Quick Bites

Times when we fell in love with the Bollywood adulteress on-screen

From Chandramukhi to Veronica, the other woman is often the most complex character in a love triangle. Here are a few Bollywood characters on screen who have humanised the adulteress.
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Infidelity has always been a much-discussed subject

It has been trending worldwide even before Twitter came into existence. We have written books, painted masterpieces, made countless films and we have talked. A lot. For years. And we still don’t seem to be done with it.

What makes the whole thing difficult is that it’s never a clear black and white matter. All the parties involved are human, they all have their hearts in the game and they all mostly get trampled in the process.

How do we brand just one person evil and the rest two as mere victims? There’s also the argument that monogamy in itself is the problem. A theory has it that humans are naturally polygamous and it is illogical to expect monogamy from them. Yet we do expect monogamy and keep suffering. This dilemma has been well documented in various films and some of them try to humanise all the parties involved. Here are a few ‘other woman’ characters from Bollywood that have touched our hearts.

Related reading: He told me he had broken up with his ex

Maya from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Rani Mukherjee is the portrait of heartbreak in this 2006 film, which is about two couples and their broken marriages. Maya is the poster girl for the good wife. She takes care of the house, the husband and runs their lives. She’s however indebted to her father-in-law who’s the one who took her in as a child. This weighs heavy on her soul and reflects on her awkward marriage. We could look at KANK as a film that shows us two people trying to save their marriages and yet fail miserably. The selflessness of the characters when they are sorry about their infidelity makes them look human.

maya in kabhi alvida na kehna
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Related reading: What happened when her husband caught us sexting

quick bite

Chandramukhi from Devdas

The whore with the heart of gold is a narrative trope that’s been used throughout history. In Devdas, Chandramukhi embodies the trope and elevates it. Madhuri Dixit doesn’t just bring beauty to the character, but cuts her heart out and leaves it for the audience to see. Paro being married to someone else technically is ‘the other woman’ except in perhaps the movie Devdas. But considering Paro and Devdas as the main couple, Chandramukhi becomes the other woman. She’s someone who is willing to settle for even a small piece of Devdas’s love. He’s abusive, drunk, not worth it and yet she loves him. Chandramukhi is Devdas’s knight in shining armour, making her much more than a mere narrative troupe.

chandramukhi from devdas
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Veronica in Cocktail

Often called Deepika’s breakout role as an actor, Veronica is a nuanced character. The lines between the three characters are blurred beyond comprehension and we can’t help but feel sorry for them. Veronica shows grace and heartbreak while letting her man go, that too to her best friend. We see her grapple to make her relationship work, even when she knows that her partner is in love with another. That grappling is visible in her actions, on her face, in those expressive eyes. Veronica is all of us in how hard she tries in love, but like some of us she fails, and we feel her pain like it’s our very own.

deepika from the cocktail
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Saba from Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Saba knows when she’s the other woman, she also knows when to leave and Aishwarya Rai gives a masterclass in this scene. She tells Ranbir’s character who’s her boyfriend at that time, that she doesn’t want him to explain to her why because if he does she’ll understand and it’ll break her. She says you can’t control who you fall in love with, but you can control when you leave. She tells Ayan to leave. This is the opposite of ‘Ja Simran Ja…’ and it just works. Saba is in a way the other woman for Ayan because he’s never stopped loving his first love. She’s stronger than him and can let him go. She is strong enough to make the tough decisions but loving enough to convey the decisions without hatred.

saba from ae dil hai mushkil
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Kavita from Arth

The 1982 film was a confession of sorts for Mahesh Bhatt, about his affair with Parveen Babi. The late Smita Patil embodies the paranoia of the other woman in Arth thoroughly. Even after her lover leaves his wife, her paranoia doesn’t recede, only to be turned into guilt later.

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The range of emotions that she goes through may not always paint her character as morally superior but that is precisely what makes her human. We may not condone her behaviour but we sure end up understanding it.

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