[A] Ambition isn’t a dirty word #AtoZChallenge Day 1

It feels like yesterday , when the 2016 April left me partially overwhelmed and completely thrilled . It’s my second daily blogging challenge ever and starting today , I’ll be exploring representation of women in contemporary movies through the month under the #AtoZChallenge 2017.


I have always believed , Movies are a representation of real life . They might seem a different version of the life as we know of or in most cases an exaggerated reality but then they are a reflection of the ‘popular ideologies and thoughts’ . Having said that , movies can also define the culture or values of a generation and can influence change in bridging glaring gaps in how things are vs how they should be.

In my Theme Reveal post I quoted a study in Gender representation in popular movies as per which Indian films didn’t fare too well [vs 10 other countries] with respect to portrayal of women. Traditionally , we are shown either as the doting wife , the sacrificing mother or the workaholic single girl with zilch social life.

But we know how talking about what’s wrong with the world seldom leads to anything positive. So for next 26 days , I’ll be talking about what’s going right instead. We’ll talk about general perceptions when it comes to how female characters are depicted and I’d be using some recent iconic or underrated movie characters who took the stereotypes and turned them on their head like only a girl can !

Sounds ambitious for an #AtoZChallenge theme? I sure hope it is ! Which brings me to the topic for Day 1 . Ambitious women.

Now when it comes to men , we love our ‘heroes’ as angry or ruthless or sincere – in a nutshell , we like them just as they are. Ambition when it comes to men is an attractive virtue and they could literally get away with murder and we wont blink because we feel it’s all means to a larger end. But when it comes to women , Ambition is an ugly word. 

Women are portrayed as either black or white. They could either be so rooted in values they let everyone walk all over them as a doormat or the unstoppable insensitive immoral person everyone hates . Case in point being movies like Fashion or Corporate – when ambitious supermodels / corporate women end up being alone and guilty [their ambitious being the cause of their downfall] .

But the new age ‘heroines’ are done with playing second fiddle , they have dreams and plans and a view and a voice to match. 

When Ayesha [ Wake up Sid ] a 27 year wannabe writer lands in a new city , she embraces her single status with pride . She is clear about what she wants from relationships and she’s pushy enough to ‘convert an interview’ into a hire . But , she wouldn’t carry on hanging out at jazz recitals with her boss if she doesn’t enjoy that kind of music just to see her name in the by line. On the other hand Akira [ Jab Tak Hai Jaan] , a Discovery journalist would go to any extent to get a good story but when she loses the guy , she doesn’t go down without trying.

Ambition in women is always seen as a sign of rebellion. A lot of people can’t even stand a woman with a view. So someone with her whole life’s plan figured out am sure is far from how we have imagined those silverscreen divas.

So when someone as seemingly ‘homely and marriageable ‘ as Rani [Queen] harbored ambitions to be self-reliant , something that her family always encouraged but her fiancé didn’t – the concept of un-ambitious was challenged in a subtle way as well in contemporary movies. From just another girl waiting for her knight in shining armour to real breathing living women glorious in their flaws and gorgeous in their desires – the shift is hard to miss.

These women are pivotal to the story line .  They also  have defined identifiable careers and fulfilling personal lives – a balanced view when it comes to ‘women who work and wish to grow in their careers’ just like women off screen.  Referencing back to the study that triggered this series , the occupation of women in movies is less likely to be portrayed . But that’s for another post waiting to be written .

I am collaborating with Jaibala Rao who is blogging about iconic movies of our generation here . Click here to Join me in my #AtoZChallenge journey this April as I explore women representation in contemporary movies. If you are participating in AtoZ too , do leave your link and I’d try my best to drop by .


43 thoughts on “[A] Ambition isn’t a dirty word #AtoZChallenge Day 1

  1. I was nodding along when reading! This resonates deeply with the current scenario. Women are ‘allowed’ to be ambitious – inside of the society’s defined parameters (walls). Movies such as d ones u have mentioned, did well k, because for women like me, they resonated and touched our hearts! More power to cinema – for life will imitate art someday! 🙂 bravo on yr 1st atoz post for this year!

  2. Interesting blog post. Unfortunately, it’s still a problem with a lot of western cinema as well – if women are ambitious, then they must be portrayed as domineering, unlikable, a “bitch”. It’s slowly getting better, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

    Ros at Fangirl Stitches

  3. Ambition by itself can be viewed as negative or positive, depending on the portrayal. In movies, especially where women are represented, I’d love it if we have more of the positive aspects highlighted instead of being told that an ambitious woman is a schemer of sorts. The movies you’ve mentioned do the former very well and it’s one reason I love Ayesha in ‘Wake Up Sid’. Plus it’s Konkona, so that’s a given. Kangana, I’m a bit conflicted about her characters in general but do appreciate her gutsy portrayal.
    Shailaja recently posted…Abundant – #FlashFiction #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  4. Ambition is considered a dirty word when it comes to women – on screen and off. Hopefully we will have more movies and stronger female characters who will help bring about a change. I can’t help but think of Queen here too – she wasn’t ambitious per se, but she did wake up and find her spine. Which is also a good, nay brilliant, thing!
    Modern Gypsy recently posted…Abstract art: the what and how with a timelapse videoMy Profile

  5. This is so true. Wonder why ambition is portrayed as an ugly and dark thing in women. Are we as women not supposed to be ambitious? No wonder thanks to the influence of films, most matrimonial ads seek ” homely” girls.

