Misogyny or Equality – How Has Bollywood Treated Its Leading Ladies?


    In a recent interview for the BBC, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Zeinab Badawi pointed out a rather interesting paradox to Shah Rukh Khan – for all the talk about women empowerment, Bollywood still makes a lot of films that propagate misogyny and age old stereotypes about women and their role in society.

    The context and explanation for this paradox is not a simple one. In fact, it is one that warrants a deeper look at the evolving role of women in Hindi and Urdu cinema over the years.

    Context is crucial here – at their heart, South Asian societies are still deeply patriarchal and whether consciously or unconsciously, that has reflected in the films that have come out of this region as well.

    Srijita Sarkar, from the University of Louisville in a recent study where she looked at women centric Hindi films, concluded that Bollywood has very set moulds for ideal women – more often than not, they are submissive, chaste, very ready to sacrifice and rooted in tradition and religion. In contrast the vamp or the ‘bad woman’ is one who puts herself and her needs first, is probably financially independent and is, more of than not, westernised in the way she dresses. These characteristics are conveyed through the choices that she makes and equally importantly through her body language and clothes.

    Srijita also makes another interesting point about what defines most male and female characters. While male characters are defined by what they do professionally, their female counterparts are usually defined by their beauty and their relationship to the male protagonists. This one dimensional and shallow portrayal of women begs the question – how did we get to this place and has it gotten any better over the decades?

    A closer look at the history of Indian cinema reveals that the seeds for such portrayal were sown in the very first film ever made in India ‘Raja Harishchandra’. Over the years this submissive portrayal

    continued with the first inflection point coming in the 1950’s.

    In post Partition India, women suddenly found themselves out of the house a lot more, as families rebuilt their lives in a newly independent country. It was in this decade that we saw some of the most iconic women centric films being made, most notably Mother India. Advantageously to the cause, this was also the time when powerhouse actresses like Nargis (the leading lady of Mother India), Meena Kumari (known as the tragedy queen for her intense emotional performances) and Madhubala (the first Indian actress to be noticed by Hollywood) emerged. Even though the female protagonists now had more of a meaningful role in the story, the characters they played were still shown to be largely at the mercy of society in one way or another.

    By mid 1960’s, through to the mid 1980’s, Bollywood witnessed the rise of the superstar in Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan. By and large the most commercially successful films of these decades were those that featured these men in starring roles, fighting the odds and coming out on top. There were a few notable exceptions in mainstream cinema though, including films like Abhimaan (Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan) and Aandhi (Sanjeev Kumar, Suchitra Sen) where the female protagonists had roles equal in stature to the heroes.

    When the shift took place from the more sombre films of the post

    – partition period of the 1950’s, it was the women who had to provide the entertainment quotient in mainstream cinema. So whether it was Helen doing item numbers or Zeenat Aman providing the glamour quotient, the role of the heroine was visibly diminished in stature.

    Amusingly, at the same time, the parallel cinema movement took flight, with Smita Patel and Shabana Azmi leading the way. The films they made, however, never became big commercial hits and were confined to the art films category.

    The late mid 1980’s and early 1990’s saw the emergence of the iconic leading ladies

    like Sri Devi and Madhuri Dixit – actresses who could deliver box office success. However, the roles that these actresses played remained of ‘good girls’. They were still often seen through the prism of how much they could give and sacrifice for their families and loved ones. Even blockbuster films like Hum Aapke Hain Kaun did little to break these stereotypes – rather they helped reinforce them.

    The second half of 1990’s saw a lot of fresh, young directors and producers like Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar enter the industry and while the new blood brought in a fresher canvas and filmmaking style, the woman’s definition did not change too drastically. As Shabana Azmi famously called Karan Johar to tell him – Kuch Kuch Hota Hai reinforced modern day sexism in Hindi cinema by showing Anjali to be more desirable when she has undergone a complete change in the way she looks – from the longer hair to eastern dressing.

    Similarly in Dil Toh Pagal Hai, the contrast between Madhuri’s chiffon shalwar kameez clad, soft spoken, Pooja and Karisma’s tom boyish, hanging out with the boys, Nisha is made quite evident and of course it is Pooja who ends up with the charming Shah Rukh Khan.

