In 2011, Vidya Balan delivered two back-to-back hits (No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture), where she took centre stage as the protagonist. The next year, she had another hit, Kahaani; and in the same year, Sridevi’s English Vinglish also set cash registers ringing at the box office. Earlier this year, Kangana Ranaut delivered a sleeper hit with Vikas Bahl’s Queen.The trend of women-centric films continued with Alia Bhatt proving her mettle in Highway. Recently, Rani Mukerji-starrer Mardaani showed strong results at the ticket windows, proving that films with strong female characters can also set the screen on fire.
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Vidya Balan puts things in perspective, "People are gradually becoming more and more open to these films. The situation is far better than what it was five years ago. They (the industry) will need more successes to have faith in women-centric films because it’s ultimately business."
Watch: Mardaani trailer
The coming weeks and months will see multiple releases that have women in the main lead, starting with Priyanka Chopra’s Mary Kom, followed by Bipasha Basu-starrer Creature 3D, Sonam Kapoor’s Khoobsurat and Dolly Ki Doli, Rekha-starrer Super Nani, a Kajol-Ram Madhwani venture and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s Jazbaa.
“If it’s a woman-centric film, the budget has to be within a certain limit, and it should get wrapped up in a particular time period. But when a male star is at the helm, no one bothers about such things. But the perception is changing,” says Mary Kom director, Omang Kumar, adding that such films, if made well, can be clutter-breakers and will help get rid of gender bias.
However, even though the decades gone by have witnessed some commercially and critically acclaimed female lead films like Mother India (1957), Aandhi (1975), Pakeezah (1972), Umrao Jaan (1981) and Chandni Bar (2001), some from the industry feel that producers are still reluctant to promote such films. “The sad part is that the budget of such films still hovers around `20 crore, which is one-third of a male-star-centred film. The reason is that most producers don’t want to take a huge risk with a big budget on a woman-centric film,” says film-maker Sanjay Gupta, whose film Jazbaa will hit the marquee later this year.