  6. There is nothing wrong in being ambitious but sadly as you said most movies portray ambition as something bad for women! I loved watching “Queen” for it showed a girl can go out and live independently. Even “Wake up Sid” gave that message.
    I love your theme and I really loved your post. I’m sure you are going to rock this challenge like you did last time 🙂
    Reema D’souza recently posted…#AtoZChallenge : Anything but OrdinaryMy Profile

  7. No doubt, ambition in women is presented as a bad thing even today in Bollywood. I remember the Saif-Deepika-Diana starrer Cocktail which seemed so stylish as the trailers came out but turned out to be horribly regressive in terms of portraying what makes a woman good or bad in the hero’s eyes. Many such instances where they show the ambitious woman turn heel and give up her job and turn from skirts to saris to showcase she’s ‘found her way’
    Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan recently posted…Alex Ruiz is a Shining Example of Humanity #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  8. It all sounds good on paper and even on the screens but ambition, women and family are not exactly a piece of cake. It takes a lot of grit, determination and support from the family for a woman having big ambitions to fulfil them. I am always in awe of successful and ambitious women both in reel and real life. Love all the characters you’ve cited C. Well begun, here’s to a great montg ahead!
    Kala recently posted…Your Friendly Neighborhood GPMy Profile

  9. Ambition is portrayed differently in different movies based on the character sketching done for the role in particular. If it is a negative role of a vamp in the movie, the whole idea of her being a career woman is portrayed in a negative light and likewise. I simply loved Konkona’s role in Wake Up Sid. There was so much depth to her character. I’m quite a movie buff and I get a feel that your theme will make me come back here all through April! 🙂

    Vinodini recently posted…A Rare Homage. ‘We Are The World’ Blogfest #WATWBMy Profile

  10. Yay! You mentioned Kangana as Rani in Queen! 😀

    I haven’t watched Wake Up Sid or Jab Tak Hai Jaan. So I’ll talk about Queen. The whole portrayal of a young lady travelling alone from India to Paris for the first time was apt. Her meeting with Vijayalakshmi was symbolic, in a way which proves that with the encouragement of fellow female friends, one can learn a lot and grow more independent. And my my, that was proved with the entry of those three cute weirdos and the hot chef 😀

    1. Hahahaha! “Cute weirdos and the hot chef” too good!
      This entry sure struck a cord because of the Queen reference! I’ll be back for more (since I love Bollywood!)

  11. For women, being ambitious is often portrayed as a negative thing, but in truth, the drive to pursue success, or to want to do something meaningful or important with your life, is just as natural for women as it is for men. Launching SIM Organics Shortly
    *Menaka Bharathi*

  12. It’s all in the vocabulary…. Ambition, career, rich, intellect, etc. are mostly the words used best for men.

    Mother, socialite, sexy, artist, etc. are more lime feminine words.

    As i see it, both men and women find it hard to break stereotypes to follow their dream although things are changing, the pace is definitely not up to the mark.

    However, women have to face more challenges as compared to men to feed their ambitions and achieve their goals.

    Good start Chandni, i will look forward for more every day here after.
    Medha Nagur recently posted…By: Vidya SuryMy Profile

  13. Women were definitely portrayed as black and white. In the olden days, they were either the “sati savitri” or the vamp (who would reach some sort of absolution in the end and turn into a sati savitri). Not just olden days, even now. Of course, I see a gradual change. The examples you cited for instance.
    Sreesha recently posted…Arriving Somewhere, But Not HereMy Profile

  14. Hollywood has this trope about ambitious women who wear stiletto heels and walk over anyone in their way – which looks empowering at first, but they usually either turn out to be some kind of an immoral villain, or a stuck-up witch who needs to loosen up (see: Jurassic World…). I don’t like it.

    Weird Things in Folktales – Shrew blows nose into snout
    Tarkabarka recently posted…A2211.5 – Shrew blows nose into snout (WTF – Weird Things in Folktales)My Profile

  15. Every point makes so much sense, Chandni.
    In so many houses, even today, if a woman wants to pursue her career first and then think of planning a family, she is viewed with a lot of annoyance! Because she is not giving the family what they want. But when did following our own career become the wrong thing to do?

