Women’s Day Special: Where are Bollywood’s women bonding films?

Cineswami takes a look  at the great female bonding films that Bollywood has produced, and also reports that a new girl-bonding movie is being planned

Today is International Women’s Day, as every media outlet will remind you, unless of course you live under a rock where gender issues may not be as pronounced. The big release today is Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster, but the hit of the year so far has been male bonding tale Kai Po Che! that continues to do excellent business, having netted more that 45 crore rupees in two weeks. Not bad at all for a film with no big stars. Apart from Abhishek Kapoor’s extremely competent filmmaking and the troika of male stars’ superb acting, it is the theme that has made Kai Po Che! attractive to audiences, namely, male bonding.

Bollywood history is littered with successful examples of male bonding films ranging from Sholay to Chashme Buddoor to Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron to Satte Pe Satta to Amar Akbar Anthony to Naseeb and several recent examples including 3 Idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Rock On!!, Dil Chahta Hai, Jhankaar Beats, Rang De Basanti, Pyaar Ka Punchnama, Delhi Belly… the list is seemingly endless and inexhaustible. Yes, there are women in these films and yes in some of them the women are strong, but there is no getting away from the fact that they are in essence, male bonding films.

So, on the occasion of International Women’s Day, let’s look at the great female bonding films that Bollywood has produced. The cupboard here is surprisingly bare. Aisha comes to mind, but that was a travesty of a film and the women bonding, sadly led by the vapid Sonam Kapoor, were wan. There was the tepid Dor where Ayesha Takia and Gul Panag’s thesping just didn’t hold a candle to Meera Jasmine and Kavya Madhavan’s terrific performances in the Malayalam original Perumazhakkalam. Lajja had great performances from the likes of Rekha, Manisha Koirala and Madhuri Dixit, but it wasn’t really a female bonding movie. Mrityudand, on the other hand, featured a great bond between Madhuri and Shilpa Shirodkar.

A truly outstanding female bonding film is Ketan Mehta’s classic Mirch Masala where an entire village of women, led by the late, irreplaceable Smita Patil, come together to vanquish sexual predator Naseeruddin Shah. And on the prurient end of the scale, we have Hema Malini and Parveen Babi enjoying a tender moment in Razia Sultan and Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das going at it hammer and tongs in Fire. Amongst forthcoming movies only Gulaab Gang appears to have a female bonding theme, but the real question is, where are the urban films like Rock On!! or Dil Chahta Hai or ZNMD where women bond? Aren’t Indian audiences prepared to see women have fun on screen and let their hair down with each other? Oh for a desi equivalent of the ultimate road trip movie Thelma & Louise.

There is indeed at least one female bonding movie being prepped by a well-regarded Bollywood filmmaker, but alas, Cineswami is not allowed to reveal this information yet. Watch this space. Meanwhile, feel free to inhabit the comments space and let us know which your favourite female bonding films are. Toodle pip. The Estrogen bar beckons.