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‘Strong Female Characters’ in Hindi Cinema

Female strength is not as uncomplicated as Hindi cinema would have us believe.

The demand for “strong female characters” in Hindi cinema is the latest manifestation of a deeply ingrained predilection for omnipotent goddesses and powerful self-sacrificing mothers. But this culturally rooted fondness for strong women is replete with caveats. Strong women might be favoured, but their voices are necessarily valorised and their strength fetishised, and almost always employed in the service of a society largely controlled by and composed of men.

Strong female characters constitute an economically viable formula in Hindi cinema, a marketable template that perfunctorily puts women in the lead, as Manu Joseph relates in his New York Times article (3 June 2015). While the monetary success of such female-centric films is an indicator of the changing market dynamics of the Hindi film industry, these movies perpetuate a rigid and simplistic notion of female strength, turning it into an easily replicable—and profitable—token to feminism. Although this idea of female strength is packaged into a few discrete variants, strong female characters have become as much of a prototypical cliché now as the virtuous and innocent woman was in the Hindi cinema of the 1950s and 1960s.

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Updated On : 7th Apr, 2017

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