The year 2021 saw yet another deadly wave of the pandemic which forced people to stay indoors for a long time. More films were released directly into OTT platforms. Along with 2020, 2021 also saw more stories about women being made and released, bringing actresses to the centre of attention and as subjective figures. Some of them made an impact on the audience.
Here is a list of the best women-led stories of the year.
Renuka Shahane wrote and directed this film about three generations of women. 'Tribhanga' stars Kajol in the lead role along with Tanvi Azmi and Mithila Palkar. The journey of three generations of women who follows their struggles, patriarchy, bullying, and finally, and how they stick together at all odds.
'Aarya 2' is the second season of the critically acclaimed Disney+ Hotstar series starring Sushmita Sen in the lead role. Sushmita plays an anti-hero who will do whatever it takes to keep her children safe from her own gangster family. First season of 'Aarya' received an international Emmy nomination and Sen's performance was lauded. Apart from her, Marathi actress Geetanjali Kulkarni, who plays a corrupt police officer, was also lauded for making an impact with her minor appearance.
'Sandeep Aur Pinky Faraar' is a black comedy-drama, helmed by an acclaimed filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee. Parineeti Chopra and Arjun Kapoor essay the lead roles. The movie was lauded for breaking gender stereotypes, highlighting patriarchal expectations of women, and Parineeti Chopra's performance. Parineeti plays a strong character who makes bold decisions and sacrifices.
'Pagglait' was the most acclaimed film at the time of its release. It is a black comedy drama film written and directed by Umesh Bist, starring Sanya Malhotra in the lead role. She plays Sandhya, a woman who becomes widowed at a very young age. She doesn't follow customs or rules a widow is expected to follow in a religious fundamentalist household. Instead, she breaks free and tries to start life afresh.
'November Story' is a Hotstar series starring popular South Indian actress Tamannaah Bhatia in the lead role. The series follows a murder that was supposedly committed by Ganesan (GM Kumar), Anuradha's (Tamannaah) father who suffers from an early onset of Alzheimer's disease and cannot remember everything in his life.
It is a well-streamlined whodunnit mystery. Tamannaah is at the front and centre. Critics lauded her for choosing powerful scripts that gave her an oppurtunity to shine.
Acclaimed writer Amole Gupte helmed this sport autobiographical drama based on Olympics medal winning shuttler Saina Nehwal. Parineeti Chopra essays the lead role as Saina Nehwal. The film was released in theatres and then received better response after being released on Amazon Prime. Saina Nehwal had won a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games and a bronze medal in the Olympics.
'Ajeeb Dastans' is a critically acclaimed anthology that has four segments directed by Shashank Khaitan, Raj Mehta, Neeraj Ghaywan and Kayoze Irani. The segment 'Geeli Pucchi' is the most popular out of them all, as it has conjured conversations around caste and homosexuality. Konkona Sen Sharma and Aditi Rao Hydari essay the lead roles in that segment.
'Sara's' is a Malayalam language film directed by Jude Anthany Joseph with Anna Ben in the lead role. The movie conjured important conversations around unplanned pregnancy, women's reproductive rights and abortion. Anna Ben plays Sara Vincent, a woman who has the desire to become a freelance film director. She is forced to undergo challenges that come with an unplanned pregnancy and societal pressures. The film was well-received by the audience for covering such a taboo topic though it did also face the wrath of religious fundamentalists.
Manjari Makijany wrote and directed this Indian-American film with Rachel Sanchita Gupta in the lead role as a girl named Prerna, who is bound by patriarchal traditions and expectations. Amrit Maghera plays Jessica, a woman who wants to make the skating dream a reality for local kids and teens in Rajasthan.
Kirti Kulhari stars in the lead role in 'Shaadisthan,' a film helmed by Raj Singh Chaudhary. Kirti plays a woman named Sasha, who as described by Kirti, represents freedom in a way. Film follows the journey of four young free-spirited musicians, a couple and their young daughter in a camper van. They are traveling from Mumbai to a small town in Rajasthan. The film covers various cultures, traditions, and women's empowerment.
'Netrikann' is a Tamil language crime thriller, written and directed by Milind Rau with Nayanthara in the lead role. Nayanthara plays Durga, a CBI officer who lost her eye-sight in a car accident. She is stalked by a serial rapist and kidnapper. Durga is up for a cat and mouse game with her stalker while also trying to investigate the kidnappings of several women across the city. Nayanthara's performance was lauded and for the depiction of a strong character.
'Sherni' is regarded as one of the best films of the year 2021. Vidya Balan plays the lead role as an Indian Forest Service officer named Vidya Vincent. The movie is based on the killing of a tigress named Avni which had conjured massive outrage across the country. The film also covers sexism and other challenges faced by women in a male-dominated field.
'The Great Indian Kitchen' was an unexpected hit film that was released directly into the OTT platforms. Nimishaa Sajayan essays the lead role as a housewife who does monotonous tasks which include cooking, cleaning and doing emotional labour for her husband. The film highlights religious fundamentalism and dehumanisation of women by patriarchy.
'Mimi' is Bollywood actress Kriti Sanon's first solo release. Her sister Nupur praised the film for giving Kriti the oppurtunity to prove her mettle as an actress as opposed to sticking to the media image of being an 'eye-candy' only. Kriti plays the surrogate mother of an American couple. She was forced to put aside her dreams of becoming an actress to be the mother of the couple's child after they chose to abandon him. The movie was praised but also was criticised for misrepresenting surrogacy.
'Rashami Rocket' was one of the most anticipated films of the year 2021. Taapsee Pannu essays the lead role as a gifted athlete who has to face the biggest challenges of her life - when her abilities were questioned and scrutinised by the authorities through gender testing. Taapsee's performance in the film is regarded as one of the best in that year. Akarsh Khurana directed the film.
'Chhorii' is the Bollywood remake of the acclaimed Marathi film 'Lapachhapi.' Nushrratt Bharuccha and Mita Vashisht play the main roles as the protagonist and antagonist respectively.
The film covers the sensitive topic of female infanticide, son preference, and superstitions noticed in rural India. Nushrratt plays Sakshi, a pregnant woman who has to undergo scary three days in a hut amidst killer ghosts.