Wednesday 8 March 2023

SHE – Women Characters in Hindi Cinema

Whether in real life or reel life, She/they, the woman/women, play many roles and have been heroines.

She has always been a part of movies- both in front of screen and behind the scenes.

Over the decades, there have been many women associated with cinema.

While we acknowledge the “Father of Indian Cinema”, the mothers get left behind.

However, the word CINEMA can never be possible without “MA” (Mother).

We have come a long way from the age when even female roles in movies were enacted by men.

Today, entertainment industry is also ruled by women.

Like she, Reshma/Silk, based on actress Silk Smitha, confidently states in her epic dialogue in the movie- The Dirty Picture:

“Three things are needed for a movie’s success- Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment; And I am Entertainment”.


She is a Queen

Apart from the rule of Kings and heroes in movies like- Raja Harischandra, Baahubali and Shahenshah, we have also seen the rule of Queens and heroines like Razia Sultan, Manikarnika (Rani Lakshmibai) and Queen!

It does not matter even if she is not a Queen.

She, Anarkali, a nautch-girl, had the guts to challenge Emperor Akbar in his own court by advocating love and raising these points-

Pyaar kiya to darna kya? Pyaar kiya koi chori nahi kee!

Why to be afraid when in love? Falling in love is no crime like theft.

Romantically & Lyrically Yours

Aayega aanewaala aayega…Aaja re Pardesi…

As she resolutely sings and eagerly invites, she knows for sure that the besotted one will be lured…

Jinke sar ho ishq ki chhaon, paon ke neeche jannat hogi…Chal Chhaiya Chhaiya…

Those, who are blessed by the shade of love, have heaven at their feet.

Aao huzoor tumko sitaaron mein le chaloon…

When she invites to a journey to the stars, who can resist?

Dil cheez kya hai, aap meri jaan leejiye…

She offers much more than her heart- her life is for grabs!

Saat Samundar paar mein tere peechhe peechhe aa gayee…

She can travel across seven seas following the one she loves.

Bindiya chamkegi, chudi khankegi, teri neend ude to ud jaane de

Her bindiya shines and bangles clink; never mind your sleepless nights!

Jab chhaye mera jaadu koi bach na paaye…

She is aware that when her magic spreads, no one is spared.

Main hoon khush rang Henna; zindagani mein koi rang nahi mere bina…

She is Henna with the beautiful colour; there is no colour without her.


The heroes know her worth. They lose their senses, and gain unforgettable memories from that chance encounter with the heroine. It is profitable to have a woman in their lives, who is a sensible support.

“Zindagi bhar nahi bhoolegi wo Barsaat Ki Raat; Ek anjaan haseena se mulaaqat ki raat…”

Which man can ever forget that first sight, the first meeting with that beautiful stranger on that rainy night?

Ek ajnabi haseena se yun mulaaqat ho gayee; phir kya hua ye na poochho…

Don’t ask what happened after meeting that unknown beauty!

Main shayar to nahi, magar aye haseen, jabse dekha maine tujhko mujhko shayari aa gayee

So great is her power that when that non-poet man first saw her, he got transformed into a poet!

Dream Girl- Kisi Shayar ki Ghazal, Kisi jheel ka kamal

She is the Dream Girl- a poet’s poem, a lake’s lotus.

Chaudvin ka Chand ho, ya aafataab ho? Jo bhi ho tum khuda ki kasam, lajawab ho.

She is the full moon, or the sun? Whatever she is, I swear to God, she is beyond compare.

Tu cheez badi hai mast mast.

She is objectified as a "cheez" and she is the "item"- Munni, Sheela, Chikni Chameli... in the item-song. No matter what, she is a “joy forever” like a “thing of beauty”.

Tu mere saamne; mein tere saamne; tujhko dekhoon ke pyaar karoon?

When she is in front, the hero cannot decide what to do-

Whether to simply watch her or make love? - He has no clue.

Churake dil mera goriya chali; Paagal hua, Deewana hua…

When the fair-one walks away by stealing his heart, he goes mad and crazy.

Not all is about romantic love. 

Brother & Sister

Brother proclaims that everyone including flowers and stars affirm that his sister is one in thousands.

Phoolon ka taaron ka, sabka kehna hai; ek hazaaron mein meri behna hai

Father & Daughter

When she gets married, she implores her father to help her make the transit.

Ungli pakadke tuney, chalna sikhaya tha na, ik baar dahleez paar kara de.

Her father and everyone wishes her for a happy life.

Baabul ki duaen leti jaa, jaa tujhko sukhi sansar miley…

She gets engrossed and loves her husband’s home, forgetting her father’s place.

