Actor Taapsee Pannu has laid the male supremacy, which decides dynamics both on and off screen in Bollywood, bare with her recent comments on how her film Badla was said to be more of an Amitabh Bachchan film than hers. Despite having an equal footing in the story and more scenes in the film, Bachchan was given more credit when the film released. Pannu isn’t the only woman whose share of acclaim got cornered by male star power. In another film released this year, which was ironically touted to champion women empowerment, one male superstar managed to overshadow as many as five talented women actors. Pannu was one of them as well, another being Vidya Balan. But then is it Bollywood’s fault entirely? What role do we as an audience play, if a woman actor doesn’t get due credit for her hard work?
- Taapsee Pannu has said that Badla was touted to be an Amitabh Bachchan film, despite her having an equal role as his.
- Is Bollywood entirely at fault when women’s hard work gets overshadowed by male star power?
- What role do we as an audience play, when a female actor doesn’t get her due?
- Pannu shouldn’t have to ask for acknowledgment, and yet it seems that the only chance women have to shine is when they are in the company of less popular male co-stars.
When I raise my voice and say I’ve done almost equal if not more, that’s when people recognised and started taking my name because it’s such a male-dominated industry, they don’t even realise that I might have done more work actually. – Taapsee Pannu
Appearing on Neha Dhupia’s chat show Pannu said, “Even when I do films like Badla, I had more working days or scenes so to say than Mr. Bachchan. He was the hero of the film, I was the antagonist. But the antagonist has more presence in the film than the protagonist. But eventually the film releases, they call it an Amitabh Bachchan film.” She also added that it was only when she raised her voice to say that she had put in an equal amount of work, did people acknowledged it. “Yes, when I raise my voice and say I’ve done almost equal if not more, that’s when people recognised and started taking my name because it’s such a male-dominated industry, they don’t even realise that I might have done more work actually. It was called Sir’s film, it won’t be called a female film regardless of the fact that I have more scenes. It will be called an Amitabh Bachchan film and the credit will go there.”
Pannu is not in the wrong to feel dejected for not receiving her due, especially since Badla went on to do well and she had a role practically opposite to Bachchan. Pannu’s performance is at par with the stalwart actor, although in my opinion, she wasn’t the antagonist but an anti-hero(ine) of sorts. It is not easy to match pace with someone the reputation of Bachchan and perhaps that is why it hurts more, that a hard working woman didn’t get credit despite being good at her job. The fault though doesn’t lie with makers, who gave Pannu an equal footing in both posters and trailers of the film, unlike a certain Mission Mangal. Neither does it lie with Bachchan, for his level of stardom is almost legendary. However, one wonders if he would have gotten more credit than his co-star, had there been a male actor opposite him in the film, such as Ranbir Kapoor, Kartik Aaryan or Vicky Kaushal? Would Badla still have been a Bachchan film largely?
Being a male-dominated society, it comes naturally to the audience to associate success with men. Thus the credit for any film’s success automatically finds its way to male actors first, unless the leading lady is much more popular than her male co-star.
Let us be clear here, this isn’t about acting prowess but the audience’s leaning towards male stardom, which neglects women’s hard work. A woman shouldn’t have to raise her voice to get her due. However even when she does, she is called loud, an attention seeker, or overconfident. Yes, Bachchan is in a league of his own when it comes to acting, but certainly any actor who works hard to match his levels and has an equal screen presence needs to be applauded. Pannu isn’t one of those actors who needs to prove her mettle, as she has long done that. However being a male-dominated society, it comes naturally to the audience to associate success with men. Thus the credit for any film’s success automatically finds its way to male actors first, unless the woman actor is much more popular than her leading man. Case in point being films like Queen and Tumhari Sulu which rested solely on shoulders of their able women leads.
So, does it mean that women actors can only flourish when there are no bigger male stars in their company? Must they have to either take risks with films that depend on them, or sacrifice appreciation for their work, for sure shot hits? The only thing these women need to do is to take a cue from Pannu and keep questioning the bias that they experience. While many filmmakers are doing their bit to showcase women actors’ potential, it is up to us the audience to recognise and appreciate it. We have all been through that feeling of not being appreciated, of being let down by the same people for whom we work. Lets us not put our talented women stars through that. They have earned their credit and it is high time we gave it to them.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.