Move over Khans and Kapoors. The new breed of cinema in Bollywood is empowering women and portraying them as the new heroes!
Vidya Balan as detective: Vidya Balan has been a pioneer in women empowerment films and she will continue the same with ‘Bobby Jasoos’. She will be an intelligent ‘desi’ detective who uses disguises for her cases. A simpleton in the film, Vidya carriers a canvas backpack around for her sleuthing duties. She was recently shot in Hyderabad, dressed up as a beggar with huge beard; Vidya did an exceptional job of fooling the audiences, and it is said that more of such instances will follow. A special set has been erected in Hyderabad for the complete shooting of ‘Bobby Jasoos’, directed by Samar Shaikh and produced by Dia Mirza and her beau Sahil Sangha. Actress turned producer Dia said, “I feel, more and more women oriented subjects need to be made. Hence, we too decided to release a female empowered movie and will publicise it broadly.”
Priyanka Chopra as boxer Mary Kom: Priyanka Chopra will play the onscreen avatar of celebrated boxer Mary Kom. She has been training vigorously for boxing and also to get into physique of the sportsperson. Also, with the help of prosthetics, Piggy Chops will get transformed into Mary Kom for reel. This actress is also learning Manipuri for the biopic, to perfect her character. Priyanka is a staunch supporter of female oriented characters and shared, “It is the need of the hour to portray powerful female characters in our movies. Such films do well at the box office. My biopic on Olympian boxer and icon Mary Kom is a strong and alluring subject which has good prospects monetarily too.”
Rani Mukerji donning police uniform: Bollywood’s versatile actress, Rani Mukerji will sport a gutsy avatar of a police officer in Yash Raj Films’ ‘Mardani’. Rani, known for her sensuous image, will ditch the sexiness and adopt a uniformed look. Going the tough way, Rani will pick up the guns and impress her fans with some super action. A trainer has been assigned to the actress to shed the extra pounds and get in shape. Rani will also be practicing for raw action sequences. Ace filmmaker Pradeep Sarkar will be calling the shots for this bold women centric movie. In the past actresses Priyanka Chopra had portrayed a seductive cop in ‘Don 2’, however Rani will be tougher in her approach.
Kangna Ranaut as lady gangster: Kangna Ranaut will wield the gun in an upcoming woman centric film titled, ‘Revolver Rani’. She is known to play bold female characters in films like ‘Tanu Weds Manu’, ‘Gangster’ and ‘Fashion’. Hence Kangna seemed the best choice for this character, however it was reportedly first offered to Tabu. Kangna plays a female outlaw and revolver will be her specialty in the movie. For her hardcore gangster character, Kangna had to take up lessons in handling an actual revolver. The basic story of ‘Revolver Rani’ will be a revenge saga, set in Hindi heartland.
Bollywood filmmakers are churning out a high dose of female centric movies, with the top of the lot from the industry playing leading ladies. Vidya Balan set the example – she overshadowed her male counterparts in films like ‘The Dirty Picture’ and ‘Kahaani’. Girish Wankhede, chief exhibitor for ‘Kahaani’ said, “‘Kahaani’ had a versatile actress like Vidya Balan as well good content, hence the film did very well. But we also need to accept the fact that such women oriented films cannot cope up with the levels of the Khans.”
‘Kahaani’ released in approximately 1100 screen worldwide and grossed a whopping Rs 59 crores at the box office. It was made at a modest budget of Rs 8 crores, but worked with Vidya’s popularity of her previous hit. According to industry experts, not many actresses can carry a film on their shoulders. Distributor of ‘Ragini MMS’, Vinay Choksi said, “Very few women oriented films have done well at the box office windows, but the market is definitely changing. If the content is exuberant the film will do well.”
Director and producer, Rakesh Roshan is of the opinion that more and more women oriented subjects need to be highlighted in Bollywood. He shares, “I am of the opinion that all kinds of intriguing subjects need to be made. And more so, women oriented subjects. I remember, when I made ‘Khoon Bhari Maang’ people thought I was mad and they said, ‘What kind of a film are you making? Will this work?’ But it did very well at the box office.” Further, delving into the dynamics of the industry he says, “What happens in our industry is that if one kind of subject gets a hit at the box office, then people start making films on those subjects. About getting theatres to screen such films, it is just that if the film is good then it has to run in cinema halls and now booking the theatre has also been very systematic. Films like ‘Kahaani’ and ‘The Dirty Picture’ can be made again but with a different portrayal.”
