Sex-workers in Hindi-Urdu films

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Bollywood movies on sex-workers

The Times of India

Since at least the 1920s, when Indian cinema made films like Nartaki Tara (1922), Hindi-Urdu as well as other Indian cinemas have been obsessed with sex workers. The following is a very limited list of Hindi-Urdu films in which the heroine is a sex-worker, or which tackle the subject of prostitution.

Chameli: Kareena Kapoor in the lead role opposite Rahul Bose played the prostitute in the movie. Chameli, who was sold to a brothel by her uncle in her childhood, is shown to be a tough woman and has a strong philosophy of life with which she is able to positively influence Rahul Bose in the movie. Kareena was awarded a Special Award for Best Performance by Filmfare for the role.

Chetna (1971): The first film to show a modern call-girl as a sex worker.

Devdas Based on Saratchandra Chatterjee’s classic novel, without argument the best-known novel in any Indian language (with its translations in most Indian languages enjoying a similar place on the best-seller lists of those languages) Devdas has had at least the following incarnations in Bengali, Hindi-Urdu, Telugu, Assamese, Malayalam… Devdas (1928); Devdas (1935); Devdas (1936); Devdas (1955); Devdas (1965); Devdas (2002/ Bengali); Devdas (2002/ Hindi-Urdu); Devdas (2013). Dev D is a modern interpretation.

Dev D: Highly acclaimed for its story and direction, Dev D also shows the life of a prostitute through Kalki Koechlin's character. Kalki's character is said to be a modern adaptation of Chandramukhi from the film Devdas. The movie explores the phases of a prostitute’s life through Kalki where during the nights she is a high profile escort Chanda and during the days she plays a college student Leni.

Gunahon Ka Devta (1967)

Julie (Neha Dhupia): The modern call-girl as a sex worker.

Khilona The sex-worker is a virgin. ‘We sell our art, not our bodies,’ the madam declares.

Laaaga Chunari Me Daag: The movie showcases the journey of a girl, who moves to Mumbai to find work as she does not want her younger sister to suffer due to poverty and wants her to complete her education. After she encounters many obstacles in the city that she is forced by her circumstances to become "Natasha", an exclusive call girl. The story very strongly portrays what difficulties a woman has to go through while searching for work and the cruelty of the city that turns her into a prostitute.

Lakshmi: 2014 Written and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, the movie shows the tragedy of a 13-year-old girl who has been kidnapped and sold and enters the prostitution business. For the first time in her life, she faces the inhumanity of the world around her and is brutally beaten for protesting against the business. Kukunoor got his inspiration for this film after he met human trafficking victims during his visits to NGOs..

Mandi (1983)


Pyaasa (1957)

Sadhna (1958)

Umrao Jaan: The 1981 version (like its earlier Pakistani counterpart Umrao Jaan Ada) is one of the critically-acclaimed movies and showed the exploitation of the girl child. Rekha, who played the lead role, is kidnapped and then sold to a brothel by her neighbour. Umrao Jaan is remembered for its memorable melodies like "Dil cheez kya hai", "Justuju Jiski Thi", "In ankhon ki masti", and "Yeh kya jagah hai doston". Also, JP Dutta attempted a lavish, big-budget (but soulless) remake of the movie with Miss World Aishwarya Rai in 2006, but failed to match up to its predecessor.

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