Yves got me thinking on the term "Bhartiya Naari," and I thought about it until it expanded itself into a whole post.
While the term literally means "Indian Woman," its implications can be many. Generically, she is the ever loving, ever sacrificing; almost drowning in tradition, inner strength and spirituality. Add in idealism, high principals and moral strength, and we could come fairly close to the traditional "Bhartiya Naari." She is typified by her gender and nationality, and may potentially be constrained by these. That said, in the current Indian scenario this creature is coming close to extinction, since she is deemed regressive by the educated young woman of today. I dont beieve that this is an essentially completely correct point of view, since being conversant with history and tradition are necessary towards the development of any person- man or woman, Indian or otherwise.
We see many examples of the traditional Bhartiya Naari in Bollywood, and you have met her in very many movies through the years. She is the Nirupa Roy from every movie in the 70s- the mother who gives up all for her family. She is every playful, happy heroine who changes from shorts to saris as soon as she gets engaged to the hero, or meets his family. Generalized to the extreme, we have Saira Banu as the ultimate caricature of an Indian woman in Purab Aur Paschhim (1970), where she must switch from groovy minis to a floor length sari in order to qualify as a BN. Or she could be the ever sacrificing Nargis in Mother India (1957)- whereas I don't dislike the movie, I couldn't handle the portrayal of a woman spending all her life caring for her men folk- which would definitely be very typically Bhartiya Naari. She has a back bone, and she does take out her own son in the name of justice, and yes I do understand all the woman=India comparison, but it still seems woefully unfair that being an Indian woman should have such a high price.
What I find more true to life, is Shabana in Arth (1982), where she is the true Bhartiya Naari- she tries to save her marriage (we really only catch the last legs of it), but when that doesn't work, she gains an inner strength and leans to walk on her own. I love that I scene where she signs her divorce docs, and through her tears, gets serenaded to Raj Kiran's "Tum itna kyun." Fine, she has another guy around and waiting- but this is on her own terms, and without extra baggage being carried by the potentially new guy.
Another real woman steeped in tradition is Smita in Mirch Masala (1985). A simple village woman, she works in the local spice factory when her husband is out of a job; is quiet, sexy, yet demure- as are maybe 99% of women that we meet in this movie. However, once confronted with Naseer's potential evil rapist, all the women in the village join forces to fight against the men (who have essentially given up and are supporting Naseer!) A smaller part is played by Dipti Naval, who is the first woman in the village to send her child to school- I really loved the way she made this so real.
Then we have Shabana in Mandi (1983). A prostitute and manager of a house of prostitutes, she is intensely religious, cuttingly practical as regards her profession, and fiercely protective of her adopted "family." She is unapologetic about her profession, strong and kicks some serious ass. This is my favorite Shabana movie, and to me she is the ultimate Bhartiya Naari.
And in the recent past, it is Tabu who epitomizes the modern Bhartiya Naari- she is traditional in The Namesake (2007), a little less so in Cheeni Kum (2007)- but strong through and through. She cares for her family, but develops her own interests outside of home and hearth. She may be a fantasy, but I feel thousands of women in India today are struggling with the same issues she portrays, and she sucessfully represents their idelas and aspirations- though in neither film she has any real career, and today's Bhartiya Naari is very career concious, while still being deeply rooted in tradition.
Which brings me to the forthcoming Sarkar Raj (2008)- juxtaposed against Aishwariya's corporate exec is Tanisha as the traditional housewife. I hope they wont show the career woman as losing out in the end- if they dont, I will be applausing hard.
Note: Rereading this; I have obviously skipped over some spectacular women-oriented movies and characters- but getting it all in would mean a book :) Additionally, I do not mean to exclude non-Bhartiya Naaris (non Indian women)- women and men are essentially the same worldwide (while accounting for exceptions) but I have tried to contain the discussion to Bollywood.