Success has different connotations for different people. For some, it means winning mass approval and for others, it is all about staying true to the inner voice no matter how challenging life gets. The film industry has both kinds of achievers – some repeat a successful formula endlessly, and others strive to create something authentic. Here are five brave, creative, and indomitable women who have always taken the road less travelled.
Shonali Bose is a shining example of grace under fire. She has poured her pain into telling powerful stories. Her 2005, debut film Amu was based on the 1984 riots and won her the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English. Films like Margarita with a Straw and The Sky is Pink talk and tap into chronic health issues like cerebral palsy (CP) and combined immunodeficiency and pulmonary fibrosis. Shonali has also won a Bridgestone Narrative Award, and a Sundance Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award and continues to tell stories that have never been told before in an industry where a female perspective is hard to come by.
Taapsee Pannu is one of the few Indian actors to have succeeded in every industry they have worked in and has won accolades in Hindi, Telugu and Tamil cinema. Along the way, this pan-India star has won two Filmfare Awards and carved a niche for herself as not just a powerful actor but also someone who speaks her mind on issues close to her heart. In the past few years, she has focused on working in female-led, gritty films such as Thappad, Naam Shabana, Rashmi Rocket, Loop Lapeta and more. From the time of her debut in the 2010 Telugu film Jhummandi Naadam, she has grown into a powerhouse, won critical and commercial success, and is going from strength to strength, powered by her own unique vision of what she wants her career to be.
Shut Up Sona, a riveting documentary soon to be available on OTT gives us a rare insight into the courage and conviction with which singer, composer, lyricist, activist and producer Sona Mohapatra lives her multifaceted life. The documentary takes us beyond social media-fuelled controversies to show us a female artist s take on the male-dominated industry and how even a woman as successful as Sona is policed constantly for what she wears, says, and even sings. But for this BTech engineering graduate and MBA degree holder, life is all about marching to her own beat regardless of the odds. This is why she switched from a corporate career to music, her first love, and went on to dominate contemporary Indian music. Her 2007, debut album Sona heralded Sona as the voice of the future and her playback career also took off in a big way with songs in films like Delhi Belly, Talaash, Fukrey and more. It is however the thread of activism and social awareness in her work that truly sets her apart.
Image: Vaibhav Nadgaonkar
The powerhouse producer and founder of Sikhya Entertainment is quietly changing the narrative landscape of Indian cinema with contemporary classics like The Lunchbox, Gangs of Wasseypur – Part 1 and 2, Masaan, and Pagglait. Films where women and their point-of-view have a powerful presence. She became one of the first Indian producers to be inducted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, worked as an executive producer on Academy Award winning documentary Period. End of Sentence. Guneet remains committed to speaking through her work and was voted as one of the top 12 women achievers in the Global Entertainment industry by The Hollywood Reporter. She also invests her time in Indian Women Rising, an empowerment collective.
Shefali Shah’s talent was never in question. Not when she played a small cameo in Rangeela (1995), or when she was seen in a secondary part in the 1996 Doordarshan show Aarohan. Yet, success took its time to arrive. Undeterred, she went on to build her career brick by brick first through television shows like Banegi Apni Baat and Hasratein and then with the help of films like Satya, Monsoon Wedding, Waqt: The Race Against Time and Mohabbatein. For her work in 2007’s The Last Lear, she won the National Film Award for Best Supporting Actress but still wasn’t offered good roles worthy of her talent. However today, she is being wooed with primary parts by OTT content creators as well as filmmakers like Zoya Akhtar whose comedy-drama Dil Dhadakne Do paired her in a pivotal role opposite Anil Kapoor. Be it Jalsa or the Neeraj Ghaywan-directed short, Juice, she is now finally in the spotlight that she always deserved. Her work in Delhi Crime, Human and Once Again shows her range as an actor and proves that talent succeeds where hype fails. She is also dabbling with direction and is also a painter and a restaurateur.
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