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Thursday, 8 March, 2001, 13:38 GMT
Bollywood heroines: Should they change?
The message of many Indian films is that, for women to be loved, they must be dutiful, modest and sexually unaware.

But this year a new breed of young Indian directors is offering actresses the chance to play strong, single women with realistic lives.

Actresses like Raveena Tandon and Lisa Ray are jumping at the chance.

So is this a welcome breath of fresh air to an outdated industry? Or is it political correctness gone too far? And will Bollywood lose its special identity?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

It is about time Bollywood got real

Anuradha Gurnani, USA
It is about time Bollywood got real. For too long it has gotten away with trite storylines that reek of old school male fantasies. Depicting the changing role of Indian women today by Bollywood filmmakers is long overdue. In a country such as India, where it is common for actors and actresses to be all but worshipped by the masses, movies function as much more than a mode of entertainment.
Anuradha Gurnani, USA

Strong single women are not the idealised stereotype of women in India or anywhere else in the world. Even a committed family woman like Mrs Hillary Clinton is no favourite of large sections of the population, because, unlike Nancy Reagan, she comes across as being strong and independent. The Indian film industry, including the heroes and heroines, panders to the tastes of a semi-feudal, emerging industrial-urban society. It is the only way they can survive and thrive.
Thiruvengadam Ramakrishnan, USA

Films play an important role in conveying messages to the public. But true messages are spread by art films in India as the commercial ones do not help in any way in promoting social awareness, thought and provoking the mind. It is a Herculean task and very difficult to produce movies that depict women in a different light as the culture and values that are learnt will not change. They have been around for a very long time and secondly the so-called moral brigand will prevent such films from being viewed in the public eye - examples as Mira Nair's films.
Sean D'souza, USA

Bollywood is as market-driven as any other business. The portrayal of a woman is in harmony with what the viewers want. So if the Bollywood producers get the feeling that the consumer wants a change they will be forced to carry this out.
Pranav, India

I still believe that most Indian women are dutiful and modest

Vivek Manchanda, Michigan/ Delhi
I still believe that most Indian women are dutiful and modest. The Indian film industry has always clamoured for a "formula" and has the hallmark of producing formula films. The characterisation of an Indian woman, who is stronger in all domains, is a new "formula" that has worked and so will be exploited to the hilt before another one comes along.
Vivek Manchanda, Michigan/ Delhi

The number of former Ms Indias, Ms Worlds and Ms Universes that have gone on to play classic heroines in Indian cinema is a disgrace. With the majority of directors and scriptwriters in Bollywood being males, the change will not come unless actresses stand up for themselves. Sadly, the majority of women in the industry care only for the money and fame. Thank God for the few real women who are changing things.
Divia, USA/ India

The changing roles of women in any society need to be reflected in its media and if Bollywood has taken the plunge in this regard then it must be highly appreciated. In doing so, Bollywood with its far reaching influence, will also send the right message about the new and more confidant women of not only India but also the rest of the subcontinent too.
Amena Khan, Pakistan

The current trend seems to be just a passing fad

BGS, India/ USA
The current trend seems to be just a passing fad. True, women need to be shown in stronger roles not just as animated mannequins who just look good and run around trees. The only true portrayal in Bollywood movies is that of Indian heroes/ villains who behave like the male chauvinists most Asian men are. When is this portrayal going to change? And when is the majority of the audience going to change their way of thinking? Any time in the near future? I don't think so ...
BGS, India/ USA

It's about time that Bollywood tried to project their movies to a wider spectrum of viewers who are more interested in real social issues such as family values, career, culture and our children.
Munir R, USA

Bollywood is so disconnected from reality that it is hard to believe that its portrayal of women will change any time soon. However, Indian regional cinema - particularly from Kerala and Bengal - appears to be more rooted in reality and casts women in roles other than those that make them little more than decorative props.
Balaram, India/ USA

Nowadays everybody can say that women in India are empowered and have more choices than those of previous of generations but certainly they still don't enjoy the social equality they are entitled to under the constitution. So definitely it's the duty of Bollywood to stop showing them as mere pieces of flesh and start showing them as women of substance.
Rama Jupalli, USA/ India

Many art-movies have been portraying Indian women for what they really are: housewives, doctors, mothers and so on. Recently, even lesbian relationships have made it to the big screen. Bollywood on the other hand, like its more famous cousin in the US, is all about mindless entertainment and fantasy. Only women of a particular age/ build fit that mould much like in Hollywood.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

Bollywood is the most unreal thing in a proud India and something should be done about it. Entertainment should have its limitations.
Gopi Pradhan, Japan

Feminism is becoming a part of Indian culture

Ty Bream, USA
Clearly, feminism is becoming a part of Indian culture and filmmakers have both a right and a duty to take on contemporary issues in society and to reflect the world in which they live. The Bollywood identity entails more than just a narrow range of topics; it is a style. No matter what subject matter Bollywood directors take on, their films are sure to bear the Bollywood mark.
Ty Bream, USA

Well, that might apply to the men and the places where the movies are shot as well. Bollywood is a place for imagination, not reality. Most people see movies to escape the reality they live in. Things will only change with the advent of favourable economic conditions.
Ashesh, USA

Real Bollywood heroines? That's an oxymoron. Especially when Bollywood itself is the most unreal place in the world including the screaming (that's Bollywood style acting) heroes. You will find real heroes and heroines in the everyday life of India not in Bollywood.
A. V. Rao, USA

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