    The surprising thing is that these films have done incredibly well with the NRI audiences who themselves live lives where women are as much in the driving seat as the men.

    The real change I feel has come since the mid 2000’s when we

    finally saw the films like Chameli, Jab We Met and Fashion. In all these films, it was the female protagonist who drove the plot and for the first time it seemed like it was acceptable for the leading lady to be playing the role of a prostitute (Kareena in Chameli) or an ambitious, aspiring fashion model who knew exactly what she wanted from her career and was willing to put her own self above others.

    Since 2010, we have really seen this trend continue with acting mavens like Vidya Balan being the ‘hero’ of the film – from Kahaani to her latest, Tumhari Sulu. Another

    leading lady, Kangana Ranaut completely broke the mould with Queen – it was incredibly refreshing to see an under confident, dejected Rani make the decision of a lifetime to embark on her honeymoon travels by herself and to discover herself and her own self worth during the journey.

    Deepika Padukone too has now been working in films that feature her in complex, intriguing roles where she is so much more than just a showpiece. From Bajirao Mastani to Cocktail and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Deepika has not been afraid to play characters that are as central to the plot as her male co-stars’ roles.

    But with the progress there has also been regression. The item song is one such trend that has continued to flourish in the past few years. These ´extra’ songs featuring provocatively dressed women dancing to a dance track that is supposed to add glamour and sexiness to a film have been a step in the wrong direction.

    What’s worrying is that earlier these item numbers were left to struggling actresses but in recent years, we have seen most A list actresses from Priyanka to Deepika to Katrina and Kareena performing item numbers as a special guest appearance in films.

    The irony is that these item numbers performed by women are used to lure audiences to watch films where the plot usually revolves around the male protagonist. Examples are everywhere, from Katrina’s Chikni Chameli in Agneepath to Kareena’s Fevicol Se in Dabangg 2.

    Cutting through this misogyny and gloom though, we have seen some of the more recent entrants into Bollywood like Alia Bhatt and Parineeti Chopra make some very off beat choices. Alia chose the grim and gritty Highway as her

    second project and since then has worked in films like Dear Zindagi, Udta Punjab and Badri Ki Dulhaniya (which again broke stereotypes). Parineeti, too has not been afraid to make bold choices, whether it was playing the commitment phobic runaway bride in Shudh Desi Romance or the spirited aspiring singer who is not quite sure of what she wants in life in Meri Pyaari Bindu.

    In the same positive vein, we now finally have female actresses like Anushka Sharma setting up production houses that are telling interesting stories like NH10 and Phillauri where the woman is in some ways the ‘hero’ of the film. And that I believe is most crucial to how women are eventually portrayed on the silver screen. There has to be an organic change within the industry as there need to be more women behind the camera, more female producers, more female directors and certainly more female writers because in some ways we have mostly relied on the men to tell the stories and we should thus not be surprised to see few tales told from the woman’s point of view.

    As the industry undergoes this change, hopefully fresh scripts and stories will emerge and once they garner the box office numbers, the space for women to do more character driven roles will grow. This organic transformation will hopefully also address issues like the wage gap as it puts more women in the decision making seat.

    Bollywood is currently at a bit of a crossroads – the direction it chooses now will possibly shape the future in monumental ways. In the meantime, more power to the women who have not stopped striving for change and have continuously worked for more meaningful roles and to make the Indian movie industry a more level playing ground for men and women.



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    Dubai Media reports Sridevi died 'due to drowning in her hotel apartment’s bathtub following loss of consciousness.'

    Fans across the globe and the Bollywood film fraternity have been left shocked and saddened with the untimely demise of legendary actress Sridevi.

    Sridevi was in Dubai for her nephew Mohit Marwah’s wedding. She was joined by her younger daughter Khushi and Boney.

    News is now emerging that Bollywood's first female superstar, died in a Dubai hotel while she was taking a bath on Saturday night, getting ready for a dinner with her husband Boney Kapoor.

