Savitribai Phule

‘Clad in a cotton sari along with her head covered, walking timidly, she would reach a school in Bhide Wada, Pune. Her face showed no traces of self-pity for the verbal abuses faced. The tell-tale signs on her sari announced aloud her plight of being the target of tomatoes, cow dung, rotten eggs and stones – mercilessly hurled by the many orthodox men of the society’.

Savitribai Phule (3rd January, 1831 – March 1897) was a social reformer, who worked towards education and liberation of women in the male-dominated society of the pre-independent India. She and her husband Mahatma Jyotirao Phule witnessed heart breaking sights of Sati rituals (a practice that required the widow to burn herself to death on funeral pyre of her husband). The illogical practice of child-marriages would eventually cause images of misery.

A large number of young widows were forced to look ugly by clean shaving their heads, unexplainable to the fact that they were easy prey for lust seeking men. These victimised widows, when pregnant, would resort to the extreme step of suicide or kill the new born to avoid humiliation form the watch dogs of the society.

The sight of this social injustice awakened up Savitribai Phule’s consciousness. Against the social prejudices, along with her husband as her inspiration and strength, she worked towards building self-esteem and confidence among the female folks. Using education as a tool to improve the scenario they set up schools for women, where she worked as a teacher. Delivery homes were also opened up for distressed women. The history of India, proudly remembers her as “Vidya Jyoti” (light of knowledge) and also as a first woman ever, to light the funeral pyre of her husband.




Indian Cinema is trooping ahead of its 100 years of magnificent existence. Apart from its female stereotypes, few movies have celebrated women in a liberated form. Here is a list of seven Hindi movies along with description of woman’s reformist portrait, demanding independence from a patriarchal mind-set

Indian Cinema is trooping ahead of its 100 years of magnificent existence. Apart from its female stereotypes, few movies have celebrated women in a liberated form. Here is a list of seven Hindi movies along with description of woman’s reformist portrait, demanding independence from a patriarchal mind-set:-

‘Mother India’– An iconic movie of the Indian Cinema, exposes the exploitation of illiterate farmers by the moneylenders. Released in 1957, was directed by Mehboob Khan and is a remake of the film Aurat (1940).
Character: Radha (Nargis Dutt) is not afraid of hardship and her independence. She is proud to be a woman and respects the rights of other woman’s as well.
Presence: In the atmosphere of rural poverty, Radha bravely strives to survive by working in the fields along with raising her children. She never hesitates to shoot down her debauched son.

‘Arth’ – Is a movie on a woman’s journey towards self-dependence. A 1982 release; directed and written by Mahesh Bhatt.
Character: Pooja (Shabana Azmi ) is an unsecured and a cocooned character, when faced with hard facts of life, slowly emerges as a secured and a free willed woman.
Presence: Pooja is a housewife living in a rented apartment, has a dream of owning a house since her days of an orphan girl. The key of her new house brings in happiness followed by a deep cut of betrayal from her husband, in love with other woman. She leaves the heart-broken nest and lives through the difficulties of life as a single person and becomes independent.

‘Mirch Masala’ – A movie based on a village, where its people are slaves to a local tax collector. Released in 1985; directed by Ketan Mehta written by Chunnilal Madhiya.
Character: Sonabai (Smita Patil) character portrays a strong sense of independence, in believing she is the owner of her own body and mind.
Presence: Based during the period of British Raj where a tax collector by the use of force makes the villagers obey to his pitiful demands. A demand of sexual favour by him offends Sonabai, whose revolt sets a fire of agitation among the women folk, ultimately attacking the tax collector with red chilli powder.

‘Damini’ lightening – Is a story of a woman’s struggle, in seeking justice for a victim of rape. A 1993 release; directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and written by Sutanu Gupta.
Character: Damini (Meenakshi Sheshadri) is a clear-conscious woman,  who feels no inhibition in speaking the truth and is courageous to stand for it.
Presence: Damini is a middle class girl, who gets married in an affluent family and develops a strong bond of friendship with her house maid. On the occasion of Holi, she witnesses the brutal gang rape of her maid. On seeing the maid’s fatal condition, she sets on a determined fight for justice. Against the family’s false honour, corrupt law enforcement and the prolonged system of judiciary she succeeds in seeking justice

‘Lajja’ – A movie based on the life of four women, in revolt with the structure of a patriarchal society. Released in 2001, was directed by Rajkumar Santoshi and written by Ranjit Kapoor and Rajkumar Santoshi,
Character: The four women characters Vaidehi, Maithili, Janki and Ramdulaari portray self-respect, maturity and are fighters of self-independence.
Presence: A pregnant Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala) sets on a journey, escaping from the goons of her philanderer husband. She gatecrashes into a wedding and meets up with the bride-to-be, Maithili (Mahima Choudhary), a woman who sets the groom’s family fleeing on the day of her wedding, insulting them, for the harassment caused to her father with demands of a hefty dowry. Next, she comes across Janki (Madhuri Dixit), a theatre actress, a woman not caring for the norms of the society and pregnant with her lover’s child. Later she meets Ramdulaari (Rekha), who is a local midwife, a woman opposing the exploitation of innocent women by the village leaders.

‘Astitva’ – Is a movie on a woman, who in the autumn of her life, initiates to discover her self-identity. Released in 2000, was directed and written by Mahesh Manjrekar.
Character: Adidty (Tabu) is a homemaker, with her life revolving around needs and wishes of her husband.
Presence: Adidty is married to a very ambitious and self-centred man. During the early years of marriage, she is left lonely and longing for love by her husband – who has to travel for months on a frequent basis. Her sexual yearning, leads her in committing adultery. Later in life, her husband discovers that he is not the father of her child and insults her. She stands up and questions her husband’s male chauvinism. She puts forward the question whether martial rape or curbing of sexual desire by a woman can be justified, in a marriage.

‘Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ – A movie about three friends, gaining insight on life during a road-trip to Spain. A 2011 release; directed and written by Zoya Akhtar.
Character: Laila (Katrina Kaif) is a free spirited and an emotionally secured woman.
Presence: She sparks up the movie with matured sensibilities, where surprises are part of life not expectation and built with one’s own choices.