2019 is steadily pacing towards a climax. In retrospect, women shattering stereotypes is so yesterday, as we stand at the end of this decade. Make way for the bold and beautiful bunch of actresses who took down the patriarchal order in Bollywood, one Friday at a time. Kissing taboos and stereotypes a sweet goodbye, the modern day heroine sets the screen ablaze in roles custom-made for her. Tailor-cut characters wasn’t a liberty or a privilege enjoyed by the majority of the actresses in the contemporary era. Pushing the envelope, taking matters into their own hands, actresses today shoulder a film to the coveted 100-crore club and awards shows, all by themselves. Becoming agents of the much needed change, the female actors in the current times refuse to step down: my way or the highway!
Films released in the latter half of the decade saw actresses free themselves from the shackles of ‘image consciousness.’ Gone are the days when a heroine would give an arm or a leg to wear a chiffon saree and dance around a hero amid snow-clad mountains. Not the ones to wait for a knight-in-shining-armour, actresses today are all about breaking the bad. The mere thought of singing and dancing, adding ‘beauty’ to celluloid is not okay with them. Sit up and take note, s**t just got real. Bollywood is betting hard and high on women-centric cinema, focusing on novelty. In fact, it would be safe to assume that an Alia Bhatt or Taapsee Pannu or Radhika Apte are spoilt for choice because the opportunities and offers are overflowing. Patriarchy has taken a hit and how. The glass ceiling is coming down as Bollywood beauties lead the revolution for equality.
Alia is only 26 and already boasts of path-breaking performances in her career kitty. Her chops have been equated to the likes of acting stalwarts Meena Kumari and Nargis, amongst others. If Raazi saw her pull off the role of a Kashmiri RAW agent with great panache, Safeena from Gully Boy was fire! All of her past performances including Udta Punjab, Kalank and others have only cemented her position as the box office golden girl. But the Bhatt scion ain’t no solitary reaper, she is joined by other baton-holders including Bhumi Pednekar, Taapsee Pannu, Swara Bhaskar, Kubbra Sait and many more.
Bhumi belted out a hat-trick with three back-to-back super hit releases – Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015), Toilet: Ek Prem Katha (2017) and Shubh Mangal Savdhaan (2017). It is mention worthy that nearly all of the releases have been centered around a social taboo or stereotype. In her debut film, her character dealt with body-shaming while open defecation and cleanliness was the theme that ran through her film opposite Akshay Kumar. Shubh Mangal Savdhaan saw her as the wife of Ayushmann Khurrana aka Mudit Sharma who suffers from erectile dysfunction. Even her 2019 outings – Sonchiriya and Saand ki Aankh saw her feature in offbeat roles.
With Naam Shabana, Manmarziyaan, Mulk, Badla, etc under her belt, Taapsee Pannu is the ultimate millennial icon. The Delhi girl has a reputation of dishing out powerful portrayals in strong story lines. With her sorry-not-sorry and call-spade-a-spade attitude, Taapsee often enjoys a moment or two with the media and on social media for taking down trolls like a boss. Joining her in dominating headlines for shutting up keyboard warriors is Swara Bhaskar. Be it wearing a certain outfit or her masturbating scene from Veere Di Wedding, the ‘think tank’ has always stood up to blatant sexism and trolling.
The breaking of the mould, however, can be credited to Vidya Balan (The Dirty Picture and Kahaani) and Kangana Ranaut (Tanu Weds Manu, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Queen) who single-handedly carried the film to commercial and critical success. Notably, change seeped in early with Priyanka Chopra playing a sexual offender in Aitraaz, Anushka Sharma turning producer with NH10, Huma Qureshi not succumbing to the quintessential Bollywood actress check-list, and so on and so forth.
Filmmaker Sonam Nair feels it is important for a female character to have layers. “The idea is to show women as they are. I don’t know what are these women they show on the screens these days, who are these? Even in a full male cast, if I cast a female, I will make sure she is not out of place or a generic character. She has to have layers,” she told us. Aahana Kumra, who has always been unconventional with her choice of characters, feels grateful for being able to play roles she can relate to. “These offers come to me. Thankfully, these people have seen me around. I have grown up in Lucknow. I grew up in a society where I saw a girl like the character that I played in Rangbaaz. When I was playing Leela in Lipstick Under My Burkha, my relationship with my parlour wali is great so I took inspiration from her. And my mother is a cop so when I played a cop I took inspiration from my mum, I grew up in a station. My mother was the in-charge of Hazratganj police station. Thankfully whatever characters I have played, I have seen those people around me. I have been able to draw inspiration from them. And I definitely have promised myself that I don’t want to repeat characters. Most definitely, I don’t want to repeat characters.”
Females are no longer cast to titillate the audience. Even with nudity and intimate scenes not undergoing censorship on the web, women are no longer used as props to add to the ‘pleasure.’ Things have changed, tables have turned. If you are not going to offer equal pay or screen space to an actress, most of the A-list heroines today are bankrolling their own films. The shift has been pronounced. It’s time you step up or step aside.
What are your views about the female actors breaking the glass-ceiling in Bollywood? Share your thoughts with us in the comments box below.
In the meantime, catch Ranveer Singh and Sara Ali Khan’s latest blockbuster Simmba on ZEE5 now!