Our 6 favourite female characters from Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies

We’re all ready for Gangubai Kathiawadi to release, as it is a film directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali and starring Alia Bhatt. Two of our favourite people are getting together to make a film, so we are beyond overjoyed. SLB is known to be an eccentric director who makes films with musical precision and totally immerses his characters in a fantastical world. And that is why we love him. His movies are wonderful, enchanting, and entirely believable and relevant in contemporary contexts.

Although SLB has been making films for more than 2 decades now, he manages to write female characters that are up-to-date and powerful, not meek and shallow. Here are our 5 favourite female characters from his movies:

1. Kashibai, Bajirao Mastani

Priyanka Chopra once said in an interview that Kashibai was one of the most heartbreaking characters she’s had to play. And it’s true; as an audience, our hearts broke over and over again while watching Kashibai on screen. She’s made of all the best parts a human being can be made of. Kind hearted, innocent, childish but clever, compassionate and proud, Kashi makes for a fantastic character to watch on screen. She even tells Mastani that she know how much Rao loves the latter. Which has got to be one of the most heartbreaking things to do.

2. Padmavati, Padmaavat

TBH, I’d probably be shit scared of Rani Sa if I ever met her. She seems to be the very definition of ‘fierce’. An archer and soldier, an independent thinker and virtuous philosopher, a selfless queen and, above all, a woman deeply in love, Rani Padmavati cannot be messed with. She isn’t an emotional, feels woman. She’s a queen in every sense of the word. Her duty and responsibility to her people comes first. Her role as a wife and leader of the people is priority.

3. Paro, Devdas

Paro taught a whole generation of women to take no shit from men. Yes, she loves Devdas and will always love only him, but she knows that she deserves better. She tells him that he can’t come running on the day of her wedding and profess his love for her, as if that suddenly makes everything okay. Paro is also pretty non-judgmental. Her friendship with Chandramukhi is one of the purest ones I’ve seen on screen. One of the many reasons why Dola Re Dola remains so fine, so many years later.

4. Chandramukhi, Devdas

Ah, Chandramukhi. The sultry seductress who pours out shayaris and ghazals with ease. The woman who is judged for her occupation, her work, her residence, whose beauty is enchanting but isn’t the only thing that defines her, whose nobility makes her a class apart. Chandramukhi is basically a goddess and, like Paro, doesn’t take shit from no one. One of my favourite moments is when she slaps Chunni Babu across the face, telling him that “ab tamasha khatam ho gaya”. She deserved much, much better than that useless drunk, Devdas. As did Paro, actually.

5. Dhankor Baa, Ram Leela

Dhankor Baa is one of the scariest people I’ve ever seen — not just on screen, but in life. The best part is that nobody would have ever guessed that Supriya Pathak could perform such a negative role with such finesse, such terror that she leaves the audience shaking. Dhankor Baa is the patriarchal matriarch who runs her side of the town with one finger. Her son, daughter-in-law, naukars and workers are shit scared of her. Everyone is, except for Leela. Which is what makes this mother-daughter relationship so fascinating. However, Dhankor Baa is pretty much Maa Kaali reincarnated and we love her because we fear her. What a woman.

6. Michelle McNahai, Black

Rani Mukherjee as Michelle in Black deserved the Filmfare for sure, but also deserved the Oscar, BAFTA and every other film award in the world. Michelle is an incredible character — equal parts hurting and empowered. SLB made her such that we are never to pity her. Instead, we are to learn from her. We are to learn how to overcome obstacles and realise the value of good teachers in our lives. We are to learn from Michelle how to share the knowledge we gain, how to become self-sufficient and caring for other people, understanding that everyone’s lives are tough. Michelle is one of the most complex, real, intelligently fashioned female characters in Bollywood, and we have Sanjay Leela Bhansali to thank for that.

Who are your favourite SLB characters? Tell us on contactus@mirchiplay.com

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