruth might not be an easy person to understand, but nobody can deny that she is strong. She perseveres through a torturous relationship and after having faced the truth about her father, she brushes herself off and walks out with her head up.

4. Gangs of Wasseypur (2012)

In an overtly sexist backdrop, Gangs of Wasseypur beautifully transforms into a striking spectacle as Richa Chadda’s Nagma emerges as the matriarch of her family. Nagma lives on her own terms and doesn’t shy away from what is required to protect her family, even if that means murder.

5. The Lunchbox (2013)  – Produced by Kashyap

Featuring a romance between a widower and young married woman, Kashyap-produced The Lunchbox gives a whole new perspective to an Indian wife. Nimrat Kaur’s Ila suffocates in a loveless marriage only to find herself in an unexpected, blissful relationship with Saajan (Irrfan Khan). She doesn’t feel guilty of having developed feelings for another man and even decides to make a change by leaving her husband for good. She chooses herself over ‘duty’ imposed by society and in the end, does not stifle her own desires for the good of others.

6. Queen (2014) – Produced by Kashyap

After having been turned down for marriage, a shy, heartbroken Rani decides to go on her honeymoon alone after her love interest ditches her last minute. While sightseeing on her own, she discovers that there’s more to her than simply being a plus-one and that she has every right to the things others have always made her feel guilty about. In short, she sets herself free from the restrictions she’d allowed others to impose on her.

7. NH10 (2015) – Produced by Kashyap 

Another production of Anurag Kashyap, NH10 is a revenge plot centred around a woman Meera (Anushka Sharma) as she finds herself at odds with the patriarchal notion of honour killings. After having suffered at the hands of a cruel, sexist family that wishes to kill her, she picks them off one-by-one, refusing to give in to the dominance of man’s world.

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