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 While Bollywood has been called out for making regressive and sexist movies, we can’t deny that it has given us some really inspiring women characters. Unlike the stereotypical movies, where women are treated as eye candy, there are movies, where the leading ladies played strong female characters and left us inspired. These female characters are the epitome of strength and courage as they turned their pain into strength like a boss.

Today, we’re celebrating 12 such female characters who were no damsel in distress. They didn’t need a hero to save them. Because they turned out to be their own hero.

1. Vidya Bagchi from Kahaani

Played by Vidya Balan

Vidya Balan’s portrayal of Vidya Bagchi won several hearts and was definite proof that a woman-centric movie can attract a mass audience too. It is a story of a woman’s struggle to find her missing husband. You get to see Vidya Bagchi’s vulnerability, as well as her demonic-rage monster side, depending on the situation and circumstance. All this, while she’s pregnant (or is she?).


2. Veera from Highway

Played by Alia Bhatt

Alia Bhatt’s Veera is one of the most well-written characters in the recent past. She is born into an elite family, who think more about their societal image than the well-being of their daughter. Veera’s life changes drastically when she is kidnapped. It is quite heart-warming to witness how Veera finds freedom on this journey. Veera turns all her anger against her family into her strength as she takes the decision to leave behind all her wealth for a simple & meaningful life.

Image: Highway

3. Aarti Saxena from Khoon Bharri Mang

Played by Rekha

Widowed Aarti becomes a victim of Sanjay’s greed. She fell prey to his vicious plan and gets married to him. Later, with the help of her best friend Nandini, he drowns Aarti and seizes her wealth but she survives and seeks revenge.

Image: IMDB, Khoon Bhari Maang

4. Damini from Damini

Played by Meenakshi Shishadhri

Damini witnesses her housemaid being raped by her brother-in-law and his friends. Despite facing many obstacles, Damini fights for justice for the deceased victim with the help of a disgraced lawyer who decides to fight the case and bring the culprits to justice.

Screengrab: Damini

5. Dr. Vidya from Paa

Played by Vidya

Dr. Vidya is a single mother of a genetic disorder plagued son. While she has a job it always gets overshadowed due to her motherhood duties. As the kid’s father, an upcoming politician, is of no help, she fights many battles on various fronts alone.

Screengrab: Paa

6. Mary Kom from Mary Kom

Played by Priyanka Chopra

Mary Kom, who has won several titles to her name, had to face a lot of hardships in a conservative society to rise victorious. She became the only woman to ever win the World Amateur Boxing Champion six times in a row. Just like her real life, her biopic is equally inspiring. 

7. Minal from Pink

Played by Taapse Pannu

This film revolves around the frustration and anger of a woman living in a metro city and trying to win a case against a bunch of hoodlums from an influential background. Ultimately, after much struggle (but relentless vigor), she emerges victorious, giving many women like her in India much-needed hope for justice.

Image: Pink

8. Sehmat from Raazi

Played by Alia Bhatt

Raazi captures the inspiring yet difficult life of Sehmat, an Indian-muslin spy in Pakistan. A young girl with no military training is married off to a Pakistani military man to serve her country. The film shows the essence of patriotism the young lady has, that she even betrays her husband and family to serve the nation.

Image: Raazi

9. Malti from Chhapaak

Played by Deepika Padukone

Inspired by the real-life story of Laxmi Aggarwal, Chhapaak showed the struggle of an acid attack victim. This movie captures the strength and persistence of Malti, whose life changed after an acid attack. The story touches your heart as it captures Malti’s determination to rebuild her life. The movie captures the journey of how Malti rose from her acid attack incident and rebuilt her life. She also becomes the inspiration for millions of girls worldwide.

Source: Chappak

10. Amrita from Thappad

Played by Taapse Pannu

Standing for her self-respect and esteem, Amrita refuses to bow down to the regressive social norms that expect women to suffer in silence. In a society, where women are told to suffer abuse for the sake of marriage, there are many of us who can relate to Amrita!

Screengrab: Thappad

11. Gangubai from Gangubai Kathiawadi

Played by Alia Bhatt

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film depicts the hardships faced by a young girl forced into prostitution until becoming a political figure. How Gangubai turned her pain into her strength and stood for many women in her brothel is quite inspiring.

Screengrab: Gangubai Kathiawadi

12. Chanda from Dev D

Played by Kalki Koechlin

Much before Gangubai, Chanda from the movie Dev.D showcased an empowering take on sex workers. Refusing to live a life of shame and ridicule, Chanda creates a life that is designed on her own terms.

Image: Dev D

Who is your favourite? Tell us in the comments below.

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