Else where

In 1962, Meena Kumari — of the caress in the voice and the bedroom eyes — played the alcoholic Chhoti Bahu in the epic ‘Sahib Biwi aur Gulam’.

Dressed in a heavy Bengali sari, with big bindi and sindoor in her hair throughout the film she boldly outdrank her debauch husband, even if the role was mired in sadness. She showed us that even women who were not vamps could drink. And look ‘pure’ doing it.
Before her there was the original Bollywood stunt queen — Fearless Nadia with her tight tights and fluffy shirts, jumping around the studios, cracking a whip at a time when women were expected to swing only the hip and keep their eyes demurely lowered. Nadia was the queen of the thirties.

In 1967, when heroines were wearing long plaits and saris in films, Sharmila Tagore made a splash in Shakti Samanta’s ‘An Evening in Paris’, by appearing in a bikini. That was the first time conservative audiences saw a  bikini on an Indian actress.
 It shocked but also brought on a wave of bikini-clad actresses — Parveen Babi (in ‘Yeh Nazdeekiyan’), Zeenat Aman (in ‘Heera Panna’) and Dimple Kapadia (in ‘Bobby’). Wearing a bikini put Mrs Pataudi’s name in the list of Bollywood’s 10 hottest actresses of all time.
In Deepa Mehta’s ‘Fire’, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das portrayed a lesbian relationship for the first in Indian cinema. Though the film drew severe protests and threats from many social groups as well as by the Indian authorities, Shabana’s role as Radha brought her international recognition with the Silver Hugo Award for Best Actress at the 32nd Chicago Film Festival. Way to go, ladies!

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