    While some reports from Dubai media say hotel staff found her, The Times of India reports says that Boney Kapoor had found her can called for help. The report claims that Boney and Sridevi chatted for 15 minutes before she went into the bathroom. Boney knocked on the door after 15 minutes but broke it down upon not getting a response.

    Boney found Sridevi lying unconscious in the bathtub. He called a friend for help and reported the death to the police at 9pm. The report also said that while several media outlets are reporting cardiac arrest as the cause of her death, there has been no confirmation yet.


    An autopsy was conducted on late Sunday night and a chartered flight has flown to Dubai to bring her body back to India. Once back, her funeral will be held at Mumbai’s Pawan Hans in Juhu, Ville Parle.

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    Tributes pour in as fans and Bollywood film fraternity come to terms with the demise of India's first female superstar - Sridevi

    Much loved as Hawa Hawai, Roop Ki Rani the evergreen Chandani and many more such enthralling characters it's still hard to believe that the powerhouse and the legend that was Sridevi Boney Kapoor, India's first female superstar is no more.

    The 54-year old actor died in Dubai on Saturday night following a massive cardiac arrest.

    Her death was confirmed by her brother-in-law Sanjay Kapoor to the Indian Express. Sridevi, her husband Boney Kapoor and daughter Khushi were in Dubai to attend a wedding.

    “Yes, it is true that Sridevi passed away. I just landed here, I was in Dubai and now I am flying back to Dubai. It happened roughly around 11.00-11.30. I don’t know more details yet,” Sanjay Kapoor told IE.

    Sridevi was born as Shree Amma Yanger Ayappan in 1963 in Sivakasi in Tamil Nadu and made her debut as a child artist in Thunaivan, at the mere age of four. She went on to play more roles across the southern industries before making her debut with Julie in Bollywood, in a Hindi remake of the Malayalam hit Chattakari.

    Sridevi was most certainly ahead of her time, as she took on challenging roles very early on in her career, such as her first adult role of a stepmother to Rajnikanth at the tender age of 13, and most notably perhaps her career best performance as a mentally unstable woman in Moondram Pirai, which won her accolades.

    Sridevi soon became a leading actor in both south and Hindi films and was not just known for her ability to act, dance but  also her comic timing especially in films such as Chaalbaaz and Mr India. Despite acting with superstars of her era such as  Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Haasan, Rajinikanth the mother of two always held her own presence on screen.

    She fell in love with producer Boney Kapoor and they married in 1996 and had two girls together, Janhvi and Khushi.

    Sridevi was eagerly awaiting with huge excitement her daughter Janhvi's debut film Dhadak, which is being produced by Dharma Productions and is currently set to release in July. Unfortunately, with the unpredictable journey of life, Sridevi will not be around to see her daughter follow the career that she dedicated more than 50 years to.

    We at Asian Style pay tribute to a legend, an icon, a remarkable actor, mother, wife and inspiring woman

    RIP Sridevi 1963 - 2018

    Tributes from the Bollywood film fraternity

    Sidharth Malhotra@S1dharthM 

    Really Shocked and disturbed to hear that Sridevi Ma’am is no more #RIP#Sridevi🙏

    Jacqueline Fernandez @Asli_Jacqueline 

    An absolute icon. Gone too soon, #Sridevi. Too soon...

    Johny Lever @iamjohnylever 

    Neha Dhupia@NehaDhupia

    Jaaved Jaaferi @jaavedjaaferi 

    Shocked and devastated. An amazing talent and my favourite performer passes on. A tremendous loss to the industry. “Bijli giraane main hoon aayi, kehte hain mujhko hawa Hawaii” RIP dear #Sridevi.

    Preity zinta @realpreityzinta 

    PRIYANKA @priyankachopra 

    Rishi Kapoor @chintskap

    sushmita sen@thesushmitasen 

    Varun Dhawan @Varun_dvn 

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    TEASER: Akshay Kumar displays patriotism and passion in the first teaser of GOLD

    The first teaser trailer for the Reema Kagti directorial GOLD, starring international megastar Akshay Kumar, has released after weeks of anticipation ahead of its official launch on Independence Day, 15 August 2018.


