When women are at the centre of a film, it becomes essential to keep expectations realistic. Getting to play roles they have always wanted, these Bollywood actresses have been the face to promote women-centric films to do well throughout the decades!
Bollywood Heroines who have popularized Women-Centric Films! The Indian film industry is a male-dominated industry. Women who pursue a career within the industry are mostly either actresses or playback singers. This trend has also undergone a little change in recent years. Where women have emerged as choreographers, costume designers, editors and screenwriters. But the number is much less when compared to their male counterparts. Very few women are lyricists or composers. While a handful of them have ventured into film direction. They also have not achieved commercial success like their male counterparts.
The portrayal of ‘women’ and their roles on-screen!
So, in an industry that has a very sparse number of women behind the camera. It can also be assumed that the portrayal of women onscreen by male directors and other professionals will have gender biases. And constraints and this may not always convey women’s world views, perceptions and subjective realities. The roles played by the women onscreen are mostly the male director’s notion of what roles women ought to be playing. This notion is based on the director’s beliefs, attitudes and values, combined with the director’s perception of the viewers’ demand.
Commercial films also portrayed “ideal women” as submissive, self-sacrificing, chaste, and controlled. The “bad” woman, on the other hand, is characterized as individualistic, sexually aggressive, westernized, and not sacrifice. Generally, most of the Hindi films (Bollywood), that are produced every year is a combination of romance, action violence, family dramas with a lot of songs and dance. This genre of cinema is also known as “masala” (formula or commercial films). In most of these movies, women are also objectified, playing the role of the Hero’s love interest.
Despite the tendency to portray women either as the hero’s love interest, successful homemaker, or as a vamp in mainstream commercial cinema, an alternative approach has been the emergence of independent films that portray issues of concern to women from a geocentric perspective. Many of these films portray women as strong-willed and independent.
From breaking all stereotypes to producing more and more women-oriented films, this is an age of sheer confidence and motivation!
Women centered films where women have tried to break the conventions have stirred immense conflicts and controversies in the Indian society. The main aim of these directors is to transform the ‘masala’ of the commercial Bollywood films into a piece of aesthetic work to give out a message against social evil to the masses, rather than to just aim for the box office gain. Films like Sparsh (1979), Masoom (1983) and Chakra (1980) showed women protagonists in various roles.
The past decade has also seen the rise of several female-centric Bollywood films. It’s a welcome change from the 90s. Bollywood movies have always been inspiring our country and the audience. The audience also wants to see movies starring women in movies they can relate to. Not typical action or fantasy fare, where these actresses are merely eye-candy for male movie-goers.
Bollywood Heroines have been breaking out the typical mode of leading heroines in films. They are also experimenting with vivid characters and stories in various genres. Given the success of the emerging genre (where women feature prominently), film studios also appear to be more confident about producing female-oriented movies. Part of the change reflects the greater spending power of Indian women.
Every year, we witness some or the other best performances by these actresses. They are also carrying on huge responsibilities to fulfil their parts thereby wooing their audience.
Contemporary female actors in Women-centric movies!
Bollywood Heroines like Vidya Balan, Alia Bhatt, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Sonam Kapoor, Taapsee Pannu and Rani Mukherjee are arguably flag bearers of change for heroines in Hindi cinema. The fact that stories about girls taking charge of situations have found takers, is a positive sign. It’s also an addiction that a good story, one that viewers can connect with will always work. Movies like Hichki, Veere Di Wedding, Raazi, Mardani, Queen, Mirja, Mary Kom, Thappad, Haseen Dilruba and many such films have become commercial successes validating the idea that a non-formula story with a woman in the lead role can work.
The leading women of the industry have chosen the films for their hunger to play the characters beyond the norm. They get to play roles they have always wanted to. Among all the actresses, Anushka has launched her own production company with the aim of producing the kind of movies the audience loves to watch. Apart from Anushka, Sonam Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor and the other lot of actresses of this new era of the industry have brought about a real shift in the larger moralistic narrative of Hindi cinema.
Even coming to the myth that a married heroine doesn’t work best with the audience has broken the notion since talented actresses like Vidya Balan, Rani Mukherjee, Sonam Kapoor, Deepika and the other actors have been a part of great successful film and their marital status has never become a roadblock.
Dating back to the golden era of the ’80s and ’90s where heroines of this age have given a different recognition to the promotion of films!
As compared to this era we can go back to the ’90s aka the golden era. Actresses like Madhuri Dixit, Shilpa Shetty, Karisma Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Raveena Tandon, Kajol have also done great commercially successful films. And have received immense appreciation for their phenomenal performances during that era. They have made female roles in a film quite a significant part of the movie. With their immensely polished performances throughout the ’90s. Movies like Hum Aapke Hai Kaun, Dulhe Raja, Ishq, Baazigar, Dhadkan, Gupt, Raja Hindustani and jeet have done extremely well. At the box office and especially known for this era.
Going back to the 80’s era, top actresses like Sharmila Tagore, Waheeda Rehman, Neelam Kothari. Rekha, Shabana Azmi and Sri Devi have all chose to work in non-formula films. The 80’s era saw these beautiful actresses setting new trends in the Bollywood industry. Movies like Majdur, Coolie, Hukumat, Sherni, Angeepath are known to be super iconic movies of that era. All these female actors keep one thing in mind. That a film where the heroine is in the lead role needs to be a viable project. For movies that had small budgets also broke all stereotypes by doing extremely well at the box office.
Bollywood Heroines: Alia Bhatt starrer Raazi, Rani Mukherji starrer Hichki, Kangana Ranaut starring Queen, Anushka Sharma’s Pari and much are the best examples of women led cinema finding it’s place under the sun.
Today the industry also notices young talents being promoted and launched. Where the prime motivation is to make the film that they love to look back at someday.
Bollywood Heroines who have popularized Women-Centric Films! Successes in films where women are the lead are not a mark of permanent change. Not many such stories can be told well. Unless the motivation to produce them comes from the studios in the industry. The confidence in the individuality and belief of the lead actresses today has given their share of relevance and space.
If it’s up to the women who’re engaging in a film story to make that change, then so let it be!