Features

Ladies First?

Over the years, our actresses have proved they have the talent to carry a film on their own. But will our audience allow them to take the lead

We have always bought into the myth that equates a film’s success with a male lead, and that only hero-centric movies work at the ticket counter. However, there are a few leading ladies, who in the past as well as present, (The Dirty Picture and No One Killed Jessica) have proved the myth wrong. The question is: are the Indian audience ready to weigh talent against stereotypes and give credit where it is due?

The question is pertinent because regardless of talent, women-centric films do not always find patronage although they have clicked at regular intervals.

Let’s rewind first… If Nargis gave a power-packed performance in Mother India and walked away with all the accolades, she didn’t deliver any hits thereafter. Her last film as an actress,  Raat Aur Din (a woman-oriented film), too failed at the ticket counter.

Speaking of yesteryear, the actress who has enjoyed the upper hand in terms of maximum number of hits and depth of performance, has got to be Nutan. She was head and shoulders above the rest, especially in an era dominated by biggies. Her hits include Sujata, Saraswatichandra, Main Tulsi Tere Aangan Ki, Khandan, Saajan Bina Suhagar and Saajan Ki Saheli. Years later, when she began doing character roles, she was still given credit for successes like Meri Jung, Naam, Mujrim and Karma.

Jaya Bachchan may not have delivered any major successes but there were a few successful films that revolved around her, such as Parichay, Kora Kagaz,Milli and Guddi, which did very well at the ticket counter. Though we think of  Zanjeer and Abhimaan as Amitabh Bachchan movies, one cannot steal the credit from Jaya for these two films.

Rakhee may not have had managed to deliver big hits with movies based around her character but she did gave us several successes like Beti, Doli, Chhoti Bahu,Sharmilee and Shraddhanjali. And just like Nutan, her character roles in films like Ram Lakhan, Baazigar and Karan Arjun were the USPs of these movies .And although the film didn’t do well, how can we forget her role in Shakti?

Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil were known for attempting bold and unusual roles and they were successful in commercial as well as meaningful cinema. They were both able to carve a niche for themselves.

If Hema Malini delivered hits one after another, she also managed to make successful movies based around her character, like Seeta Aur Geeta, Sharafat and Andaaz. But she did deliver some duds, like  Dreamgirl, Meera, Razia Sultan, Lekin and Rihaee. Interestingly, in Aandhi Toofan, a rehash of Sholay, she played the role Sanjeev Kumar played in the original and it clicked at the ticket counter.

Rekha, who was never considered the Number One heroine during her time as leading lady, delivered several films which ran solely because of her. These include Mangalsutra, Jhoothi, Umrao Jan, Khoobsurat, Biwi Ho To Aisi and Khoon Bhari Maang. She also delivered a couple of disasters in Madam X and Mother.

There was a bunch of films featuring Jeetendra in the ‘80s that did tremendous business but Sridevi walked away with the credit. In fact, when Himmatwala became a huge success, people said the film should have been called ‘Himmatwali’. Such was Sridevi’s charm that tradewallahs used to say that Shekhar Kapur’s Mr India should have been titled ‘Miss India’!

No wonder, Boney Kapoor tried to make Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja where Sridevi’s character was meatier than leading man Anil Kapoor’s character. But the film tanked. But if Sridevi walked away with the credit for the success of films like Chaalbaaz, Chandni and Nagina, she delivered duds in Lamhe, Nigahein, Sherni, Banjaran and Heer Ranjha.

Madhuri Dixit was the next female star who could not only sell a film to distributors but who also set the cash registers ringing. No wonder tradewallahs believed Beta should have been titled ‘Beti’ and Raja as ‘Rani’. Consider this… After delivering eight flops in arow, Salman Khan gave us a big hit in Hum Aapke Hain Koun..! And most of the credit for the film’s success went to Madhuri Dixit!

Also, let’s not forget Sadhana for Love In Shimla, Mera Saaya and Woh Kaun Thi?, Phool Aur Patthar and Pakeezah for Meena Kumari, Amrapali, Madhumati and Sangam for Vyajantimala, Padosan for Saira Banu, Nikaah for Salma Agha, Insaaf Ka Taraazu for Zeenat Aman, Zakhmi Aurat for Dimple Kapadia, Noorie for Poonam Dhillon… and the list is endless.

Many a time, a film based on a woman-centric subject has created a stir at the box office, if not commercially then critically. Last year saw three women oriented films, of which two were hits at the ticket counter: No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture and both starred Vidya Balan.
While 2012 has many big films from many A-List actors lined up, there are also many that feature actresses in the lead role. Sujoy Ghosh’s Kahaani featuring Vidya Balan, Madhur Bhandarkar’s Heroine with Kareena Kapoor, Vikram Bhatt’s Dangerous Ishq which marks the return of Karisma Kapoor, R Balki’s English Vinglish in which Sridevi comes back to face the arc lights and last but not the least Anurag Kashyap’s Ayya which has Rani Mukerji in the lead.
Will these films be as successful as last year’s The Dirty Picture and No One Killed Jessica? Box Office India asked tradewallahs for their point of view.

Apoorva Mehta, CEO, Dharma Productions

Absolutely! Women centric films find good patronage from the audience. Let’s not forget films like Fashion, The Dirty Picture and No One Killed Jessica. These were striking films and did better than the big-starrers. But one should also remember that content is king. If the content is good, the film will do well.

Rakesh Sippy, Raksha Entertainment

It does not necessarily mean that women centric films work. If the concept and subject line appeal to the audience, the film will click. Both  The Dirty Picture and No One Killed Jessica had Vidya Balan in the lead. The roles were bold and interesting. Yes, current actress like Vidya Balan and Kareena Kapoor can confidently carry a film on their shoulders. But Karisma Kapoor and Sridevi are making a comeback after along time and it’s hard to tell whether they can pull it off.

