One look at recent Bollywood films, and one can safely say that better characters are being chalked out for women. Besides not being subjected to supporting roles, female-led films like Kahaani, Neerja and Tumhari Sulu have also been contributing to the film business in India.
2018’s Raazi with Alia Bhatt in the lead is the latest film to join the ‘female-centric’ brigade. Based on true events, Raazi follows the story of an Indian spy who is married to a Pakistani army officer during the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971. While Raazi has been receiving rave reviews from critics, it has also spelled magic at the box office with its collection of Rs 108.04 crore.
Raazi is not the kind of film which effectively talks about women empowerment or feminism through its narrative. Its strength lies in how it replaces the decades-old ‘male hero’ with a ‘heroine’ that is equally formidable. It does not allow its viewers to discriminate between male-centric or female-centric narratives and subtly proves that the audience is equally receptive to organic female characters if the film can boast of good content.
Whereas, Rani Mukerji’s Hichki, which hit the theatres in March, subverted the idea that female actors are not meant to do just supporting roles once they cross a certain age. Collecting a Rs 46.21 crore at the box office, Hichki tells the story of a teacher who suffers from Tourette’s syndrome. The film was received well by the audience and Rani was praised for her believable performance.
While Anushka Sharma’s Pari did even better at pushing the envelope when it comes to women in the horror genre, the film did not impress critics as much. Nevertheless, Anushka’s choices with her production house Clean Slate Films have always been brave. From Phillauri to NH10, Anushka has been backing projects that bring something new to the table while doing justice to the female protagonists.
The recently released Veere Di Wedding also seems to be a shot in the arm for women-centric films. Headlined by four female leads, the film is supposed to be an upbeat girl gang comedy exploring the lives of four women (Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Swara Bhasker and Shikha Talsania) and how they deal with the trials and tribulations of modern life. The film’s crew has been out and out promoting the film with the tagline “I am not a chick flick” reiterating the fact that the film tells the story of four people who happen to be girls and there is no need to put a label on that.
Till a few decades ago, leading ladies in the Hindi cinema would have to wait for years before they would advance from being just props in films to getting author-backed roles. While we may have come a long way since then with more and more mainstream films boasting of strong female leads, we still have a long way to go.
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