Actresses are no longer interested in the quintessential roles, that of a glam doll, rather they want to explore and experiment. Madhuri Dixit Nene will make a powerful comeback with ‘Gulab Gang’, portraying a rebellious gang leader. Welcoming the change she says, “Female actresses are no longer decorative additions in the film. Earlier films always saw women as victim or an avenger, but now she is being presented in a positive light with strong characters. They are no more getting abused. This change needs to be welcomed as women have substantial roles to play.” Katrina Kaif, who plays a villain in ‘Dhoom 3’ took up the challenge of learning the most difficult dance form and also train for acrobatics. On the other hand, Priyanka Chopra has shed her glamorous image and is leaning the nuances of Manipuri dialect to perfect her onscreen character of boxer Mary Kom.
Looking at the future Amod Mehra, trade analyst shared, “Definitely there cannot be a ‘Kahaani’ or ‘The Dirty Picture’ every time. But who knows, in coming times we might have even better movies than these two. Any film will work at the Box Office only if its content is intriguing, lest women-centric films. Otherwise the similar success cannot be repeated. Having big stars and good performers are like icing on the cake.” About the theatre booking and distribution of the movie, he added, “Anybody can hire any number of theatres as he pleases. You just have to pay the rent and decide on the number of screens you want the film to be shown. But that does not guarantee the success of that movie, irrespective of whether it has women-power in it or not.”
And the popularity for such films is increasing with the word of mouth publicity. Another film exhibitor, Manoj Desai points out, “In my experience of Bollywood, whenever there is a Khan film, the theatres are running packed but with female centric movies there is fewer audience as they feel there is less chance of entertainment. But now slowly the mindsets are changing, thanks to the word of mouth publicity. Bollywood is also changing its thought process of the male dominated world and introducing women power in our movies.”
Changing with the trends, Bollywood filmmakers have lined up half a dozen women oriented films for release in the next couple of years. Producers like Yash Raj Films, who have maintained a lovey-dovey factor in all their projects, have taken up a bold step with ‘Mardani’ in which Rani Mukerji will be portraying a tough cop. Talking about the trendsetter again, Vidya Balan will portray a strong detective in ‘Bobby Jasoos’, while the ever bold actress Kangna Ranaut will hold the gun for her next, ‘Revolver Rani’.
Madhuri Dixit, a female gang leader: After her multiple comebacks didn’t work well, Madhuri Dixit Nene is set to make another power packed comeback with ‘Gulab Gang’. The film is inspired from the true story of Sampat Pal, who took the initiative of fighting against social injustice with her female team, Gulabi Gang. Encouraging the idea, Madhuri said, “Women play an important role in the society, and their onscreen representation has also changed. My character is an important personality in the movie and not just standing by the women. I support the idea of representing brave women.” Mads will shed her dance diva image to portray a courageous role in ‘Gulab Gang’. The film will be set in a rustic background, where Madhuri and her gang of girls will wage a war against injustice to women. Joining Madhuri in this rebellious group of women is another ace actress Juhi Chawla. This film is directed by Soumik Sen and is set to release next year. Eager to tell the world the story of competitive women, producer Anubhav Sinha said, “With such projects we need to let the world know about the strong potential that women of our country possess.”
Sunny Leone as a bold actress: Western porn star Sunny Leone will let out her sensuous avatar in ‘Ragini MMS 2’. The film is a sequel to horror franchise, but Sunny will set the temperature soaring as she plays a hot and sexy Bollywood actress in the movie. ‘Ragini MMS 2’ is being touted as a ‘horrex’ film, a clever combination of horror and sex. Sunny Leone’s spine chilling sequences are being shot with a heavy dose of skin show and sleaze. This film is directed by Bhushan Patel. Producer Ekta Kapoor explains the need for such a ‘horrex’ film in today’s day as she says, “Visual effects in such a movie are of vital importance. After the success of the first film, expectations were raised. Hence we promise the audience most sexiest and scariest experience with Sunny Leone.” Newbie Sahil Prem will debut opposite the sensuous Sunny.
Pranav Mankermi & Lipika Varma