Girish Johar, Head – Distribution and Acquisition, Balaji Motion Pictures

If a film is marketed well and has a good concept, it stands a very good chance of doing well. If it has an actress in the lead role, and a strong female cast and script, the film will be successful. Considering her last film, there are high expectations from Vidya Balan. Heroine too is a big budget film, which has Kareena Kapoo rin the lead and directed by Madhur Bhandarkar. Dangerous Ishq has Karisma Kapoor and is directed by Vikram Bhatt. So expectations from these films are very high.

Rajesh Thadani, Multimedia Combines

Women-oriented films work in Indian cinema provided they have a strong subject. In2011, there were three women-oriented films – No One Killed Jessica, 7 KhoonMaaf and The Dirty Picture. Of these, No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture were successful. There is a lot expected forthcoming films, especially Kahaani starring Vidya Balan, who delivered two consecutive hits in women-oriented films last year. Madhur Bhandarkar, who always comes up with a realistic story, is directing Heroine, which features Kareena Kapoor in the lead. These two movies will be box-office hits.

Surendra Saluja, Lakshya Movies

The film’s story along with certain other factors are important for a film to work at the box office. An actress can carry a film on her shoulder provided the subject is interesting. This is what happened with Vidya Balan in The Dirty Picture. But not all actresses are capable of this. According to me, Kareena Kapoor and Vidya Balan can pull it off but I don’t think Karisma Kapoor and Sridevi can.

Sunit Singh, Aum Moviez

Yes! Actresses today can carry a film on their own. And this has been proved with No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture. All actresses today, whether Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukerji, Vidya Balan, Karisma Kapoor or Sridevi, are capable of attracting the audience to cinemas with their presence alone. But let’s not forget the script and screenplay are important too.

Sanjay Ghai, Mukta Arts

All our top actresses today can easily pull off any role without the presence of a lead actor in the film. This year, all six films that have women in the lead, whether Kahaani, Heroine, Dangerous Ishq or Ayya, should do well at the ticket window.

Monto Aditya Choksey, Morya Arts

We are living in the21st century, where it does not matter whether a film stars a male or a female actor. Content is supreme. But, yes, films starring women as the central character have always worked. If we go back to films like Prem Rog or Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which walked away with the honours, these were women-centric films that did well at the ticket window. Even Rekha’s films like Phool Bane Angaray did very well. Last year, we saw The Dirty Picture, 7 Khoon Maaf and No One Killed Jessica proving this again. And this year, we have Kahaani with Vidya Balan in the lead, Dangerous Ishq with Karisma Kapoor in the lead and directed by Vikram Bhatt. These films look very promising.

B H Basha, Bahar Enterprises

Any film is capable of doing well if the subject is good and the role suits the actor. But one can’t ignore the fact that Hindi film actresses have the talent to carry an entire film on their own even if it does not have a male actor in the lead. This has been proved in films like No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture.

Sunil Wadhwa, BSK Network Entertainment

At present, women are offering men tough competition in every field. After delivering two female-dominated films last year, it looks like our actresses are capable of carrying any film on their shoulders today. But there is a hitch – women-oriented movies work only if they are low-budget. The budget of No One Killed Jessica and The Dirty Picture were very low compared to Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf.  And the commercial value of 7 Khoon Maaf was very low compared to the other two films. Hence our audience is not ready to watch a female protagonist without a commercial touch. There are high hopes from Kahaani and Heroine. Dangerous Ishq features Karishma Kapoor, who is back after a long break, and so is Sridevi in English Vinglish. The audience is waiting for their favourite actresses to return.

Dharam Pal, Paramount Pictures

The women-oriented films that worked last year had an outstanding storyline. The forthcoming releases will also work as they have an outstanding star cast. Kahaani will definitely work as it has Vidya Balan and she has proved many times that she is capable of carrying a film on her own, whether Ishqiya or the recent film, The Dirty Picture. Heroine has Kareena Kapoor along with Madhur Bhandarkar’s touch, which works well at the ticket counter. Expectations from these two releases are very high. Dangerous Ishq, English Vinglish, Ayya and Madhuri Dixit’s next will only work if they have a commercial touch and entertain the audience. And most importantly, a film has to have a strong story line to attract the viewers and stand out among the other big releases of this year.

Sarang Chandak, Shri Rang Films

Two releases which look promising are Kahaani and Herione because they have a very strong story line and actresses attached to them. The first look of Kahaani is outstanding and with Vidya Balan’s success in The Dirty Picture, the film has a bright future. Heroine has a strong storyline and with Kareena Kapoor, who is at the top of her career, the film is a sure-shot success. The other releases need to have a commerciall touch to appeal to the audience.

Jeetu Khandelwal,Movie Pioneerrs

Yes, we can finally say that women in our industry are capable of carrying an entire film on their own. The Dirty Picture and No One Killed Jessica had Vidya Balan, who is also featuring in the upcoming film Kahaani. The movie will definitely hit the bull’s eye at the box office because it has a strong storyline and Balan’s presence will only add value to the product. Heroine will also do well as Kareena Kapoor has a fabulous track record. Expectations are high from both releases.

Vasudev Chachan, Sunny Films

The title of a film, its storyline and the publicity around it matter as far as a film’s success is concerned. But our actresses today can carry a film all by themselves, something that last year’s The Dirty Picture has proved. The box office is no longer male-dominated. Kahaani starring Vidya Balan has high expectations only due to her presence in the film. Heroine, being a Madhur Bhandarkar film, also has high hopes pinned to it since it also stars Kareena Kapoor, who has delivered hits like 3 Idiots,Golmaal 3 and Bodyguard in the last few years. The other releases should have a solid story line to attract the audience to the ticket window.

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