You won’t find the new generation of A- List male stars playing second fiddle to the heroines. It is time they did, says Naomi Datta.

There is a new 100 crore hit in town. It isn’t the first 100 crore hit of the year – there was Padmaavat, Sonu Ke Titu ki Sweety and Baaghi before it. It probably won’t exceed their collections either, but Raazi is still the most celebrated 100 crore hit of 2018.  And here is why – It is a film which is a blockbuster without an A- List male star fronting it or even playing a friendly extended cameo. Hell, no end credits song either with a friendly hero to improve box office prospects. The lead, Alia Bhatt has had two 100 crore hits before this and in both she had Varun Dhawan and Arjun Kapoor for company. This time round, she stars along with Vicky Kaushal (a competent enough actor, but not a box office draw) and judging by the collections, the audience didn’t miss an A- List male actor in their midst.

Raazi-Alia-Bhatt

There is much to celebrate in the success of Raazi from a feminist perspective.

Alia fronts the film and it is also written and directed by an all women team. (Director Meghna Gulzar doubles up as the writer along with Bhavani Iyer). It isn’t a genre that you would associate with women – a gripping spy drama which questions the morality of war. So, yes it definitely is not a chick flick. Having said that, there is no harm in being a chick flick however much the promotions of Veere Di Wedding might tell you otherwise. But coming back to the point, Raazi didn’t tick most of the boxes for the box office, and yet succeeded.

There is much to applaud in that and the new-found optimism about women centric films is a welcome sign. Raazi’s success would give filmmakers the confidence to back women-centric films, even if big male stars are not part of the plot. Because  the sad part is that it is unlikely they ever will be.

Face it -this generation of heroes is not willing to be gentlemen and step aside for the ladies.

Jog your memories – when is the last time a bonafide Bollywood male star played second fiddle to the female lead in recent times? The straight speaking Sonam Kapoor nailed it when she said in a recent interview that A- list stars of her generation didn’t have the confidence to play support function in films about strong women characters. Unlike her dad, Anil Kapoor who was often the best foil to formidable female superstars like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit in the nineties.

Sonam might just have a point there – in her next release, Veere Di Wedding, there are no big male stars. It could be argued that it is a film about female bonding, and there is not much for the ‘hero’ to do.  But by the same token then, Katrina Kaif shouldn’t do Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara or Preity Zinta, Dil Chahta Hain. Or there is no earthly reason for Deepika Padukone to then be in Tamasha. These are all top line heroines who were willing to be part of a narrative which is not theirs – and it is time male heroes returned the favour.

Sonam Kapoor nailed it when she said in a recent interview that A- list stars of her generation didn’t have the confidence to play support function in films about strong women characters. Unlike her dad, Anil Kapoor who was often the best foil to formidable female superstars like Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit in the nineties.

None of the current crop of Bollywood male stars feature in films with a strong female narrative and perspective.

To further elaborate the point, take the example of Anushka Sharma. Now this is an actor I admire not just for her histrionic ability, but also for her brave choices as a producer. All the films she has backed as producer have been unconventional be it NH 10 or Pari. But each time for the male support function in these films, she has had to look at regional heroes or non-stars. Be it Diljit Dosanjh in Phillauri or Parambrata Chatterjee in Pari or Neil Bhoopalam in NH 10.

Sonam’s next film, The Zoya Factor which is again from the perspective of the female protagonist has roped in Malayalam superstar Dulquer Salmaan. You notice the trend? None of the current crop of Bollywood male stars feature in films with a strong female narrative and perspective.

It is really quite as simple as that – if you think that is far-fetched, imagine if Colin Firth refused to play Darcy because after all Pride and Prejudice is Lizzy Bennet’s story? He would have given up on the swooning adulation of generations of women.

And here is why I now appeal directly to the Bollywood male star. Man up – not because of some miscued gallantry, but for your own selfish reasons. Playing a strong male character in a film told from a woman’s point of view can make you the object of desire and female aspiration. It is really quite as simple as that – if you think that is far-fetched, imagine if Colin Firth refused to play Darcy because after all Pride and Prejudice is Lizzy Bennet’s story? He would have given up on the swooning adulation of generations of women. Small price to pay for always hogging the screen with your stories? I don’t think so.

Closer home,  let me give you the example of Fawad Khan. I remember an interview with his co- star Sidharth Malhotra in Kapoor & Sons, where he was a bit confounded by Khan’s appeal with the women. What Malhotra didn’t know was that Fawad had built his appeal by playing a charismatic and much aspired for male lead in women centric serials like Zindagi Gulzar Hain and Humsafar. He had successfully captured the imagination of women across generations. So here is the thing – even if the narrative and perspective is not yours, you could still be the star of the show. Playing a man reimagined by a woman can make you a better man.

So here is the thing – even if the narrative and perspective is not yours, you could still be the star of the show. Playing a man reimagined by a woman can make you a better man.

Think of that, and next time that movie comes along where the girl’s part may look meatier than yours – just be Raazi and sign it…

Naomi Datta is a film buff and tweets at nowme_datta. The views expressed are author’s own.

Also Read: Meet Alia The Spy In Meghna Gulzar’s ‘Raazi’

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