Bollywood gave us several commercial women-centric films, of varying genres in 2017, and the audience loved most of them. Women took the centre stage in action (Naam Shabana), drama (Noor, Simran), romantic comedy (Bareilly ki Barfi) films, also there were films like Lipstick Under My Burkha, Anaarkali of Aarah and Tumhari Sulu which challenged the society’s notion of “correct moral behaviour”. In retrospect this year offered variation from usual formula-based alfa male heroes, and we are not complaining.
Film makers have been testing waters since past few years with movies like The Dirty Picture, Kahaani, Queen, Piku, Tanu Weds Manu, Dangal, Pink and so on. The box office success of these films probably was the biggest incentive for producers to put their money on women-centric films. Another reason being the failure of many big-budget films. Bollywood is fast running out of tricks to lure the new age clever audience into a theater. Its prominent leading men are already past fifty, and their charm is no longer working on the evolved audience, which prefers content over six packs and machismo.
But it would be unfair to Bollywood if we credit box office entirely for this change in dynamics. Bollywood itself is in a phase of transition.
New age directors and writers want to tell stories differently, and many weaved them around women and their lives and grievances.
They want to prove that it is possible to make a commercially viable film, which is carried solely by women on their shoulders. They are willing to invest in capabilities of female actors. And actors like Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut, Swara Bhasker and Konkana Sen Sharma, have proved that they can shoulder this responsibility successfully.
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However, the failure of some films like Begum Jaan, Jia aur Jia, Noor at the box office, indicates that not all that is women-centric is gold.
Bollywood is always dependent on what sells to make movies. A movie will not win over the critics and audience merely because it is based on a current social trend. Cinema is a craft.
The audience wants great direction, tight scripts, and relevant content along with powerful acting. If the film falters at any of these levels, then the movie goers will not cough up money.
The industry should concentrate on making solid films like Tumhari Sulu, which are both socially relevant and well crafted. If the craft is not perfect, this wave of women-centric cinema will subside, and many great stories, which are yet untold, will not see the light of the day.
Indian film audience is very forgiving. It gives multiple chances to actors, directors and producers to prove their mettle. So now, Bollywood should take this chance and take a closer look at why some of these women-centric films failed. Where did they go wrong?
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Dr Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are author’s own.