Bollywood’s power women: Raazi and Veere Di Wedding take forward the momentum
Vidya Balan tore through Bollywood’s male bastion with The Dirty Picture, and younger stars like Alia Bhatt and Sonam Kapoor Ahuja have kept the job going.Updated: Jun 07, 2018 11:51 IST
The popular notion about Bollywood has long been that it’s mainly driven by the leading men, who smash through every problem fist first, while the female leads are present to supply the glamour, romance, and dance moves.
All that was changed when two films — back-to-back Vidya Balan-starrers, The Dirty Picture (2011) and Kahaani (2012) — brought in awards and revenues in equal measure. They made Rs 117 crore and Rs 100+ crore, respectively, worldwide, and Vidya won the National Film Award for Best Actress in 2012 for a role that had been seen as merely ‘sexy’ before the film’s release.
Now, one female-led film after the other is raking it in. This year, Hichki (starring Rani Mukerji), Raazi (starring Alia Bhatt), and Veere Di Wedding (starring Kareena Kapoor Khan, Sonam Kapoor Ahuja, Swara Bhasker, and Shikha Talsania) have trumped the initial collections of films led by heavyweight male stars. In recent times, the 2016 hijack drama Neerja, starring Sonam Kapoor, had earned both money and accolades, including a National Film Award for Sonam.
Take that, naysayers
Hichki is about a school teacher with a severe speech impediment, a plot that’s as out-of-the-box as it gets. Director Siddharth P Malhotra says, “It took me six years to come out with Hichki, because no one was encouraging me to do a female-led film.” Then the film went and made Rs 76 crore, and it’ll be screened on the opening day of the Shanghai International Film Festival this month. An upbeat Malhotra says, “Such films doing well is a big slap on everybody’s faces, [showing] that a good story does well, be it a male- or female- or child-led film. Originally, my film had a male protagonist, then they wanted a bigger male star, and then I got an even bigger female star. The full mindset has changed.”
The director adds, “People today are opening up to newer content. If the film is even decently watchable — among the amount of stuff that we have which is not watchable — people lap it up. The critical thing is that every film can do well; it just needs to be made on that budget.”
The Dirty Picture director Milan Luthria faced hurdles, too. Asked about industry apprehensions, he replies, “Not some, there were massive apprehensions after I had just released a big hit, Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai. I was told to go with another hero-oriented film, and we had a lot of issues with the title as well! Many distributors felt that it wouldn’t work in a country like ours, but we stuck to our guns. Also, since I had just released a big hit, we should’ve had many buyers lining up for my next, but nobody came forward. We went ahead with not much encouragement or enthusiasm in the marketplace. There were a lot of allegations — that I’m making a porn film, I’ve lost my mind, why Vidya, etc. It was only when we released our first promo, that the film was sold.”
Toss out the mould
Raazi has collected Rs 117.34 crores in three weeks, and is still running in theatres despite a total absence of item numbers or masala. Veere Di Wedding beat the day-one earnings of Pad Man (starring Akshay Kumar) and Raid (Ajay Devgn). The film’s four women, who’re watching each other’s back, talking sex, taking charge, have left the damsels-in-distress mould in pieces.
Producer Rhea Kapoor says, “It was a long time coming. Veere… was a film that just had to be made for so many reasons. If it didn’t spark any conversation or debate, then I’m not doing my job, so the reception is really encouraging. The love and support the film has received is overwhelming, and the numbers have gone on to reiterate that the future is female!”
Trade expert Atul Mohan’s opinion is that “it’s basically the content doing the talking”. He says, “Raid and Pad Man picked up only after first good shows, there wasn’t the traditional excitement. Marketing for Veere… was done very smartly by the producers, because we now have mostly college students going for early morning shows, while evening shows are family-oriented.”
He adds, “You do need a star to attract the audience, and after that, the content [matters]. Alia acted well [in Raazi], and she had a huge fan base who came for the early morning shows. The word-of-mouth was good, so that converted into footfalls.”
Other heroine-led films lined up for release later this year include Kajol’s Eela and Diana Penty’s Happy Phir Bhaag Jaayegi, the sequel to Happy Bhag Jaayegi. Diana says, “Aanand L Rai (producer) is like my family. Just to know that the first part did well enough for the makers to even consider a sequel is a matter of pride to me. It makes me feel happy that we could carry on.”
Interact with the author on Twitter/ @RishabhSuri02