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Women On Top

In an industry where actors have always ruled the box office, a handful of actresses are now proving that they too can be bankable stars

The Hindi film industry has always been male-driven but that’s now changing and actresses too are being pegged as bankable stars. There has been a virtual deluge of women-oriented films in the last few years, bringing into focus changing perceptions and dynamics within the audience and the industry.

From merely posing as eye candy to taking centrestage in Hindi films, women have come a long way on the marquee. Not only have they gained stardom but are also regarded as bankable. The success of films at the box office has further emboldened directors to pursue equally big heroines rather than only heroes.

The last few years were a game-changer in Bollywood as it saw the transition for actresses from ‘heroines’ to ‘protagonists’. Stunning as it was in a male-dominated society and industry, this tectonic shift was seen from actresses like Vidya Balan doing films like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani, Alia Bhatt in Highway, Kangana Ranaut in Queen, Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom, Deepika Padukone in Piku and Anushka Sharma in NH 10. Each of these actresses has made a mark for herself and has been tagged as ‘bankable’.

Is the audience looking forward to these actresses’ line-up? Dil Dhadakne Do is equally anticipated for Chopra and Sharma rather than just their male counterparts Anil Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Faran Akhtar. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is solely a Ranaut-driven film, while Balan is the driving force behind Hamari Adhuri Kahani as much as Emraan Hashmi is.

This week, we ask tradewallahs which actresses are capable of bringing in box-office revenue on their own steam. Also, since these actresses have started contributing to the ticket window, do they think the audience is looking forward to their upcoming films due to their star power? Here’s what the trade had to say.

Madhur Bhandarkar, Director

There have always been films with women protagonists like Mother India and Pakeezah, and they did well too. As a filmmaker, I have never thought about films in terms of a male or female lead; it has always been about my story and budget. Whether Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma or Kangana Ranaut… while strong characters are written for them, they too have done a fantastic job that has cultivated a huge fan following for them. There is a happy change in the perception of cine-goers. Moreover, the rationality in budgets makes these projects viable.

Sangeeta Ahir, Producer, Mangal Murti Films

Female actors are no more just eye candy. They are playing important parts in films. Characters are written keeping them in mind. The hand that once rocked the cradle has taken over the steering wheel and this empowerment is showing at the box office. Having said that, content is most important. Films that have had great content have been made even better by performances from actors like Vidya Balan, Deepika Padukone, Kangana Ranaut and Priyanka Chopra, who have created a niche for themselves.

Milan Luthria, Director

The definition of ‘massy’ films has changed. Three years ago, when we made The Dirty Picture, we didn’t have any buyers before the first trailer released because it was a heroine-centric film and featured Vidya Balan in the lead. But I had decided that even during the promotions, we would not mislead the audience and that we would promote it as a woman-oriented film. Initially, that was very tough because it takes a whole lot of money to make a film. But we stuck to our guns and that helped a lot of filmmakers and films like Kahaani and Queen. In the end, it’s content that works and so much has been already said about male-centric stories that now there is a lot of say through women-centric stories as well. People also felt that The Dirty Picture would appeal mainly to the male audience because it shows Vidya in a bold avatar but it was watched by women too and, to date, I receive compliments for the film, from women. It’s hard to say which actress is most saleable because that also depends on the packaging which includes the story and director along with the actor. If the packaging is good, any of these actresses can pull it off. All of it has to come together.

Anees Bazmee, Director

The industry has changed as has the way the audience looks at films. In the last few years, we have seen some outstanding women-oriented stories which worked very well at the box office. That was a turning point. It’s a very good sign that it is no longer about who features in a film but the story that matters and how well the actors have performed. Today, actresses like Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone can get movie-goers to cinemas on their own strength. If we like a promo, we don’t look at the actor but we go by content instead. Even in the upcoming Tanu Weds Manu Returns, everyone is looking forward to Kangana’s Haryanvi character, and for Hamari Adhuri Kahani, everyone is looking forward to Vidya Balan’s performance. Of the actresses we have, I believe Vidya Balan and Kangana Ranaut are the two most bankable actresses but currently Deepika Padukone tops the chart.

Omung Kumar, Director

Actresses are just as talented as actors are nowadays, and writers are writing all kind of stories. What has changed is that the industry is no longer hero-oriented; it’s about content. If you make something out of the box, the audience looks forward to your film. The younger generation is coming up with some outstanding ideas which the audience likes. And it doesn’t matter whether it features a new face or a known face. Like my next film Sarabjit is a biopic but it talks about Sarabjit’s sister Dalbir Kaur’s struggle to get her brother back to India. The moment I read the story, I knew I had to tell it.

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