Women’s Day Special: Female centric Bollywood films which went a long way without a hero

Mother India

It is usually said that every heroine needs her hero but some hardcore heroines of Bollywood proved the saying wrong and went on to make their film super successful single-handedly. On this International Women’s day let’s take a look at the actresses who instead of going for “damsel in distress” decided to pull up their sleeves and become her own “knight in shining armor”.

Mother India:

Women-centric films have been in the mainstream cinema since the very beginning. And when one starts listing successful female-oriented film, he starts with the epic drama ‘Mother India’. Though it had some big Bollywood male names Nargis stole the thunder and is always credited for the success of the film.

The film, which was a remake of 1940 film ‘Aurat’, featured Nargis as a strong headed mother, supportive wife, and caring daughter-in-law. Nargis broke the stereotype of Bollywood films and emerged as a strong woman.

The film starred Sunil Dutt, Rajendra Kumar, and Raaj Kumar as male leads of the film.

Have a glimpse of India’s first submission for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958.


The Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi starrer ‘Arth’ was semi-autobiographical film, written by Mahesh Bhatt about his extramarital relationship with Parveen Babi. The film was a box office success but it wouldn’t have been one if not for the talented actresses of the film.

Shabana Azmi was the wife of the male lead, who after finding out of his husband’s affair did not beg him to stay and love her, instead decided to walk away with pride and live life on her own terms. She is the inspiration of thousands of women in India who keep aside their self-respect for the sake of family and kids and live a compromised life.

Later in the film, when Azmi is asked to marry again, she denies and lives happily with her adopted daughter, which teaches us that not every woman needs a man to survive.

The Dirty Picture:

The biographical musical drama was loosely based on the life of a South Indian actress noted for her erotic roles, Silk Smitha and many of her southern counterparts such as Disco Shanti.

The film featured Vidya Balan as a single female lead amidst three male leads, Naseeruddin Shah, Tusshar Kapoor, and Emraan Hashmi. And still, Balan receiving the highest accolades for her performance, she was called “the hero of the film”. Vidya played the role of an old actress who stood out in the crowd of typical heroines and contributed something unique to a typically male-dominated society. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Vidya is the reason, this film reached such a height.

No One Killed Jessica:

This biographical thriller film starred two actresses Rani Mukerji and Vidya Balan without any hero. The film went on to become a critically acclaimed and box office hit and garnered Rani Mukerji, Filmfare Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

The film was based on the Jessica Lal murder case and Rani played the role of news reporter following the case. The fearless news anchor helped Balan’s Sabrina Lal to get justice for her sister Jessica, which was initially denied by the courts of the nation.


This one too was a heroless movie but because of Rani Mukerji’s “Mardaani”, avatar one doesn’t need a hero to bring justice. The actress played a daring and dedicated police officer of Mumbai, Shivani Shivaji Roy. She uncovers a big girl trafficking racket and saves the girl, and this movie proved that not just a male police officer can beat the goons, chase bikers on legs and kill the villain at the end.

English Vinglish:

This comedy-drama film, written and directed by a female filmmaker Gauri Shinde. The film revolves around a homemaker and small scale business entrepreneur Shashi Godbole, played by Sridevi. This was the final movie of the actress and needless to say she not only stole our hearts but also earned several awards at various events.

The film was about a woman who was not respected by her kids and husband just because she can’t speak English, but she manages to learn and show everyone that there is no age for learning new things even in a distant land.

Sridevi was hailed as the “Meryl Streep of India”  and the “female Rajinikanth in Japan”.


This Vikas Bahl directorial features Kangana Ranaut as the only lead and Lisa Haydon as supporting actress. The film became one of the biggest successful films of all times established Kangana as one of the most talented actresses of B-Town.

The film was about a small town girl, who was rejected by her fiance just a day before her marriage. But the girl instead of whining about her shattered life and go into depression, which is normal in such case, decides to go on her honeymoon to Paris alone.

Kangana in her role of Rani needed no Raja (King) to live her life to fullest. She goes to Paris, befriends foreigners, falls in love all over again and gets to know her worth through her own eyes.

She became an inspiration for the girls who think that rejection is the end of life and one can never live happily after being rejected. She stood as an example for all to define ourselves as we like, not as others see us.


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