Main to bhool chali babul ka desh, piya ka ghar pyara lagey…


Dewar (Brother-in-law) & Bhabhi (Sister-in-law)

Brother-in-law sings her praises- that she is a treasure-trove of happiness.

Bhabhi tum khushiyon ka khazana

 She is happy and ready to get her brother-in-law married.

Lo chali mein apni Dewar ki baaraat leke


Mother & Child

When she is blessed with a child, she is overjoyed and has reason to live with her child as her support-system.

Jeeti hoon mein bus tujhe dekhke; kis toote dil ka sahara hai tu

Though the child barely expresses his love and care, as a mother she knows everything.

Yu to mein batlata nahi, teri parwaah karta hoon mein, Maa. Tujhe sab hai pata, Meri Maa…

She teaches about the battles of life and supports and prepares her child(ren) for success.

Jeet jayenge hum, tu agar sung hai; Zindagi har kadam ek nayee jung hai.

She is willing to go to any lengths and accept her children’s choices- career, partner (even if they choose a gay partner or not from their community) and their condition (even if they are suffering from debilitating diseases like Cancer, Progeria etc or poverty etc.).

She is ready to sacrifice for her children’s sake. Yet, she can sacrifice her child if he is wrong.

She kills her son, Birju, when he tries to kidnap the village landlord’s daughter from her wedding.

She does the right thing and sides with the one who is right.

Not all can say- “Mere Paas Maa Hai”. The righteous son has that privilege and pride.

Though she and her children have been tortured and wronged, her hope is alive and she expresses with conviction that her sons will return- “Mere Karan Arjun aayenge.”

She asks her daughter, Simran’s lover, Raj, to run away with Simran as she knows that her husband and his family would never allow Raj and Simran to marry.

Mom is ready to plot, torture and murder anyone who has hurt or hurts her child.


Husband & Wife

She, Badru, opts for a love-marriage. All is not well as she is a victim of domestic violence and abuse. Despite her supportive mother’s advice to leave her abusive husband, Badru still continues being the loving and trusting wife. At the end, all is well for the mother and daughter duo. 

After her "husband" literally pushes her into the jaws of death, she, Arti, makes a stellar comeback with her will and strength.

Though she, Zooni, gets reunited with her husband after a gap, she shoots and kills him after learning that he is a terrorist.

Dignity & Respect

She, Amrita, walks out from her disparaging husband’s home after he slaps her. That one slap makes her realize about so much that is unfair.

“Nahi maar sakta”

Dignity and respect are everything for her. When her husband insults her about her weight and even slaps her, she, Sandhya, slaps him back, walks out of her in-laws place, and reclaims space in her parental home. Here is all what Sandhya is subjected to in the movie- Dum Laga Ke Haisha 

She does everything she can with utmost sincerity and to the best of her ability – even learning English. Despite being a Laddoo entrepreneur, she, Shashi, craves for respect-

“Zaroorat hai to thodi izzat ki”

Love & Friends

She, Geet, talks nineteen to the dozen, makes a heart-broken stranger feel better, befriends him, and shows him the right perspective and inspires and enthuses. She makes him realize that- it is okay that his mother has run away with her lover-

“Kyunki wo pyaar mein thi” (as she was in love)

She and her other two female friends and flat-mates fight till the end and stand up for one another and establish-

“No means No”.

Some lines from the Hindi movie- Pink:

Tu khud ki khoj mein nikal;  Tu kisliye hataash hai?

Tu chal- Tere wajood ki samay ko bhi talaash hai.

(Oh Woman!) You embark on a voyage of self-discovery; Why are you disappointed?

You walk- Time is also in quest of your identity/existence.

Dedicating this song’s lyrics for all the women- both of reel and real world.

Happy International Women’s Day 2023!

Whether in her on-screen or off-screen avatar,

With or without make-up, she's still a STAR!

With brilliance, elegance, charisma & charm,

Her histrionics can make the scene cold or warm.

Whether she's gori, kaali, plump, tall, or short,

She's a coveted rich package- supercool & hot.

With love, wit & vulnerability in her lines,

Even if she's treated second-class, she still shines.

Whether vamp, sister, friend, ladylove or wife,

She lights up the space & in her role, puts in life.

Even though they show her in poor light,

She owns the space & puts up a brave fight.

Admiration & praises for her will never end

She is a timeless beauty; always a legend.

Time has made many characters of Hindi movies immortal. Some of the heroines who enacted some of the roles mentioned above, may no longer be alive; however, they continue to live on. 

The examples listed here are a handful and there are hundreds of movies with endearing women characters. This is a sincere and humble tribute to ALL the women characters. 

Being a HUGE Hindi Cinema fan, I thought of and shared about some iconic women characters of Hindi movies in this post this Women’s Day. Hope you liked it.

Have you watched all these movies? Do you have any personal favourites? Please share in the comments below.

This blog post is part of the Women’s Day Blog Hop, themed on She: A Tribute to Her, hosted by Swarnali Nath- the BlissfulStoryteller.

Image Credits: All Movie-posters from the Internet


  1. It is interesting you quote a lot from Hindi movies. Unfortunately, do not understand the meanings of the sentences you have mentioned. Plus, I have never seen a Hindi movie.

    1. Thank you for reading and for your feedback.
      Have quoted the lines/dialogues in italics - spoken on screen by the characters in Hindi language in the respective Hindi movies.
      Have also shared the English meanings below or above the italics text.

      Hindi movies have fans worldwide, who even learn Hindi and sing songs by watching them!
      As a HUGE Bollywood fan, I would suggest that you please consider to watch at least one Hindi movie. Do you have any personal favourite movie-stars or genres? If yes, please share and I can recommend which ones to start with. Am sure you will enjoy.
      These days, movies come with sub-titles/translation etc that makes it convenient for those who do not know Hindi.

  2. Even though the whole cinema concept may have been begun by a male, all the stories that made it what it is today mostly revolve around women! So we win there too!

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing, Cindy.
      Yes, men may have started the movie-making process & industry, but the support & involvement of women has always been there. May we have more female-centric roles.
      Let's keep winning!

  3. Indian cinema is a classic example of how a heroin can carry the entire film on her shoulder. We had and have some very strong actresses who have won their viewers hearts.

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing.
      Very true, Alpana. Women characters have carried movies on their shoulders- both as actresses and directors too. They have left their mark.

  4. Indian Cinema is rich with so many female role models. But unfortunately now we are slowly loosing them. However, I am equally glad to see new faces are coming and the new leaders are being born in Indian Cinema. Thanks for joining us in the blog hop, Anita. Means a lot. Much gratitude🤗 - Swarnali Nath

    1. True, Swarnali. We now have new female stars and much more professionalism.
      It is great to join and share. Glad to have written about movies & characters after a long time.
      Thanks for hosting :)

  5. Your post has remind me my school and college days, when I used to be a die hard bollywood fan. you have selected such powerful women characters and admirable relationships from great movies . co-incidentally, I have watched most of these movies and loved them a lot. Kangana's character in queen in one of my all time favorite. great post for blog hop.

    1. Thanks, Surbhi. Glad you liked the post :)
      Yes, many movie memories are from our school & college days.
      There are many more characters who have not been mentioned in this post; but they are very much in our minds and hearts.

  6. Wow, that's a huge list of Bollywood womwn. I agree that in every era and any field of work, woman have left strong success stories.

    1. The list of Hindi movie characters is looong. Tough to do justice while trying to include.
      Yes, every era has its own superstars and hit movies with cool stories and memorable characters.

  7. I'm a cinephile too and have watched most of the movies mentioned here and the women characters you listed out are all my top favorites as well. They say cinema cannot be a change agent but my strong belief is that it does have a power we do acknowledge or understand. At least it becomes a medium to start a dialogue and maybe that's all that matters at a micro level.
    Thanks for reminding me why I love cinema.
    This was a great post, Anita

    1. Thank you so much for your nice words and appreciation :)
      How we love cinema! I share your views- Cinema has a huge power & influence.
      There are many fans within India & worldwide & the connection knows no borders.
      The reel and real have a close connection and impact.

  8. I love our Bollywood ladies who light up the screen with their gorgeous presence be it the role of a wife, mistress, show stealer item girl, mother, sister or the lead protagonist! They have left the audience spell bound, craving for more….delivering historic dialogues that have become legendary. Absolutely loved your idea and execution!

    1. Absolutely, Daisy! We love our gorgeous characters in their myriad roles.
      They have captured the attention & earned love of some many generations & will continue to do so.
      Thank you for reading. Glad you liked it :)

  9. Indian cinema has timeless legends, and you have named almost all the classic ones. I am amazed how you thought of so many movies, heroines and songs. The poem at the end is another winner. "She is a timeless beauty, she is a legend. " Very well written.

    1. Hindi Cinema has quite a number of legends & fans. I am one of the crazy fans :)
      Having watched many movies, many of the characters, songs etc are in my head :)
      I wanted to write some more in this post, but stopped as it had already become too long!
      Thank you so much, Harjeet. Glad you liked it.

  10. A few of my favourites in the list. Bollywood has come a long way from regressive roles for women. Thappad and Pink were my standout movies!

    1. Very true, Hindi Cinema has come far. Now we are happy to see so many female leads.
      Thappad & Pink are powerful movies.
      Thanks for sharing, Harshita.

  11. That is a huge list of Hindi movies, dialogues and characters. I'm not an avid Hindi movie watcher so couldn't relate to many of the movies but got the underlying sentiments. I did watch Thappad and I loved how they emphasized on even if it is one slap it is not acceptable. I had friends question this as well. There is always a tendency to normalise violence but it is high time we said NO even if it's places where people tend to turn a blind eye!

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
      Thappad movie struck a chord with many. Plus, it's a fairly recent movie and there's top-of recall.
      Agree with you. Violence shouldn't be normalised.
      As it's said in the movie PINK- "No means No".

  12. What a lovely compilation, Anita. I enjoyed reminiscing about the stories of those amazing ladies. Hindi cinema has a diverse and wonderful collection of strong women characters.

    1. Indeed, Hindi Cinema and its characters are do diverse and strong.
      They leave an indelible mark on us.
      Thanks, Dashy :) Glad you liked it.

  13. This is such a beautifully curated post. The amazing way you have used the lyrics to bring out the importance of each relationship is wonderful. Also the songs reminded of how strongly the women characters have been portrayed in most cases leaving an indelible mark. Such a unique way to honour women

  14. Indian Cinema, be it Bollywood, or Tollywood, have a lot of stories that are female-centric, and we do have a lot of role models there. We need the heart and ears to care for and listen to.

  15. These are wonderful examples. I love that dignity and respect too finds its way here.. perfect

  16. A treat for a movie buff like me. You had me at the cover photo of Madhu bala. Such an interesting way to portray the women of entertainment industry. Perfectly put. the song and dialogue references.

  17. As I read through each line, I caught myself humming! You made me nostalgic and brought in such a powerful link out of those very songs. I was wondering how you compiled the list...not easy! Kudos to you girl. This is a great write up.

  18. This was such a treat for the Bollywood lover in me! We've grown up listening to these songs and seeing these characters come alive on screen. No movie can be complete without it's leading lady, and if it does, then 'picture abhi baaki hai mere dost! '

  19. Wow what a brilliant ride to the gallery of incredible , powerful and famous dialogues! Undoubtedly refreshed some of old gold memories of my favorite movies! Bollywood cinema has a great impact on the wide range of audience across the world! Recently I was amazed when my American coworker asked me about actor Dharmendra and his famous dialogue “Basanti inn kutto ke saamne mat nachna” 😃

    Archana Srivastava

  20. Wow! You are a real Bollywood buff.. what a great analysis of the women characters of Hindi cinema. Contrary to popular opinio we've seen so many diverse and incredible women come to life on screen my favorites being queen and kahaani

  21. Coincidently, I have also written about the strong women fictional characters as epitome of inspiration. I like this list of SHE roles that brings out strength in their own domain. However, we need more such original roles and scripts that make women more than just an item of objectivity or entertainment. Nothing is better than Indian cinema to spread awareness, only if our entertainment industry bosses wish.

  22. Quite a brilliant take on the movies and women. A cinephile's delight. Loved the way you structured the post featuring women in every role peppering it with the lyrics.

  23. You have listed many of my favourites and as a lover of Hindi Cinema , I applaud you for such an in-depth detailing of movies and dialogues that show that without women, every thing would be hollow. It's an unique take on the prompt where you have shown that the reality gets reflected on the silver screen and there too women make their mark. Kudos 👌

  24. I'm a bollywood buff and this blog makes me so happy! It's like a tribute I never imagined! Such a beautiful write-up and you covered I guess all categories! Loving this blog sooo much! Thank you for this blog!

  25. Cinema industry has a huge influence especially on young minds. I like how you brought out strong female characters spanning several decade. Like any industry we are seeing new leaders emerge who continue to serve the public through their authenticity and art. Female protagonists have a part to play in uplifting women.

  26. Now this was completely a fun and motivational read. There is so much learning to take away from the Indian Cinema, but the essence of it, embracing the women power is one of the most important takeaway.
    Many times, we often watch the movies, appreciate the actors or enjoy its music but there are so many morals that movies impart to us for empowering those around us. I absolutely enjoyed reading this post and the way you have covered every aspect is truly worth applauding

  27. Movies have seen women as empowered and also a piece of furniture. The impact movies create is huge and portraying women in right light can surely make the woman tribe look upto it and get inspired. Liked how you have combined the bollywood theme and bloghop.


Your words mean a lot to me.

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