Early this year, audiences got to see not one but two strong female stories incidentally directed by two talented female filmmakers - Chhapaak by Meghna Gulzar and Panga by Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari. While both the films starring two top actresses Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut have not done great business at the box office, they have been praised not only for their performances and direction but also for bringing such powerful and inspiring stories to the audience.
For a long period of time, filmmakers were stuck to the formula of male-masala films; however, over the past few years the trend has definitely changed. Many big and intelligent filmmakers are showing courage by backing these interesting stories. This year is going to be special for female actors because nearly every month we will get to see one film which will narrate a story of a female protagonist.
So, can one presume that the industry has evolved as many filmmakers are now ready to take a risk instead of backing only male oriented films?
Trade expert Taran Adarsh muses, “This is not a new trend but yes, this year will have many female centric stories. Irrespective of box office outcome, I think these stories need to be told. Our women in Hindi films and in real life are also very strong. Indian women are very strong. Today the mindset, of wanting to see films of heroes or masala films, has changed. We want to watch different stories. If you have a women protagonist, it definitely has an edge because other genres have been over exploited. Though this genre is not new, it has not been used to the optimum. We should tell stories with female protagonists; it is a very healthy thing.”
Adarsh believes the shift in thinking, which has come as a result of watching international content and digital cinema, has opened people to a variety in entertainment. “They are open to more stories be it male or female protagonist. Moreover, whatever you make, it should have the ability to be understood and digested by the common man.
”Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari minces no words as she declares, “I feel we should stop bifurcating films as female centric. We don’t tag male-led movies as ‘male centric’. Also it’s not about risk. Don’t put a woman down by saying she is a risk. It’s about the stories you want to tell - that is the risk. And that does not define male or female. Stop calling films as female stories!”
Filmmaker Onir has his doubts about just how improved the numbers are. “I am not sure if it is drastically more, if you see, the number of films made and the percentage of films with strong women characters. Actually there was a time when mainstream Hindi cinema had very powerful women roles even if the film was not so-called women centric.” He makes another pertinent point... “Male stars worked in those films unlike now. Female actors work in films which centre around men while we hardly ever see a star acting in a film with a stronger women role. We are a long long way from equal and fair gender representation.”
Making another valid point is writer Jyoti Kapoor, who says, “More than 1500 films are made in our country every year and 90 percent of them revolve around male protagonists. When these films don’t do well, no one asks these questions. Some films work and some do not. It has nothing to do with the gender of the protagonist. This is archaic mindset and totally illogical and we need to move away from it and continue to tell good, diverse stories. Producers are evolving and are backing good stories, whether they are driven by a male or a female protagonist.”