Women in Bollywood’s 100 years have come a long way.
- Did they fight their way up the ladder?
- Wasn’t Indian cinema a male-dominated domain in the early years?
The first full length motion picture produced by Dadasaheb Phalke was ‘Raja Harishchandra’ (1913) – a silent film in which the female roles were played by male actors!
Then came ‘Alam Ara’ (1931), the first sound film, which had Zubeida, one of India’s earliest superstars.
She entered the Hindi cinema in that era when it was not a very respectable profession for female actors.
From the 1920s to 1930s, Zubeida and Sultana eventually became Indian cinema’s loveliest leading ladies followed by many.
Devika Rani, India’s first dream girl, also called Dragon lady, started her career in films in 1930s and has to her credit the longest 4-minute kissing scene in the movie world with her husband Himanshu Rai in ‘Karma’ (1933).
In those days it created a huge scandal and was very controversial.
The fearless Nadia ruled the screen and was called ‘Hunterwaali’. Nadia with tight revealing clothes, tall boots and her whip became iconic in the 1930s.
Many actresses followed in the coming years making history, like Padma Devi, Jamuna, Durga Khote, Kanan Devi, Madhubala, Geeta Bali and Bina Rai.
Yes, the women were bold and rightly made a place for themselves in the Indian cinema. Also, a few did very bold scenes and wore revealing clothes in the then very orthodox society.
Massive Leap With Swim Suit Jumps Into Pools
G Caffe spoke to Bollywood commentator Urmila Lanba who said that in those days, several leading ladies created many a ripples.
“Nargis wore a swim suit in ‘Ambar’ and ‘Awara’ in the 1950s. Prominent among others who fired the screen with swim suits were Nutan in ‘Dilli Ka Thug’ (1958), Saira Banu (1964) and Sharmila Tagore in ‘An Evening in Paris’ (1967).”
In those days it was a big thing and a very courageous act as all these were done by the vamps and not the heroines.
According to Urmila, it was Zeenat Aman and Parveen Babi who later glamourised the image of the leading lady. They brought in deep neck lines, well toned bodies, the sultry look and a lot of zing.
The trend was sure to change. Zeenat Aman thus became a sex symbol and did all from bedroom to bathroom scenes with grace.
Then, a young Dimple Kapadia brought in short skirts and tops with polka dots. Raj Kapoor introduced many a young girls in revealing clothes under waterfalls.
In the journey, many came and went. Some looked good, some were vulgar. It’s surely a tough image to carry and a very thin line between sexy and vulgar.
In the latest, Anushka Sharma can be seen in the opening shot of ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ (2012), in a blue bikini, taking a plunge in the lake.
This latest hot pants girl is ever so sizzling with a well toned body to reveal. She also came on the screen in ‘Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola’ (2013), emerging from a village pond!
Well, now a days it’s not so controversial or scandalous but it surely needs guts. So, looks like Bollywood has rediscovered its hot pants girl.
Crossing The Threshold
The ladies have surely come a long way in these 100 years of Hindi cinema. By the way, has daughter-in-law Kareena Kapoor been able to better mom-in-law Sharmila Tagore’s iconic two-piece pose on the cover of Filmfare magazine!
Needless to mention that Sharmila was born as a Hindu Bengali in Hyderbad and later married a Muslim and then went on to lead the Indian Film Censor Board for years as we entered the 21st century.