Online content in India has been interesting to say the least in the last few months, with more films releasing digitally and web-series proving popular on so many platforms. One thing I’ve been struck by in all the web-series I’ve seen in the Indian entertainment arena have been the rather interesting female characters I’ve come across. The series doesn’t need to be women-centric as such in order for the female characters to stand out and, in a day and age of the likes of Four More Shots Please! and Churails, this have continued to be something that has drawn me in. I’m going to share some of the female characters that have wowed me to the point that I couldn’t get enough.
In Amazon Prime’s Panchayat, the village feel was almost a character in itself with eclectic characters being representative of attitudes and the like in the powerful story. Although the cast was dominated by male characters, it was Manju Devi, played by the ever-popular Neena Gupta, who leaves quite an impression. She is the one who appears to wear the trousers in her marriage, which is evident, but not only that! She’s responsible for encouraging her husband’s changing views too but when it emerges that she is the real Pradhan, her character and equation in her marriage becomes all the more interesting. Gupta plays Manju Devi with great subtleness and you come away from the series respecting her, despite the fact that she’s let her husband take over the position she was effectively voted in for.
ACP Saumya Shukla, as played by Lara Dutta Bhupathi, in Hotstar Specials’ Hundred was quite a cop. Firstly, there are many female cops out characters out there to look back at. One of the most memorable in the web-world in India is arguably from Delhi Crime. However, Shukla is completely different. She’s ambitious, she knows her stuff and she’s not scared of challenges. This doesn’t seem to matter though because she’s treated as if she is lower than her male counterparts. The disgust on Dutta’s face every time she’s forced to be the face of a campaign or event just because of female glamour is priceless… utterly priceless. What’s refreshing is that, despite all of this, she emerges. She pushes the boundaries and manages to charge ahead against all the odds. This is definitely inspirational, albeit a little cheesy in places.
Once again, a rare female character who stood out among the males was Namrata Joshi. She was the female journalist in SonyLIV’s Avrodh: The Siege Within, played by the talented Madhurima Tuli. It might seem an easy feat to play a fiesty journalist in such a web-series but the best thing about this one was Tuli’s ability to stand her own in the scenes she was in, even if another character was shouting her her in anger. Joshi was unbelievably confident and questioned every time someone (usually her boss) was trying to hold her back from an expose piece. Her attitude was something refreshing to see in an otherwise male-dominated star-cast because previous journalist characters haven’t been quite like this one.
Bandish Bandits is one of my favourite shows this year. It was just so refreshing comparatively to other web-series. Apart from the female protagonist Tamanna, played by Shreya Chaudhary, there was another female character which really stood out for me. Played by Sheeba Chaddha, the male protagonist’s mother Mohini was quiet pretty much throughout, until it came to a point where she stepped forward to go against her father-in-law, to help her son, Radhe. As Mohini, Chaddha didn’t show much struggle but it was evident that she was biting her tongue a lot. But when her back-story comes out, it is interesting to see how she has dealt with the way her musical journey was stopped when she got married. Chaddha’s strength comes towards the end of the web-series but come it does. And it just shows the length a woman will go to for the betterment of her offspring’s life.
Although Netflix’s Taj Mahal 1989 didn’t make too much of an impact, it was a decent watch which was quite interesting for a viewer looking for something light-hearted. I have to say that my hook for this series was Neeraj Kabi but when I started watching, it was Geetanjali Kulkarni (who plays Sarita, Kabi’s character’s wife) who totally blew me away. Sarita becomes convinced that she and her husband should get divorced. However, when they try to rekindle their romance and give their marriage one more chance, that’s when things get interesting. You see Sarita being the annoyed wife who is struggling to understand her husband to a fiesty go-getter who blushes every time he gets even the slightest bit romantic or poetic. It’s a wide-ranged performance and Kulkarni is absolutely great in the role.
There’s no denying Jennifer Winget‘s talent in anything she does but in Code M (Zee5), as Major Monica, she really seems to get under your skin as a character. Winget plays this role with much gusto, it seems, and she steps into the challenge of being this army lawyer in the perfect way. She seemingly easily passes through obstacles and changes in the characters’ shades, showing off her versatility in so many places. As a viewer, you wonder how someone who is known for her glamorous and emotional roles manages to do this role just as easily… the beauty of this actress!
Last but not the least, the one protagonist character that this list would be incomplete without is Aarya from the web-series Aarya from Hotstar. Sushmita Sen made her web-debut with this series and, as Aarya, she gave a performance which was strong and also very easy to identify with. The character’s background is murky in terms of her family and Sen’s way of handling this as well as taking care of her children when her husband is killed is something commendable. She will be returning for more which is something to celebrate and I, for one, can’t wait!
So there you are! I haven’t watched every show which has released this year or “recently” but these female portrayals were the ones that have stayed with me. And for those who are set for a return in further seasons, I am very excited to see how their characters develop.