    I’m looking forward to the coming posts so much!

    Geets recently posted…A- Arranged MarriageMy Profile

  16. I think now the representation of ambitious women is changing in films. They are getting more space and the story is being shared. On a very local note, I was 17 when I left home to study. Then moved again at 23 to join a job in a new city. Was I ambitious to stay alone all along? Hell yes! And if movies start showing this local stories, we are telling our girls to go live their dreams. That’s where I want the movies to go. Sorry – I’m not a movie buff so can’t quotes examples but I loved your take. Such a great start, Chandni!
    Parul recently posted…A for Alike #AToZChallengeMy Profile

  17. Great post. It is true with women in eastern and western cinema and real life. We are only now coming to terms with ambition in women. One thing we might also explore more deeply which you touch upon is how women articulate ambition differently both among women and between women and men. My ‘ambition’ is to live in a world where this discussion is no longer necessary. I suspect we won’t achieve it in my lifetime but maybe may daughter’s.
    Shari Elder recently posted…Attributes of Great Villains, Introducing Amaris #atozchallengeMy Profile

  18. My biggest problem with movies (Like You already know) is that it is usually the ambitious woman that ends up being the vamp. And she has done nothing wrong except desire a better life for herself, have a clear goal and work towards it. Like you said though the portrayal is rapidly changing and so is our mindset.

    This is going to be such a fabulous journey writing with you about movies all this month. Truly the second best thing, the first is always watching them together.
    Jaibala Rao recently posted…Movies That Shaped Our Generation – The Action MoviesMy Profile

  19. “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily this is not difficult.” ~ Charlotte Whitton
    Sadly hardworking women are looked down upon (or they aren’t believed.)
    Glad you are joining A to Z for a second year.

    Join @moondustwriter for A Piece of Uganda

  20. Great post, and great theme! Bollywood films have long suffered from this one dimensional narrative of what women want – either a man, or a career. Look forward to reading more of your posts! Dropping by from the A-Z Challenge at


  21. I like the fact that you are focusing on the positive. Sometimes I think we get so caught up with what is wrong or bad that it overshadows all the good that exists. 🙂 Thank you for a lovely post.

  22. What a challenge. I am afraid I don’t think too hard when I view a movie but it is an interesting concept to consider. The most recent movie I saw at the theatre was Hidden Figures and it dealt with the double whammy of females and black. The women in it were savy and hard working and also ambitious. They had to play along with the system that they knew to be unfair and prejudiced against them but work hard enough to get past it. They appeared to be cowed (eg when dealing with the police officer who pulls them over or when dealing with wanting to borrow a book from the whites only section) but they manipulated it enough to get what they wanted (a police escort they wanted, the book she took instead of borrowing). Its a wonderful movie. I’m participating in the A to Z challenge http://ozzypipquilts.blogspot.com.au/2017/04/a-is-for-abstraction.html

  23. Ambition in women is a controversial agenda being potrayed by some brave women in the Indian industry. It is starting startle the thought process we hav followed all these years.. It’s work in progress.. it will take time but ambition in women will eventually be accepted!
    Well written!??

  24. A very gripping theme, and a very well written post. Whilst reading, I was reminded of Mita, from Hasee toh Phasee. Though the movie had a different genre, but Pariniti nailed the character of an ambitious young woman, who lives her life on her own terms.
    Good luck for A to Z 🙂

  25. I must confess I haven’t watched Bollywood movies in the last 12 years but I’m not surprised. It’s not just the Bollywood movies though…I think Hollywood too portrays ambitious women as ending up single — case in point, Devil wears Prada where she is vilified for not spending too much time with her boyfriend and spending more time on her work. Novels do that too. If a woman is highly ambitious, she usually ends up single {which is not bad either} but then they show her as being single and miserable.
    Sanch @ Sanch Writes recently posted…#Acrostic – Creativity #atozchallengeMy Profile

  26. Excellent topic choice. I always find it disturbing when a camera pans on a person’s legs, backside, etc. Especially when it lingers. It’s even more troublesome when it’s during a show or movie that has intelligent writing and seems to almost have a handle on equality as far as the main characters go.

    You have a great theme going here. Excellent movie reference for this first post. Keep it up!

    J — Co-host the #AtoZchallenge, Debut Author Interviewer, Reference and Speculative Fiction Writer
    2017 THEME = Speculative fiction story featuring telepathy.
    J Lenni Dorner recently posted…A #AtoZChallenge All Intents and Purposes #Fiction #SFFMy Profile

    1. Thank you so much Lenni! You’ve been around and you’ve been cheering so many of us and if it weren’t for you perhaps I wouldn’t have taken up the challenge this year .. you are quite a Badass yourself! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge