Retake Please: Were these 8 Bollywood Female Characters Villains Of Their Story Or Simply Misunderstood?

Growing up, I remember watching endless Bollywood movies on television and having strong opinions about the characters in the movies, especially female characters. While we are in the age where we want the women in the industry to move on from their “manic pixie girl” phase and present more complex characters, we used to hate their guts for doing it back then. While the “toxic feminism” about female-led movies in Bollywood has made noise in the industry, there were a lot of female characters who got hate because they were portrayed in a certain manner.

If we look at them now, they had unexplored and complex backgrounds. We’re not talking about the classic damsels in distress (though even they deserve a deeper dive!), but the characters who leave us with a lingering sense of “wait, something’s not quite right here.” So, it’s time to dissect these on-screen ladies who challenged viewers, not necessarily in the way the filmmakers intended. Prepare to revisit iconic scenes with a fresh perspective, as we explore the question: were these women truly villains of the story, or simply victims of outdated tropes?

Meghna from Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na

While I love this film’s innocence, Bollywood has made it innate for us to hate anyone and everyone who comes in between the “meant-to-be” couple. I feel Meghna was the one who deserved the world. Jai and Aditi became ignorant of the fact that she wasn’t just some manic pixie girl whose only job coming into Jai’s life was to remind Aditi of what she was losing.

There could be another movie based on just Meghna’s childhood and the things she faced mentally. We all crave twisted and complex female characters and Meghna was one of them. But the film just didn’t give her enough credit, and we all ended up thinking of her as a strange person.

Deepa from Dil Chahta Hai


It’s been 23 years since Dil Chahta Hai was released (feeling old yet?). It was a cult classic and a breath of fresh air. But one of the few things that we still remember from it is the pep talk between Sid and Deepa on the beech about how when you hold on to something tightly, it’s only going to slip. And from thereon, Deepa became more than just a girl madly in love with Akash.

Yes, it was very annoying every time she yelled “Aakash,” but hear me out. Akash was not wrong to reject her if he didn’t have feelings for her, but the situation could have been handled better if she had kept expecting him to fall in love with her. But this scene was a turning point for her, as she realised her worth and stopped chasing him.

Veronica from Cocktail

The year was 2012. Deepika Padukone’s career took a dramatic turn in Cocktail. Veronica, the character she portrayed, was a whirlwind of sass and ambition, clad in short skirts and bodycon dresses. What was meant to be a portrayal of a strong, independent woman daring to carve her own path was instead met with a collective gasp from the moral brigade.

The notion of the “traditional woman” winning at the end of every movie did the character dirty. I was quite happy she didn’t end up with Gautam and neither should have Meera. The whole Indian mother not liking her was a hollow aspect because she had so much more to give!

Natasha Arora from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Talking about casting a character a certain way, Natasha Arora would be the one who got unnecessary hate. I remember watching the movie for the first time and having the same stereotypical ideas about her, but the second time changed my mind instantly.

Yes, it wasn’t cool of her to crash his fiance’s bachelor party, but her heart was in the right place. Asking for commitment after literally knowing a person since childhood was not a bad thing. While we all love the ‘Bagwati’ scene, Kabir gifting her a Birkin bag was not a big deal. He could have easily cleared the doubt at the moment; in fact, when he did, she didn’t make a big fuss and simply moved on. Her character was poised and one-of-a-kind.

Tina from Mujhse Dosti Karoge

Tina was hated based on having stronger, more bubbly and not the idealistic “shy” characteristics that a girl is expected to have. While she was disliked because she “stole” Raj from Pooja, there was no reason that she was supposed to be shown as unlikable according to his standards. She was portrayed as “too much” and I feel it’s good that she didn’t end up with Raj because both him and Pooja didn’t deserve her kindness.

Lala from Kho Gaye Hum Kahan

Kho Gaye Hum Kahan was the most relatable movie that I’ve seen in a while. Lala, as an influencer, played an apt role in being alone and faking a whole different life on social media, which a lot of us do nowadays. I agree that she didn’t treat Neil well and did realise it but she didn’t deserve the revenge that he took at the end of the movie. Lala had suffered through a lot of trauma, which does not justify the treatment she gave Neil but her character needed more time to realise and improve.

Riya Saran from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Riya became my favourite character as soon as she walked into the frame. Her entire life was decided by her. She knew what job to have, her husband was her childhood sweetheart and best friend, and her life was set. It was as hard for her to adjust to the new reality of her husband’s entire life changing and ultimately, her becoming the primary earner of the family. Showing her as this control freak person coming in between her husband’s happiness was frivolous while she constantly struggled with mental abuse from her husband.

Alizeh from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil 

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil paints Alizeh as the villain for rejecting Ayan’s love, but a closer look reveals a misunderstood character. Fiercely independent, she prioritises her dreams over societal expectations. Ayan projects his fantasies onto her, causing resentment when she doesn’t conform. While not perfect, Alizeh’s honesty and desire for a life on her own terms deserve empathy, not scorn.

Also Read: Scrub Out: Is It Time To Pull The Plug On Grey’s Anatomy?

Digital Intern

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