*This year, Anushka Sharma is the highest-grossing Bollywood actor, with over Rs 412 crore in films such as Sultan and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (ADHM), which saw her deliver powerful performances.
*The Alia Bhatt-starrer Udta Punjab and Dear Zindagi haven’t just made big money, but have also earned unequivocal praise for her back-to-back solid performances.
*Sonam Kapoor silenced critics by portraying the late flight attendant Neerja Bhanot in Neerja, which also set the box office on fire.
Clearly, 2016 is turning out to be a landmark year — economically as well as creatively — for female actors. So, even as Sultan and ADHM saw Anushka standing out with her strong performances, Alia has entrenched herself as not just a bankable young star but also a talented actor. Ki & Ka, featuring Kareena Kapoor Khan, also made over Rs 50 crore at the box office.
“It all started with Tanu Weds Manu (2011). It’s a great sign because women, over the past few years, have proved that they are a safe bet at the box office, and, of course, no one can deny their talent. And it’s going to continue in the coming years,” says trade analyst Amod Mehra.
Sonam strongly believes that the positive response to a film like Neerja “is very encouraging”. “I hope this brings about a change and more funds go into backing such films, stories and subjects,” says Sonam, adding, “I want to do films I enjoy and am proud of.”
Alia, though, says she doesn’t know if she is “doing anything special”. I don’t even think that I am doing great work. I feel that actors have to be good. So, if people feel I am doing a good job, that’s normal. Of course, appreciation and applause is always welcome, and so is criticism. I just want to be part of movies and play characters,” she says.
Experts give the example of Anushka — how an actress, instead of being overshadowed, stood out with her performances in films that feature icons such as Aamir Khan (in PK; 2014), Salman Khan (in Sultan) and now, with Ranbir Kapoor (ADHM).
If people feel I am doing a good job, that’s normal. Of course, appreciation and applause is always welcome, and so is criticism. - Alia Bhatt, actor
In fact, with Sultan, she has scored her second Rs 300-crore-plus blockbuster after PK. Also, after NH10 (2015), Anushka is producing Phillauri, besides having wrapped up the Imtiaz Ali’s next with Shah Rukh Khan.
This year, female actors have come into their own, which is great news for the industry, as they have become more bankable,” says trade analyst Komal Nahta, adding that Anushka is “one of the top three actresses” right now. “She is making her choices intelligently, even when it comes to producing films. Making one’s presence felt amidst big stars isn’t easy, but she has done it. That’s where the change is taking place,” he adds.
Watch Dear Zindagi | Take 4
Director Sabbir Khan, who launched Kriti Sanon and is launching Nidhhi Agerwal in his new film, Munna Michael, says, “Women are breaking stereotypes that have been created by men in every field. So, we shouldn’t just limit ourselves to movies. The acceptance of women as equals or even as superiors has been long overdue, and it’s high time that we give them their due.”
In the coming days, too, a number of films with strong female characters such as Padmavati (starring Deepika Padukone), Kahaani 2, and Begum Jaan (starring Vidya Balan), Haseena (starring Shraddha Kapoor), Bareilly Ki Barfi (starring Kriti Sanon), Rangoon and Simran (starring Kangana Ranaut), and Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) will hit the silver screen.
“Since male actors do only a certain number of films, makers can now easily rely on female stars. Of course, the budgets can be limited as compared to what a top male star’s film would have been, but female actors are a solid force. What started off a few years back is becoming a clear trend that’s here to stay,” says Mehra.