8 sex workers from Indian films who advocated for their rights!

Sakshi Sharma
New Update
Sex workers from Indian films

Sex workers from Indian films

While the narrative around sex workers has mostly been so one dimensional on-screen, there are quite a few sex workers in Indian films who have represented this profession well and also fought the good fight. 

Sex work has always been a controversial and complicated subject matter to talk about as society always looks towards it with contempt. But the fact is that it is the oldest profession to exist that has only gotten more complex and layered with abuse, violence, and issues over time. Because of this, many social reformers are working towards understanding this industry and the lives of sex workers. The one thing that can also help in changing the viewpoint of sex workers is their representation in films. Through the years, sex workers have always been a part of Indian films yet there are a few examples like Pyaasa, Pakeezah, Umrao Jaan, and others where their existence is more about their fight for themselves than solely being objectified.

Currently, the tawaifs of Heeramandi left us completely mesmerized with their walk and talk. But apart from them, in the past, many sex workers from Indian films have not only wowed us but also put their foot down, especially when it comes to society's perception of them. Each one of them, while depicting the harsh realities of sex workers, has championed their right to be at least recognized as human beings and not some invisible rotting part of society thrown aside in a corner! Here is to those sex workers from Indian films jinhone humesha aapne haq ki baat ki hai and tried changing the perspective about sex workers in the world! 

Also Read: Japanese folklore, the secret ingredient amplifying the magical appeal in Studio Ghibli films

Let's understand them through this article!

Gangubai - Gangubai Kathiawadi 

Sold into the lanes of Kamathipura, Gangubai didn't have a choice but to succumb to her fate. But as she rises up, she fights for the rights of the sex workers of Kamathipura to be recognized as citizens of this country, for their children's right to education, and for this work to be recognized as a profession so that they can have a choice to leave. 

Chameli - Chameli 

As the night grows longer, a chance meeting between a street-smart sex worker and a widowed businessman leads to a platonic friendship and we get to hear the plights of Chameli, who makes us realize that her woes are the doings of how society perceives sex workers instead of what her line of work entails.

Chandramukhi - Devdas 

Chandramukhi depicts the plight of a tawaif who falls in love with Dev Babu, but no matter whether Paro wants her to marry him, she understands that a tawaif with no fate cannot dream of such dreams. 

Chanda - Dev D

An extension of Chandramukhi, Chanda is an intelligent, multi-lingual, and precocious teenage girl who pursues college in the daytime while working as an escort at night without any guilt as she has learned to accept herself. After her leaked sex scandal, she adopts sex work as her profession, and even though she does so willingly without being coerced by the pimp, it is the society that is critiqued for leaving her no other option.

Mumtaz - Chandni Bar 

Mumtaz, a reluctant bar dancer in Mumbai, keeps forth an important point that just because she dances for men who spend money on her doesn't mean that they are liable to also get sex from her. The women in Chandni Bar are bar dancers, not sex workers. 

Simran - Talaash 

Simran speaks of the plight of sex workers as collateral damage who are not even counted as human beings existing in this world because even after they die, no one even cares about finding them or giving them a proper burial. 

Sex workers of Mandi 

The brothel house of Mandi speaks too many realities. From showing and celebrating the artistically rich lives of sex workers to bringing forth to light the hypocrisies of a corrupt patriarchal society that looks down upon sex workers in the name of morality. The same men who, in the darkness of the night, visit the brothel to fulfill their needs talk about relocating these sex workers in broad daylight. 

Laxmi and Putul - Tikli and Laxmi Bomb

An independent film, Tikli and Laxmi Bomb delves into the lives of sex workers without alienating or demeaning them. It follows two sex workers in Mumbai, Laxmi and Putul, who become strong entrepreneurs by taking the reigns of the business and uprooting the monopoly of pimps that take away a huge share of their earnings, leaving them exposed to handling all kinds of dangers without any police protection. 

Which of these sex workers from Indian films changed your entire perspective on the profession? Tell us in the comments below! 

For more binge-centric content, follow us on @socialketchupbinge.

Devdas dev d talaash Chameli Chandni Bar Gangubai Kathiawadi Mandi