For long, they were shown as gentle and soft-spoken women, brought up with tender care, tied to strong cultural values and often dependent on their possessive brothers. Come 2000, Bollywood started introducing strong sisters a la Karisma Kapoor in ‘Fiza’ and Juhi Chawla in ‘My Brother…Nikhil’, where the love-hate bond continued, but the women began to get stronger roles.
The definition and characteristics of Bollywood’s ‘behna’ changed. The brother was no longer just the ‘rakshak’ of the sister’s ‘izzat’ as B-Town cliches would have it but is also shown as sharing an endearing symbiotic relationship of emotional support.
Raksha Bandhan, the festival that celebrates the bond between brothers and sisters, is on Saturday. Here are some of the Bollywood films that broke the monotony and portrayed sisters in powerful roles:
‘Fiza’: The central plot of the 2000 movie remained the brother-sister relationship, enacted by Hrithik Roshan and Karisma. It showed how Fiza, played by Karisma, desperately looks for her lost brother, Aman, essayed by Hrithik. After years of waiting and searching, she manages to find him but is left in a state of shock when she realises that her brother had joined a terrorist group. Though she loves her brother deeply, she musters up the courage to shoot him when a situation arises.
‘My Brother Nikhil’: The Onir directorial showed that irrespective of parents’ support, siblings are always there for each other. Juhi and Sanjay Suri were presented as siblings in the 2005 film, which also explored queer issues. When Sanjay’s character was ousted from the community, family and swimming team for being HIV positive, apart from his boyfriend, the only other person who continued to stand by him, apart from his boyfriend, was his doting sister.
‘Iqbal’: In the 2005 sports drama, Shreyas Talpade’s character had hearing and speaking disabilities, while his younger sister, essayed by Shweta Prasad, helped him to boost his confidence. While he struggled to get a spot in the Indian cricket team, it was his sister who supported him. She helped him practise the sport as well
and transform his dream into reality.
‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’: Unlike other movies, the bond of brother and sister is not the core of the 2013 film, based on the life of legendary athlete Milkha Singh. Isri Kaur, played by Divya Dutta, was shown as someone who didn’t speak up despite her husband beating her several times. She only stood up to her oppressive husband when he got violent towards her younger brother Milkha. One could also notice the motherly warmth the sister gave to her brother Milkha, who made her proud with his success.
‘Dil Dhadakne Do’: During the release of the film in this year’s summer, filmmaker Zoya Akhtar said that "Brother-sister relationship at the core hasn’t been well represented on Indian screens. It’s always wrapped in rituals … never what it really is. Nobody else knows you better. I wanted to show that relationship in ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ ". And she did it! Revolving around a dysfunctional family, the film that presented actors Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh as siblings, moved people. Priyanka played a suave successful businesswoman Ayesha Mehra, who chose work over having her own children. As a sister, she was supportive of her brother who was not as good at his work as she was.