In Bollywood, most of the iconic roles with negative shades — be it con men, dons or petty thieves — have gone to men, who are almost always shown to be the brains behind the crime.
The women mostly end up playing sidekicks or are shown as a part of the ensemble. Yet, with female actors getting more author-backed lead roles, there also seems to be a rise in the number of women playing negative characters.
Remember how, earlier this year, Madhuri Dixit Nene and Huma Qureshi played a manipulative duo in Dedh Ishqiya? The film didn’t make a lot of money, but their performance were appreciated. Now, with Sonam Kapoor gearing up to play a scheming character in her next Dolly Ki Doli (her second one after Players; 2012), we ask experts how easy or difficult it is for a woman to pull off this kind of a role successfully.
In the past, leading ladies Rani Mukerji (Bunty Aur Babli; 2005), Aishwarya Rai Bachchan (Dhoom:2; 2006), Katrina Kaif (Race; 2008) and Anushka Sharma (Badmaash Company; 2010) have pulled off such roles with varying degrees of success. Trade expert Atul Mohan says the trend isn’t entirely new, "It’s been there for decades. Be it Hema Malini, Parveen Babi, Shabana Azmi, Bindiya Goswami, Neetu Singh, Madhuri, Aishwarya or Vidya (Balan), roles of this nature have worked when done well."
At par with men?
According to trade analyst Amod Mehra, if an actor is good at her craft, "it’s not difficult for her to play the part convincingly". He adds, "These days, making a heroine-centric film means showing women at the same level as men. That’s why films like Mardaani and Mary Kom stand out. Plus, if men can con people, why can’t women?"
Producers share the same perspective. "In Bollywood, it’s rare to see women in adventurous roles, so when I got this script, I thought it would be challenging. Ever since the trailer has come out, everyone has been telling me how fantastic Sonam looks in the role, because of her innocent looks and charming personality," says Arbaaz Khan, who is producing Sonam’s next.
Another producer, Ramesh Taurani, adds, "Like all films, here too, it comes down to the script. If things are shown intelligently and are justified, there’s no harm."