Cinema can alter a person's life. A good movie can inspire to do the impossible or a great touching family drama can prompt you to spend the next holiday with your family.
I remember when I watched English Vinglish, I immediately called my mum and asked her if I ever made her feel humiliated for not being able to speak English. She said no but still I offered an apology, just in case.
As a woman, the movies that touch me the most are the ones that have strong female characters. I relate to such characters and draw inspiration from them. My fervour only increases when the film has been directed by a woman.
Imagine the cinematic powerhouse when you have a visionary, talented woman standing behind the lens and directing another creative woman to bring magic, not just on screen but also in the real lives of viewers.
Below is my pick of the best 10 movies that have been directed by Indian women. The movies are in no particular order.
1. Rudaali (Kalpana Lajmi, 2003)
A woman called Shanichari is supposed to have been born cursed, but for all her woes she never cries. Not when she gets married to an abusive alcoholic, not when her only son leaves her never to come back and not even when her husband is killed. To survive, she becomes a rudaali or professional mourner. She now attends funerals along with Bhikini, another rudaali, but is unable to shed tears until she faces a truth that makes her cry, finally.
Watch it for Dimple Kapadia's National Award-winning performance.
2. Peepli Live (Anusha Rizvi, 2010)
A blunt satire on the Indian political scene and media hypocrisy in the context of farmer suicides, the film captures the plight of Indian farmers very well. Those who have watched the movie will agree that its beauty lies in its well-crafted script by director Anusha Rizvi.
Watch it for Anusha's raw treatment of the grim realities of small farmers. The movie was India's official entry for the 83rd Academy Awards.
3. Mitr, My Friend (Revathy, 2002)
This is one movie that resonates particularly with stay-at-home moms, who give up on their aspirations to bring up a family. I remember translating the movie to my mum who loved the film.
A housewife and a doting mother, Lakshmi is often accused of being too focused on her family. Things go haywire when her adolescent daughter walks out of the home and lives separately. Lakshmi's suspicious husband also walks out on her after he assumes she is having a fling with their neighbour.
In the meantime, Lakshmi finds a friend online who helps her in finding her own identity. As she discovers herself in the process, her daughter returns to her and urges her to meet her mitr (friend). She is shocked when his identity is revealed.
Watch it for the tantalising performance by Shobhana and Revathy's poignant treatment of the sensitive subject.
4. Water (Deepa Mehta, 2005)
I believe Water is the best out of the three movies in the trilogy of elements directed by Deepa Mehta. It is not only beautifully shot but also features strong performances and a solid script by Anurag Kashyap. The film addresses sensitive issues such as child marriage, widowhood and prostitution.
Watch it not only for the acting of the adults but also for the young Chuyia (played by Sarala Kariyawasam) who becomes a widow at the tender age of seven.
5. Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001)
It may be a humorous family drama, but Monsoon Wedding does throw some light on the darker issues that plague many families. Even as preparations for a big, fat Indian wedding are in full swing, the bride confesses to her fiancée about an affair with her married boss and, later, a cousin reveals the truth about a relative who molests young girls.
The movie depicts the journey of a family through revelations of relationships.
Watch it not only for Mira Nair's directorial finesse but also for Sabrina Dhawan's script.
6. Dhobi Ghat (Kiran Rao, 2010)
When veteran actor Aamir Khan said that Dhobi Ghat made him fall in love with his wife again, he probably wasn't lying. Kiran's creative genius comes into full play in this enigmatic film, which is also a tribute to the city of Mumbai. The delicately told story revolves around many characters, each of whom has their own compelling story.
Watch the movie for the understated but powerful performances and for Kiran Rao's script.
7. Mr. and Mrs. Iyer (Aparna Sen, 2002)
I have watched Mr. and Mrs. Iyer at least 10 times and I don't think I'm done with it yet. I find it extremely touching, romantic and subtle.
Two strangers, introduced by a common friend, sit next to each other on a bus. Riots break out in the area and they have to wait for the chaos to subside. The lady saves the man by concealing his Muslim identity from the mob and the man protects her by taking care of her and her infant son.
By the end of the film, you know the two have come closer and you wish the movie did not end there. This is the magic.
Watch it for Konkana Sen Sharma as a Tamil Brahmin, Rahul Bose as the dashing Muslim and finally for Aparna's gripping direction.
8. 15 Park Avenue (Aparna Sen, 2005)
Aparna Sen is a name that speaks of excellence, subtlety and brilliant merit. This film, written and directed by her, explores the torturous world of schizophrenia.
Konkana Sen Sharma shines in the movie as a schizophrenic and Shabana Azmi does justice to her character as Anu, Konkana's elder sister.
Watch it for the brilliant performances and for the surreal ending.
9. English Vinglish (Gauri Shinde, 2012)
I really loved English Vinglish. More so for the fact that it touched upon an issue which is quite pervasive in our country but often overlooked.
A mother of two is constantly looked down upon by her adolescent daughter and busy husband because of her lack of English-speaking skills. She lands up in America where she decides to learn English by enrolling herself in a course. Her confidence builds slowly and she even earns herself a French admirer who reminds her of her beauty.
The movie is laden with emotions that women often face, at home and outside. The scenes where Sridevi tries to order a cup of coffee and spills it on the floor, or when her daughter lies to her as she believes her mom would not be able to understand, are situations many of us can identify with.
Watch it for Sridevi's scintillating performance and of course Gauri Shinde's direction and screenplay.
10. Bend It Like Beckham (Gurinder Chadha, 2002)
This masterpiece is a must-watch for women as well as soccer fans. It tells the tale of a young girl who surpasses cultural and religious biases to pursue her passion for football. Shrugging aside family pressure to settle down and busy herself in 'feminine' pursuits, she emerges triumphant.
Watch it for writer-director Gurinder Chadha's witty yet strong cinematic adaption of real-life problems of an aspiring Indian woman football player.
If you enjoyed reading this list, you might also like my compilation of Top 60 Must Watch Inspirational Movies For Women.