India is a male-chauvinistic country and hence it’s good to see more and more subjects with female protagonists being explored. However, a good film begins with a good story. So regardless of whether or not a film is female-centric, a film works if it has strong characters and the story touches hearts. So a film will work not because it’s a female- or male-centric film but because of the story, the characters and the way the story has been executed.
Films are a form of mass communication which has the potential to bring in a big social change. Imagine the number of people in the world who would have seen Baahubali, that led it to being such an incredible hit at the box office! So imagine the influence the film would have had at the subconscious level on these people. Films have the potential to change the way people think. They are great influencers. Hence it’s very satisfying and reassuring to see more and more films where women characters are not merely there as sex objects and eye-candy but are an integral part of the plot.
Stories with female protagonists are an unexplored space. Hence, if such stories are executed beautifully with relatable characters, then there is no reason why the audience shouldn’t accept them. I feel it is the story, the characters and the execution which decide the success of a film. If any one of these is lacking, the film won’t work. One shouldn’t make a film just because it is a women-centric story. If it is a story that needs to be told, then it should be told. And, yes, the focus should be on building strong characters and content rather than making a film just because it is woman-centric.
Content is king, and we keep talking about that time and again. Movies with good content and the right direction work well and we have seen this with films like Kahaani, Tanu Weds Manu Returns, English Vinglish, Piku, Neerja and many more. I don’t think idea should be to make movies specifically with a female protagonist. One should shortlist the right script and then position the movie based on its subject. Another key point is to keep the budget under control based on the project selected. It may not be one the biggest blockbusters but can still generate positive P&L for the project. With growing multiplex screens, a movie with good content may not take a great opening but it can run for a long time.
Cinema follows a certain pattern. Once something works, everybody starts working towards that because everybody is bhukha for success and money in the industry. Nobody wants to make a good film; everybody wants to chase hits and that’s why everyone has a 10-per cent success and 90-per cent failure ratio.
It’s very difficult to get a male actor and easy to get a female lead actress. An actress in a big film with a hero doesn’t get to do much in the film. So once a Vidya Balan does a Dirty Picture or Kangana Ranaut does a Queen, everybody wants to do women-centric films. But they need to understand that these characters were made not for Vidya or Kangana but required by the film. What happens then is that once films like these start working, filmmakers assume that every women-centric film will work.
I think the audience wants to watch good films.
Women-centric films have been there since the black-and- white era, with good and high-content scripts and screenplay. We have seen game-changers in Bollywood and seen the transition for actresses, from heroines to protagonists. These films definitely have the potential to create new waves provided they are garnished with good content. Audiences have been receptive to women-centric films from the very beginning. Movies fail not because of heroes or heroines but because of poor script, poor screenplays, poor content and poor execution.
A Piku, Neerja and Kahaani (not Kahaani 2) or Tanu Weds Manu Returns works mainly because of its rich content, which is always a winner at the box office but if a script is poor, no star can save the movie. That’s what happened with some women-centric movies like Akira Noor Maatr and Anaarkali Of Aarah, to name a couple which failed at the box office. I strongly believe that content, and only content, is the real hero or heroine of a movie and which eventually emerges as a real box-office winner.
Audiences are looking forward to watching good entertainment and are keen to see exciting stories. Yes, now female-driven stories in an exciting set-up are keenly awaited. It doesn’t matter whether the protagonist is male or female; the box-office status of a film rests on the content of the film. Films that worked at the box office like Neerja or Piku did well due to their content whereas some films which featured female leads failed not because the story was based on a woman but because the content failed to impress the audience. Rather than tag a film as ‘women-centric’, we should focus on generating content which does well.
Our audience was and is ready to accept female centric films but they have to serve the purpose to entertain. Seeta Aur Geeta, ChaalBaaz, Chandni, Beta, Kahaani are all blockbusters and are still remembered fondly by the audiences. The film needs to entertain and not cater to niches as it becomes difficult to reach out. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a glorious example. The problem is not female centric films but bad content. It is obvious that female stars can’t have the draw of their male counterparts but good content can take it to dizzying heights. In my humble opinion audiences are ready to accept any kind of films as long as it serves their purpose as they come to cinemas for only one reason — to get entertained!