Mumbai, March 19 -- In male-dominated Bollywood, the ladies have surprisingly been at the top in the first quarter of 2014. With four women-centric releases - Dedh Ishqiya, Highway, Gulaab Gang and Queen - already having got critical acclaim and commercial success, we wonder if the year will see the Bollywood leading lady truly arrive.
News is out that Kangana Ranaut has replaced Vidya Balan in Sujoy Ghosh's next, Durga Rani Singh. She also has the soon-to-release Revolver Rani. Sonam Kapoor, too, is set to play a politician in a yet-untitled project to be produced by her father, Anil Kapoor.
Similarly, Priyanka Chopra is ready to play a boxer in the Mary Kom biopic, while Vidya Balan will turn detective in Bobby Jasoos. Anushka Sharma in NH10 and Rani Mukerji in Mardaani will also be seen portraying the central characters.
Woman on top
Ask trade experts, and they reckon that female-lead movies owe their success to the multiplex audiences. Trade analyst Vinod Mirani says, "Earlier, the target was just the single-screen masses, but now multiplex audiences don't mind such (women-oriented) movies. These films may not be blockbusters, but they do well." Trade analyst Taran Adarsh, however, says that people don't care so much about whether the protagonist is a man or a woman as long as the story works for them: "Viewers respect good content and execution. At the end of the day, that's what matters."
Taking a risk Producer Anubhav Sinha concedes that making a heroine-centric film involves some risk. He says, "The magnitude of marketing is different. If you go to Bhopal with Shah Rukh Khan, you draw a lakh-strong crowd. But with a heroine at the same place, you will probably attract 30,000 people. We are a hero-worshipping country and blatantly chauvinistic," he says.
However, director Vikas Bahl, whose latest release, Queen, is having a good run at the box-office, says he never chose to see the film from that angle: "I never thought of the film as woman-centric. The industry has been supportive, but what has really made me happy is the word-of-mouth publicity."
Not a formula
The female lead is far from a recipe for success, though. Kangana's film Rajjo (2013) flopped, and Kareena Kapoor Khan's Madhur Bhandarkar-directed Heroine (2012) didn't find many takers. What's changed, however, according to trade analyst Komal Nahta, is that now there's "a market for all kinds of films; therefore, the role of the heroine is changing in Bollywood".