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Gangubai Kathiawadi to Pagglait: 10 Women-led Films to Hit Screens in 2021

Gangubai Kathiawadi to Pagglait: 10 Women-led Films to Hit Screens in 2021

Women are taking over the screens in 2021, with around 10 female-focused films up for digital and theatrical release this year.

In the past few years, the Hindi film industry has seen a spike in women-led projects. Despite theatres being shut due to the lockdown, we had multiple films with actresses as solo leads release on OTT platforms. Bulbbul, Shakuntala Devi and the Gunjan Saxena biopic are such examples. Before the lockdown began, Taapsee Pannu made waves with the release of Thappad, a film that strongly condemned domestic violence.

For years Bollywood has believed that hero-centric films are more profitable at the box office. Women-centric films was termed ‘parallel’ and ‘art cinema’, meaning they are not for mass consumption and are meant to deliver a message to the society.

In commercial cinema in the past, Hema Malini, Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit have commanded the screens with their talent and star power, but were always supported by popular male heroes to introduce a romantic angle. Seeta Aur Geeta had Dharmendra and Sanjeev Kumar, Nagina had Rishi Kapoor and Madhuri’s Beta, Tezaab or Ram Lakhan also banked on the heroism of the actors.


The box office dynamics have changed over the years and production houses have been taking up projects with actresses as the main lead, without the support of other elements to make a movie profitable. Women-centric movies are not just art cinema anymore. Films like The Dirty Picture, Tanu Weds Manu, Fashion and Pink have proved that female-driven projects can also be commercially viable.

Probably that is the reason we see a Gangubai Kathiawadi, a Thalaivi or a Rashmi Rocket being made in 2021. Producers are no longer afraid to put their money on actresses who have the potential to carry the weight of a film without a man sharing the load. Here’s a list of such films that we’ll be seeing this year:

1. Gangubai Kathiawadi: This is Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s first woman-led film without any major role played by a male star. Given the scale at which Bhansali usually makes his films, this one’s not going to be a small project either. Alia has proven her mettle with performances in Gully Boy and Raazi, and it was only a matter of time before a she landed a major project with her in the lead. This project is a big step in her career as well as for gender parity in Bollywood.

2. Pagglait: This is a comedy-drama film produced by Ekta Kapoor and Guneet Monga, with Sanya Malhotra in the lead. The film follows a young widow as she learns how to free her crazy, face the family and find herself. The film is set to be released on March 26 on Netflix.

3. Saina: A bunch of the women-led projects this year are biopics, Saina being one of them. Based on the life of India’s first shuttler to win an Olympic medal, the biopic is directed by Amole Gupte. Parineeti Chopra replaced Shraddha Kapoor to portray Saina Nehwal in the movie. Parineeti has put in immense efforts in order to convincingly portray Saina on screen.

4. Shabaash Mithu: Yet another sports biopic, this one has Taapsee Pannu play Mithali Raj to portray her struggles to become the Indian Women’s Cricket Team captain. The actress has prepared hard for the role as she had to step out of her comfort zone.

5. Rashmi Rocket: This is Taapsee’s second sports drama this year, but this one is not a biopic. The plot revolves around a sprinter from a small village in Gujarat. Taapsee underwent a major physical transformation to play the role, from strict and natural diet to vigorous training sessions.

6. Sherni: The Vidya Balan starrer is directed by Amit Masurkar. The film will revolve around the ‘Man v/s Wild’ conflict and will focus on many real-life stories too. Vidya Balan will reportedly play the role of a forest officer.

7. Thalaivi: Kangana Ranaut has taken on the tough role of playing actress turned politician J. Jayalalithaa, who was the six-time Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Kangana has undergone a massive transformation for the role.

8. Tejas: Another Kangana Ranaut film, Tejas will revolve around a brave and fierce fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force played by her. The producers of Uri: The Surgical Strike are backing the film.

9. Haseen Dilrubba: Not every woman-led movie is a biopic or a sports drama. Taapsee Pannu is starring in this upcoming mystery thriller with Vikrant Massey and Harshvardhan Rane, produced by Annand L. Rai. The story revolves around a murder mystery along with a strange love story.

10. Dhaakad: The action-drama stars Kangana Ranaut as the main lead, with Arjun Rampal joining the cast recently. The teaser of the movie showed Kangana’s ‘feisty and fierce’ avatar and ‘was ready to set all guns ablaze!‘ This one is going to be a powerful movie, too.

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