1. KALI SALWAR, 2002
The debut feature from director Fareeda Mehta, this Mumbai-set drama offers a graceful look at female identity, urban life, and the role of religion in contemporary Indian culture. A colorful, poetic tale of self-discovery, based on a series of short stories by Urdu writer Saadat Hassan Manto.
2. RUDAALI, 1993
A feminist story of friendship and the plight of women across social classes. This poignant story is set in the backdrop of an old custom from Rajasthan, where women of lower caste are hired as professional mourners to publicly display grief upon the death of upper-caste males
3. SALAAM BOMBAY, 1988
A film about the hope and survival in the chaotic dark underbelly of Mumbai, this debut feature of leading Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair won her the Camera d’Or at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival. With deep empathy and honesty, she creates a remarkably realistic picture of the street world.
4. SATI, 1989
A powerful feminist drama set against the backdrop of the eponymous horrific practice of early nineteenth century India, Sati is one of the iconic works of filmmaker Aparna Sen. Shabana Azmi delivers a moving performance as the mute protagonist who silently suffers societal exploitation.
5. PESTONJEE, 1988
Pestonjee looks at human loneliness and its diverse manifestations through the prism of the miniscule Parsi community of Mumbai. Questioning the meaning of happiness, the film makes a sharp comment about the idea of a perfect life.
6. SWAMI, 1977
Shabana Azmi carries this Basu Chatterjee film on her shoulders with a nuanced performance as an argumentative, intelligent, and stubborn young woman forced into an arranged marriage. Based on a Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s short story, Swami is a remarkable ode to his literary genius
7. GUDDI, 1971
A window into the amusing behind-the-scenes life of Mumbai film industry, Guddi is also a gentle and heartfelt commentary on the Indian middle class values and aspirations. Jaya Bachhan makes a captivating debut in the titular role, conveying volumes with her simplicity and sharp glances
8. MISS BEATTY'S CHILDREN, 1992
Set in pre-independence India, Miss Beatty’s Children is a poignant look at the challenges and disillusion that come with fighting for the oppressed and the marginalised. The debut feature film of Pamela Rooks, one of the pathbreaking woman filmmakers from India.