Films are considered to be a male-dominated industry, especially behind the scenes. It’s usually a man who directs and produces. Do you know who the first female director of an Indian film was? Fatma Begum is known to be the first woman film director who directed her first movie in 1926. Over the years, women have made a lot of strides in the filmmaking business. And the best example of that is Kartiki Gonsalves and Guneet Monga, two women who won an Oscar this year for best short documentary. They proved, like many other women, that direction and production are not just a man’s job. So, here are some of the best movies directed by women that deserve a spot on your watchlist.
1. Is Love Enough? – Sir
Directed by Rohena Gera, Sir is a movie starring Tillotama Shome and Vivek Gomber. The movie follows Ratna, a housemaid in Mumbai, who aspires to be a fashion designer. Ratna, despite being economically challenged, never stops dreaming big. She is unable to reconcile her reality with her feelings when she finds out Ashwin, her employer, is in love with her. But Ratna is a strong woman who knows what she wants. This is why she never lets Ashwin deter her from her dreams, even if it means accepting his love. In Sir, Rohena Gera has presented a woman who is a dichotomy. In one manner, Ratna is breaking the shackles that society put on her, and in the other, she seems to be embracing those same clutches.
Sir isn’t just a well-directed movie, but also a well-acted one.
2. The Breadwinner
An animated film set in Kabul, The Breadwinner is directed by Nora Twomey. The film follows an 11-year-old Parvana who disguises herself as a boy, Aatish, to earn a livelihood after her father is unjustly arrested. The animated movie is a social commentary on what life is like in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan. It shows the struggles women face when they don’t have a man around in a conservative society. At the same time, it also exhibits how women don’t need a man to rescue them every single time.
Produced by Anushka Sharma and directed by Anvita Dutt, Bulbbul is a supernatural thriller starring Tripti Dimri in the titular role. Set against the backdrop of the 1880s Bengal presidency, Bulbbul follows a child bride. Historically, women have been termed chudail and named a villain in all supernatural stories. In Bulbbul, the chudail becomes a symbol of strength and perseverance. A five-year-old Bulbbul is married off to an older man, Indranil, forcefully. In a series of events, Bulbbul is assaulted and killed. But, due to a supernatural event, Bulbbul is revived and since then, she fights against the injustices meted out to women. In Bulbbul, Anvita Dutt decided to pick the most villainous roles assigned to women and turn them around. This movie, produced and directed by women, is worth watching for its performances, storytelling, and direction.
4. Little Women
The 2019 movie is an adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott. Directed by Greta Gerwig, Little Women follows the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The four sisters want different things in life. Little Women has women who aspire to be more than they are allowed to dream, while others are happy to accept the role society has given them. But the best part of the movie is how it is relevant even today. Gerwig shines light upon the issues women need to tackle in today’s day and age, while also staying true to the period the story is set in.
Alia Bhatt and Shefali Shah’s Darlings, directed by Jasmeet K. Reen is a female-directed film that needs to make it to your watchlist. Badru is married to Hamza who is an alcoholic and frequently abuses her. Her mother Shamshu tries to get Badru to leave her husband but to no avail. When pushed to her limit, Badru finally breaks and decides to teach Hamza a lesson with the help of Shamshu. Darlings is a movie that you can relate to. The verbal and physical abuse Badru faces, the gaslighting, and the false promises she is given by Hamza, are all things a lot of women have faced. Darlings also proves that just because a woman seems to be weak, it doesn’t mean she is. She may choose to ignore your faults, but push her to the edge and she’ll fight back.
6. Boys Don’t Cry
Based on the real-life rape and murder of Brandon Teena, Boys Don’t Cry is a biographical film directed by Kimberly Peirce. The film follows a trans-man Brandon and the challenges he faces in society. From death threats to being evicted from his home and eventually being raped and murdered, Brandon’s tragic life is brought to life by Hilary Swank in the film. Released in 1999, the movie is lauded as the first one that chose to portray the life and challenges of a transgender person to a mainstream audience. Boys Don’t Cry is heartbreaking and tragic, but it is one of the movies directed by women that should be watched at least once.
The 2018 film, based on the life of Urdu author Sadat Hasan Manto, was directed by Nandita Das and starred Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role. Set in the backdrop of the Partition, Manto is a movie that pits the glitter of the Bombay film and scriptwriting industry against the hopelessness of the Partition. Manto is a well-established short story writer in Bombay with a close-knit group of friends and his wife Safia as his most significant support. But after the Partition of India, during the rising Hindu-Muslim tensions, Manto comes face-to-face with his religious identity and the vulnerabilities that come with it.
When he decides to move to Pakistan post-Partition, Manto feels the melancholy and the forsakenness of the land. He is left with a growing sense of isolation and deep betrayal. As he struggles to reconcile his reality with the past, he spirals into drunkenness and a strained relationship with his family.
Manto brings to light the despair that came with the Partition, losing friends and loved ones and making a new home in a strange land.
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