Which Indian film has the best climax

India is rediscovering its actresses

"In the beginning there were only men in front of the camera. They dressed up as women and played the female roles," says film critic Namrata Joshi about the beginnings of Indian cinema 100 years ago. "Women from a decent family have no place on the stage, it was said at the time." It was not until the 1920s that Indian directors began to hire actresses. However, their role was mainly limited to "looking beautiful", explains Namrat Joshi.

That changed mainly because of the Australian Mary Ann Evans, later known as "Fearless Nadia". She came to India in 1913 at the age of five, where her father served in the British Army. In 1935 she starred in the film "Hunterwali" (The Woman with the Whip), a premiere for Indian cinema and a sensational success for the Bombay studio Wadia Movietone, which was followed by many more. "In the film, Fearless Nadia has certain similarities with Robin Hood. She did her own stunts, she ran over train roofs, carried men on her shoulder, she did everything that is expected of a man," says film critic Joshi.

Strong personalities

Nargis played a strong role in the 50s

Fearless Nadia paved the way for other actresses, also benefiting from the permanent place that dance and music had in Indian cinema since the mid-30s. Since then, actresses have been almost as important to the films as their male counterparts. Singers became actresses and contributed a lot to the glamor of Bollywood.

The 50s and 60s are considered the golden age of Indian film art. Actresses like Madhu Bala, Meena Kumari and Nargis played strong female roles in those years. In 1957, "Mother India" was the first Indian film to be nominated for an Oscar, something only two other Indian films have achieved since then. At the center of the film is a strong mother who fights against social injustice and envy for the benefit of her family and asserts her dignity in the process.

Film historian Namrata Joshi is also critical of the films of that time. "Whenever a woman was the center of attention, it was a story of her misery. These films focused on the suffering of women and how they have sacrificed everything for their families and communities." Joshi notes that it was all too easy for Indian society to simply accept these characters.

Changing role (s) of women

Bollywood actress Vidya Balan breaks the role stereotype

The 70s brought a change, the actresses in India were mostly limited to supporting roles. Actors like Amitabh Bachchan became so popular at the time that the films only revolved around the male hero. The female performers had a minor role in which they danced a bit, looked beautiful, and flaunted the latest fashions. This pattern was in place until the late 1990s.

Then the tide turned again, actresses like Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor offered Indian viewers a different image of women than what they were used to. Films like "Jab We Met" (When I Met You, 2007) and "The Dirty Picture" from 2011 are some of the best-known examples of this new trend.

No less a person than Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan has made the promotion of Indian film actresses his cause. He recently announced that the actress's name would appear before his name in the opening credits of his next film. Which is downright revolutionary for Bollywood, where until now only the male hero has counted. This is also the reason why the best actor is announced at the end of every award ceremony. That should also change soon.