When asked about someone’s profession, would he ever refer to himself as a ‘family member’? Whatever others say, the answer to this question is definitely ‘yes’ when it comes to actresses in Bollywood commercials. A look at the top 10 highest grossing movies of at least a decade shows such a picture. During this period, 35 percent of actresses played female roles in movies whose occupations were a mystery. These characters are usually the sister, mother and wife of a male character. And the only reason they exist in the movie is as the hero’s love interest.
Usually in Bollywood, female lead films are released every few years. The success of these movies made everyone rethink the issue. Such as ‘The Dirty Picture’ (2011) and ‘Queen’ (2013). These movies represented women in Bollywood. It is true that female characters in Bollywood are being written somewhat better than before. But the reality is that 52 percent of women in India want to work. But the number of women workers in the country is decreasing day by day.
According to International Labor Organization (ILO) data, female labor force participation in India was 32 percent in 2005, which declined to 19 percent in 2021. Research by the Center for Monitoring Indian Economy says that one in four women aged 15-29 are not getting employment opportunities. So one might think, Bollywood will capitalize on wishful thinking and portray actresses as working women. However, being a family member is the most popular career for actresses in a decade.
However, the second most popular profession for women in Bollywood is playing the role of police, spy or law enforcement officer, which is around 12 percent. Are these strong women bringing any change? Or is commercial Hindi cinema through them presenting a woman who can be equal to the hero? For example, out of 100 films of a decade, there was only one female engineer. The character was played by Katrina Kaif in Bharat (2019). Apart from this, during this period women got the roles of doctors, gangsters, athletes, entrepreneurs, teachers, dancers-singers, writers-journalists-poets and thieves, which are very few in number.
However, there are some actresses who have consistently portrayed working women. Like Sonam Kapoor. No matter how weak the movie’s story, his character almost always has a job to do. However, exceptions occur in others. Actress Sara Ali Khan has no work in most of the female roles. As if the idea of an independent working woman for Bollywood is fanciful.
2022 was a terrible year for female characters in Bollywood. Their role in the movies of that year is completely irrelevant. The same picture is seen in 2023 as well. It is as if women have nothing to do in ‘Jawan’ and ‘Gadar-2’ released this year. But in the movie ‘Tu Jhuti Mai Makkar’, Love Ranjan painted the picture of an independent working woman. Apart from this, ‘Satyaprem Ki Katha’ can be mentioned. All in all, there is still hope for female characters in Bollywood commercials. One day working women will win.
Based on the film Companion