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Hyderabad: The Hindi film industry is decisively male-centric, where women do not get equal space in boardrooms, on and off the screen, and are usually expected to conform to pre-existing and outmoded moulds. There are, however, a few women who made their own rules and did not let anyone dictate terms to them.

Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt, Dia Mirza, Vidya Balan, and Taapsee Pannu have carved their own path by making creative and personal choices that are brave and unconventional. Read on to find out more:

Deepika Padukone

As a jury member at the 75th Cannes Film Festival and the brand ambassador of the French luxury brand Louis Vuitton, Deepika Padukone may have turned many heads this year but she is more than just a red carpet sensation. Remember Homi Adajania’s short-film, ‘My Choice’? Deepika’s monologue, ‘My body, my mind, my choice,’ is still remembered for the polarised opinions it evoked. Her production ‘Chhapaak’ took a stand for India’s acid attack survivors. Be it Veronica in ‘Cocktail’, Leela in ‘Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela’, the title role in ‘Piku’, and Mastani in ‘Bajirao Mastani’, Deepika has essayed many strong and fierce women.

Alia Bhatt

The little girl from ‘Student of the Year’ has now become a powerhouse performer with a stunning body of work that includes films like ‘Highway’, ‘Udta Punjab’, ‘Raazi’, ‘Dear Zindagi’, and ‘Gully Boy’. After becoming the only female actor this year to give a solo blockbuster like ‘Gangubhai Kathiawadi’, she is off to London to share cinematic space in ‘Heart of Stone’ with ‘Wonder Woman’ star Gal Gadot. Despite unwarranted negative attacks online, Alia has kept her focus on doing good work.

Dia Mirza

After winning the Miss Asia-Pacific International crown in 2000, Dia Mirza went on to be a successful actor, producer, entrepreneur, and climate champion. Today, she is a globally respected voice of change as the UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and United Nations Secretary-General Advocate for Sustainable Development Goals. Her recent projects include an award-winning turn in the hit series, ‘Kaafir’ and a path-breaking part in the forthcoming film ‘Dhak Dhak’ where she plays a Muslim biker. Be it choosing to have her marriage solemnised by a female priest, or doing away with rituals like ‘Kanyadaan’ and ‘Bidaai’, Dia has never failed to impress.

Vidya Balan

Be it Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi from ‘Kahaani’, Reshma from ‘The Dirty Picture’, Sabrina Lall from ‘No One Killed Jessica’, Vidya Vincent from ‘Sherni’, or Sulochana (Sulu) Dubey from ‘Tumhari Sulu’, every uniquely written character is safe in the hands of actor extraordinaire Vidya. Along the way, she has smashed beauty stereotypes, demonstrated how to deviate from norms with a smile, and changed the trajectory of the Hindi film heroine.

Taapsee Pannu

Taapsee Pannu is conscious of being a change-maker and in the past few years has chosen films where she has steered conversations towards important issues like domestic violence (‘Thappad’), the struggles faced by female athletes (‘Rashmi Rocket’), sexual violence (‘Pink’), violent misogyny (‘Game Over’), bigotry (‘Mulk’) and more. She played the titular character in ‘Naam Shabana’, stole many scenes in the male-centric ‘Baby’, essayed a grey character in ‘Badla’, an ISRO scientist in ‘Mission Mangal’ and one of the world’s oldest sharpshooters in ‘Saand ki Aankh’.

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Author: Howard Caldwell