    With the clip lasting just over one minute, audiences caught a glimpse of what they can expect from the Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akhtar Excel Entertainment production, which is sure to be on the podium for the most patriotic films of 2018.


    Bringing alive the glorious history of Independent India’s first Gold Medal at the Olympic Games held in London 1948, the actor plays a fiery fictional Bengali character, Tapan Das, who has a burning infatuation for his country and the sport of hockey.


    True to his pioneering spirit and combining the perfect mix of patriotism and passion, Akshay Kumar’s character is responsible for leading the post-British Indian Olympic team to their first gold medal since achieving independence in 1947.


    Sharing the teaser on social media Akshay Kumar said, Abhi tak India chup tha. Ab hum log bolega aur duniya sunega. [Until now India was quiet. Now India will talk and the world will listen] #GoldTeaser Out Now.

     Inspired by true events, the story captures the emotional journey of a nation celebrating its right to be seen and heard as an independent state, achieving a dream which will unite an entire country.


    GOLD releases worldwide on 15 August 2018.


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    The makers of Hichki postpones release date to 23 March

    Insiders reveal that private screenings of the movie have evoked outstandingly positive reactions and the internal Yash Raj Films team has convinced Aditya Chopra that the family movie that touches hearts should release post exams to get a wider audience.

    The makers of Hichki, starring Rani Mukerji, have decided to postpone the release the movie to 23 March, 2018. The reason private screenings of Hichki saw a unanimously positive reaction from audiences and the think-tank at YRF believes that it will go down as one of the finest movies made by the production house. The marketing and distribution team met with Aditya Chopra to convince him that the high content movie needs a release window that could bring in more audience.

      "The multiple screenings of Hichki saw outstanding reactions. The audience in attendance have called it one of the best content driven & heartwarming movies to ever come out of YRF. So naturally, the reaction of the team is that does Hichki currently have the best release date to get an extended run in cinemas across India," says producer Maneesh Sharma.

     Maneesh adds, "Hichki is an out and out family movie that will entertain audiences across all age groups. The YRF team decided that 23 March, 2018 is the best release date for Hichki especially given the post exam scenario for students and families - the most relevant TG for this film."

    Manan MehtaVP – Marketing and MerchandisingYRF says, "With exams out of the way, 23rd March gives us the opportunity to reach out to and speak to the youth, especially school students, and their families as this film is extremely relevant to them. For a special and brilliant family movie like Hichki, we have a strong marketing plan in place to trigger discoverability of the movie that we hope in turn would generate word-of-mouth."

    Rohan Malhotra, VP – Distribution, YRF says, "Hichki is an incredible movie which is full of heart & it has a strong message at its core. The movie will entertain audiences, ask the right questions and challenges the right themes, which are prevalent in our society. We believe Hichki has the potential to stay in the theatres for an extended period of time and keeping that in mind, March 23rd is the best release date for the movie."

     Rani plays the character of Naina Mathur who has a nervous system disorder, Tourette syndrome that forces an individual to make involuntary repetitive movements or sounds. Hichkifocusses on turning disadvantages into opportunities and staring down at challenges that life throws at one and ultimately winning over them. It is also a subtle reminder about discrimination that exists in our society and has become a part of our daily lives. It highlights this through the story of Naina, who faces discrimination from our society that firmly believes she cannot be a teacher because of her disorder.

    Directed by Siddharth P Malhotra and produced by Maneesh Sharma, the movie is set to touch the hearts of audiences when it releases on 23 March 2018.

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    Varun and Anushka starrer about finding love, begins shooting on Valentines Day

    A film about finding love and respect through self-reliance, Varun Dhawan and Anushka Sharma starrer Sui Dhaaga -Made in India is set to roll this Valentine's Day.

    Sui Dhaaga - Made in India is a heart-warming story that is rooted in the Indian milieu and celebrates the spirit of self reliance. It calls on the passion of shaping one's own destiny through the beautifully touching love story between the two central characters played by Varun and Anushka. Sui Dhaaga - Made in India unites the two talented superstars on screen for the first time as they bring forward the life story of two people who truly believe in taking their aspirations forward together and shape a brighter future.

