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New Bollywood Movies Open Up Gender Discussion

Bollywood movies have been tackling tough topics in recent movies by showing powerful men doing their part to help women, rather than hurt them. Aamir Khan, R. Balki, and Akshay Kumar have been working to create movies that add to this progressive tradition. Not only do they show men helping women, they show how everyone can do their part to create social change.

Dangal, one of India’s most popular and financially successful movies, starts off by introducing a wrestler who makes sacrifices to support and help his daughters reach their full potential in the wrestling world. In a 2009 interview, Khan indicated that he likes to approach films from a different angle. He said, “I don’t do things differently; I try to do it in a different manner. I think every person should follow his/her dream and try and make it possible to create an ability to achieve it backed by its practicality.”

Khan proves this once again in his film, Secret Superstar, where he plays a supporting role as a producer who “gives his time and money and even his dignity, to help a young girl achieve her dream and, more importantly, to help the girl’s mother liberate herself from a dangerously abusive husband.” In each of his films, Khan finds a way to broach the subject of supporting women, whatever that effort might be.

While Khan’s films have mostly been popular in India and China, R. Balki’s new film, Padman, seems to have caught the eye of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Sony has acquired rights to the film and will distribute and support it worldwide in January of 2018. Sanford Panitch, Columbia Pictures President, issued a statement, saying, “Akshay is the rarest of artists, not only is he the definition of movie star and producer, but what makes him and Twinkle so special is that they have found a way with this film to make a wonderfully affecting and heartwarming movie that also can impact social change. We are looking forward to working with Akshay on many projects.”

Padman is a biography based on Arunachalam Murguganantham, an activist who made it his mission to provide low-cost sanitary napkins to poor women in rural areas. Women in these areas would often use rags or leaves during their periods, which, as you can imagine, was not all that sanitary. Not only did he come up with a revolutionary idea, he also revolutionized female hygiene in India.

Murguganantham created this kind of revolution by testing his products on himself. He would go around “with a pad in his underwear and a bottle filled with animal blood, which would squeeze out the blood on to the pad at regular intervals. After two years of research and findings, he figured out how to procure the exact material he needed and the process to manufacture a good quality sanitary pad at home.” Now, Muruganantham’s machines are sold across India, providing more women with sanitary pads.

Needless to say, Sony was impressed by this socially-conscious film, saying, “India is an important and growing market with rich content and dynamic stories that translate worldwide. Akshay, one of the most critically and commercially lauded stars in the country, has a distinct sensibility that we are lucky to work with. We look forward to sharing Padman‘s incredible story with audiences around the world.”

Bollywood is certainly taking on some incredible stories about men helping women thrive. Positive female representation is so important in movies, and these upcoming films are sure to be great ways for social change.

Featured Image by Kevin Dooley on Flickr

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