Unlike the over-hyped star-studded films tailor-made to pull more audience to theatres, these films balanced their 'masala' quotient with good content.

2014 saw over a dozen mainstream female-oriented films hitting the screen, perhaps the largest in the decade, making it a very encouraging period for women in Bollywood.

Filmmakers too did not shy away from giving their heroines author-backed, meaningful and unconventional roles in coming-of-age stories like 'Queen' 'Highway', 'Mary Kom' and 'Khoobsurat', which emerged winners.

The year started positively with Abhishek Chaubey's 'Dedh Ishqiya', a tale about two women and their wacky love-lorn suitors (Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi).

The January release had a decent run at the box-office, partly due to Madhuri Dixit's return to Bollywood and also due to the 'feel-good' Urdu 'shayari'. A woman film in its own right, it saw an excellent camaraderie between Dixit (Begum Para) and her companion Huma Qureshi (Muniya) while touching upon the LGBT community.

Then came Imtiaz Ali's 'Highway', a visual treat cataloguing the landscapes of Northern India, in the backdrop of a kidnap drama involving the young daughter of a rich man, who finds freedom in her captivity. This nuanced film, chronicling the inner journey and anguish of the captor and the hostage, turned out to be Alia Bhatt's most mature performance till date.

This was followed by Madhuri-Juhi Chawla starrer 'Gulab Gang' (released on March 8). The film revolved around an all-female vigilante group led by activist Sampat Pal in Bundelkhand (UP) but it was not exactly a box office success.

The subject was better tackled in Nishta Jain's documentary 'Gulabi Gang' on the same group of pink-saree clad women fighting against caste oppression and gender violence in rural India.

In March came Vikas Bahl's 'Queen', a heart-warming and disarming journey of a naive Rajouri girl Rani (played by Kangana Ranaut to perfection), who embarks on a solo honeymoon after being dumped by her fiance.     

The film took the industry by surprise with its solidly-written role for Kangana, coupled with first-rate performances by Lisa Haydon and Rajkummar Rao.     

'Queen', which premiered at Busan International Film festival, grossed Rs 61 crore at box office, a rare feat achieved by small-budget movie with a woman in the lead.

Erotic-horror 'Ragini MMS 2' with Sunny Leone in the lead role was one of the most successful women-led horror films of the year spinning more than Rs 46 crore at the box office.

In August, came Rani-Mukherjee starrer 'Mardaani' which broke into the male bastion touching on the ugly world of child trafficking.

Rani played a tough cop chasing a sex trade kingpin in the hard-hitting film, which was praised for its tight and compelling narrative. Her performance as a no-nonsense Mumbai crime branch officer lent strength to her character.

A month later, another film which celebrated woman power was Omung Kumar's inspiring biopic on five-time female World Boxing champion Mary Kom with Priyanka Chopra in the lead.

Not only was Chopra's powerhouse performance as the Olympic boxer appreciated by critics and audience alike, the film did a good job at the ticket windows too.

Vidya Balan-starrer 'Bobby Jasoos' did decent business at the box office. The film was praised for the sincerity of Balan's performance as a naive but ambitious detective in the making in Hyderabad.

The year came to an end with much-talked about Sonam Kapoor-Fawad Khan starrer  Khoobsoorat', which did decent business at the box office. In a role reversal of the sorts, Pakistani actor Fawad Khan emerged as the new eye candy with his female fans flocking to theatres for this romantic comedy.

2014 broke new grounds by giving heroines the required push to embrace scripts revolving around female protagonists.      

Some women-centric films like 'Revolver Rani', 'Sonali Cable', 'Hate Story', 'Kaanchi', 'Laxmi' and 'Super Nani' did not set the cash registers ringing.
    
Apart from Jain's 'Gulabi Gang', Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja's documentary 'The World Before Her' which released in June drew parallels between two extremely contrasting worlds--a Durga Vahini camp and India's fashion industry-- presenting the 'nationalist' versus 'Westernised' point of view in a powerful way.
    
It won the award for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival in  2013.

Director Shonali Bose's daring 'Margarita with a Straw' (about a teenager with cerebral palsy discovering her sexuality), is another film to look forward to in 2015.     

The film has been doing well in the festival circles with Kalki Koechlin's performance drawing praise.

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