    Producer Maneesh Sharma explains, "Love often blossoms amidst shared hopes and common aspirations. In Sui Dhaaga, the lead characters empower themselves by fighting against all odds in unison and find incredible love and respect for each other while following a common vision of self reliance. Like everything in the film, it's a love story that is truly Made In India. It is only apt that the film is starting on a day that celebrates true love."

    Yash Raj Films' Sui Dhaaga - Made in India is set to release on September 28 this year. Varun Dhawan plays the role of a tailor in the film and his interesting prep picture from the workshops broke the internet. Reuniting the National Film Award winning team of director Sharat Katariya and producer Maneesh Sharma, Sui Dhaaga - Made In India promises to be an exciting, entertaining film.

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    DeepikaPadukone: We’re very confident and we’re very very proud of the film that we have made, as should everyone else be.

    Deepika Padukone was first introduced to us in the Shahrukh Khan starrer Om Shanti Om in 2007, which incidentally clashed with Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya at the time. More than a decade later, Deepika has starred in two of Sanjay Leela Bhansali films, which have not only become blockbuster hits, but have help cemented Deepika’s position as an actress of substance, grace as well as beauty.

    Deepika continued to shine not just in Bollywood, but also proved her mettle in Hollywood, with her hit film xXx: Return of Xander Cage and now she is returning to our screens with one of India’s most expensive films, helmed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali – Padmaavat (previously known as Padmaavati)

    Following many controversies, protests and attempts to ban the film, creativity won, and the film is now finally releasing on 25 January.

    We caught up with Deepika ahead of the film’s original release date to discuss the controversy surrounding the film, her look in the film and her advice for aspiring Bollywood actresses.

    Here is what the ethereal beauty had to say.

    Since the shooting started, Padmaavat has been surrounded by controversy. The first attack on sets happened in Jaipur and that soon followed into Kohalpur and continued further. Amidst these threats and controversies, how did you and the whole team of the film overcome these, especially as you have to mentally focus to play your character. What was that internal force that kept you going?

    I think our conviction about what we set out to make and till date we’re sort of riding on that same conviction. We’re very confident and we’re very very proud of the film that we have made, as should everyone else be.

    What has moved you most about working on Padmaavat?

    I think how inspiring her journey has been or was. I think it’s her spirit, her intelligence, her passion, her vulnerability, all the things that she’s made up of, not just her physical beauty, but the beauty makes her so so powerful is what my takeaway from this film is.

    Let’s talk about your look, aside from the amazing costumes and jewellery you are seen on the posters with a unibrow/monobrow, something which as per conventional beauty standards is normally seen as unflattering, yet you’ve carried it off so well that it’s getting you compliments from all corners of the world. It’s a brave and bold step, which seems to have worked. Can you tell us a little about how this idea for the monobrow came about and what made you confident to portray it?

    Erm, you know usually before I do a film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali we always spend a couple of days in his office discussing the sets and we did the same with Padmaavat. So, we sort of got done with hair and makeup and he looked at it and said there was still something missing. He loved the way it was looking, the costumes etc, but he still felt there was something incomplete. So, it was his vision and I guess it was my conviction to carry it off. He suggested it and he thought that I am not going to agree to do it, because we’re conditioned to think of beauty in a certain way. And you know I think we all jumped on to the idea and we were all very excited, so we tried it on and it worked, and it just felt correct. It just felt right, and we went with it.

    Padmaavat is your third film with Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and it’s set to be one of India’s most expensive films, which is centred around your character, how nervous are you about the film and how are you managing to control your nerves?

    It is a big responsibility and I believe that this moment is going to be a defining moment for Indian cinema, because we have seen female centric, strong female characters before on screen. In fact, last year (2016) I had a release PIKU which was similar in that sense, but to have a female centric film of this scale and grandeur with so much money riding on it and the fact that its one of the most expensive Indian films ever made I understand the responsibility, I value it and I realise that it’s going to be a defining moment for all of us. Because post release it will change the way producers look at women in film and give us many more opportunities to shoulder much larger responsibilities.

    You celebrate 10 years in the Hindi film industry, what has the journey been like for you and what advise would you give to any aspiring actresses out there?

    The one thing I have to say generally is that it seems all glamourous from the outside but its an immense amount of sacrifices, hard work and dedication. These are words that I can actually say but when you put it into practice it’s not that easy. It’s an extremely difficult industry to be in just in terms of the kind of commitment and the types of sacrifices that it demands, so you have to be prepared for that. And I would also say that just be true to yourself because it’s possible to get lost in the process. Just be your own individual personality and try not to get lost in the crowd.

    Finally, what does Padmaavat mean to you?

    The film to me is empowerment. It’s empowering when you see her story, when you see her journey, when you see what she’s been through. For me it’s very very empowering, but very relatable at the same time. When you watch the film, you will understand what I am saying, it’s just a very very relatable character, but her journey is very very inspiring and that’s the reason why we chose to tell this story.


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    Video: First look trailer of Welcome To New York. Nonsensical but entertaining

    If you love your masala filled Bollywood comedies, then the first trailer of Welcome To New York, will have you in stitches. The laugh riot features Sonakshi Sinha as a 'dhinchak designer' and Diljit Dosanjh as a 'Gabru hero' in addition to Karan Johar (in a double role?), Riteish Deshmukh, Boman Irani and Lara Dutta. Baahubali star Rana Daggubati and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story actor Sushant Singh Rajput also appear in the trailer.

    The story seems nonsensical, but is full of spoofs of other films and their characters.

    The trailer of the film was launched by Salman Khan and is directed by Chakri Toleti who makes his debut as a Bollywood film director.

    The film is produced by Vashu Bhagnani through Pooja Entertainment and will hit theatres on 23 February.



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    Ishaan Khatter & Janhvi Kapoor's film gets new release

    There seems to be chaos in Bollywood at the moment with release dates, change back and forth.

    The new year, has certainly started off confusing, with Aiyaary and Pad Man firstly set to release on 26 January. Then with the announcement of the delayed Padmavat on the same day, both films move release date to 9 February. To add to the confusion there are rumours circulating that Aiyaary perhaps may move it's release date back to 26 January.

    Confused? So are we.

    However, they're not the only one's making date changes. The makers of the Ishaan Khatter and Janhvi Kapoor starrer Dhadak have now also decided to change their release date, as they reveal their new poster.

    Dhadak has been in the limelight, ever since it's announcement as it is the launch pad for Boney Kapoor and Sridevi's daughter Janhvi, along with Shahid Kapoor's brother Ishaan.

    Filming began in Udaipur and was slated for release on 6 July 2018, but the makers have now decided to postpone the film to 20 July 2018.  While there are no other movies currently slated to release on either dates, the reason for the new date s unknown

    Nevertheless, we wish both star kids all the best with their debut.


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    Bengali legends Rani Mukerji and Sourav Ganguly come together on a reality TV show

    Both iconic and are the pride of Bengal. Rani Mukerji and Sourav Ganguly will come together on television for Sourav’s hugely successful Bengali reality TV show Dadagiri. Rani will be heading to the city of Kolkata to shoot this special episode that focuses on Rani’s forthcoming film Hichki.

    A source from the channel says, “Rani and Sourav are both legends. This episode will be the most special one that we have shot ever. They will make for a winning combination on TV. Sourav, or Dada as he is fondly called, will be speaking to Rani on her forthcoming film Hichki. Rani has started a campaign for the film that sees her quiz icons about their real-life hichkis (weaknesses) and she will quiz Sourav on the same. It will be quite interesting to know about dada’s hichki. We are sure it will be a big revelation.” 

    Rani plays the character of Naina Mathur who has a nervous system disorder, Tourette syndrome that forces an individual to make involuntary repetitive movements or sounds. Hichki focuses on turning disadvantages into opportunities and staring down at challenges that life throws at one and ultimately winning over them. It is also a subtle reminder about discrimination that exists in our society and has become a part of our daily lives. It highlights this through the story of Naina, who faces discrimination from our society that firmly believes she cannot be a teacher because of her disorder.

    Hichki, a feel-good entertaining film, is set to touch the hearts of audiences when it releases on 23 February 2018.

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