Strong Female Leads in South Asian Movies

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The messages that movies send us are so important and they affect the thought process of us, their audience. Here are some actors who play empowering characters in movies.

Sagarika Ghatge Khan as Preeti Sabharwal In “Chak De! India” (2007)

Preeti Sabharwal is portrayed as a strong-willed girl who becomes a part of the Indian women’s national hockey team. During her training, her father agrees to get her immediately married to her boyfriend, a famous cricketer, without asking her for her opinion. This would mean she’d have to give up her place in the tournament. Her partner also advises her to stay home from then on. She, however, makes it clear that if she decides to marry him, it’ll be her decision to make, and that it would only happen after she represents India at the final tournament. She shows that no woman should give up their dreams for their partner’s priorities. That they should fight for what they want, as it’s their right! In general, most of the characters in this movie show how women fight to pursue their dreams. It is a great movie that shows the empowerment of women. Additionally, Shah Rukh Khan as the coach.

Mahira Khan as Nigar Johar in “Aik Hai Nigar” (2021)

The movie is based on the life of Pakistan army’s first female three-star general surgeon, Nigar Johar. It depicts her hardships as a female doctor in a male-dominated field. She fights against all those who doubt her and proves her capabilities as a doctor. It also shows us how important a supportive family is to achieve success in life. She is truly an icon who showed us that hard work can get you anywhere you want and that you should never stop believing in yourself and your capabilities, even if others are doubtful.

Madhabi Mukherjee as Arati in the 1963 film “Mahanagar”

It is an old Bengali film far ahead of its time. Set in the 1950s, it is the story of a housewife from Calcutta who becomes a saleswoman to help her family, which is struggling financially. Her family is conservative and orthodox and was against her working, especially her father in law. But Arati discovers that she enjoys her job and the freedom it gives her. So, despite her family’s disapproval of her job and her colleagues, she becomes the sole breadwinner of the family after her husband loses his job. This movie depicts how Arati took this decision for herself more than anything because she liked working and wanted to continue with it. It tells us how we should listen to ourselves and not let others’ opinions dictate what we do. Arati teaches us how to be strong and confident.

Sonita Alizadeh as herself in “Sonita” (2015)

This docu-movie tells us the story of an 18-year-old Afghan refugee in Iran – Sonita Alizade whose dream was to become a rapper. Her family had other plans for her, wanting to marry her off as she was worth quite a lot as a bride. Then her family had to flee to Iran to escape the Taliban. There she works and teaches herself to read and write. She listens to the work of other rappers and gets inspired to write her own songs. Soon she is writing songs against oppressive traditions and forced marriages and became popular with the help of Iranian documentary filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami. She shows us how her determination helped her to overcome oppressive traditions and discrimination and how she never stopped doing what she loves.

Namrata Shrestha as Xira in “Xira” (2019)

“Xira” is a Nepali film that depicts the story of a woman seeking vengeance. Although it didn’t do as well as expected, the main character, Xira, is shown as a strong independent woman to draw inspiration from. She is a mixed martial arts athlete seeking vengeance for those she loved and lost. She is portrayed as confident and not afraid to take the first step. We are now seeing more women like her in Nepali films, with the spread of more progressive ideas. It is a very welcome change, as movies influence the youth, defining new norms.