Films with female heroes are facing rough weather at the boxoffice this year.After the unexpected underperformance of Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s Panga, both high-end calibre-conscious products featuring A-list heroines Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut in the lead , another outstanding film Thappad with a female hero opened to collections as low as 10 percent in some sectors, thereby putting a question mark on the female-hero genre.
Thappad director Anubhav Sinha says he is not overly bothered by the poor opening. “Unlike my last two films Mulk and Article 15, Thappad is not based on a burning socio-political issues.In fact many men and women in the audience think a woman leaving her husband for a slap is a non-issue. Thappad is a film that has to create its audience.”
While Thappad generates its own audience, all eyes are now on the two major forthcoming films with female heroes. In the Hindi-Tamil-Telugu tri-lingual Thalaivi, Kangana Ranaut plays the formidable Southern political leader Jayalalitha. After the well-received Manikarnika last year this is Kangana’s second bio-pic ,and she is leaving no stone unturned to make sure she is accepted by the audience as Jayalalitha.
Kanagana’s latest look as Jayalalitha in Thalaivi has evinced wows among her fans, Thalaivi producer Shailesh R Singh says, “All credit for Kangana’s resemblance to Jayalalithaji must go to Kangana.We wanted to use prosthetics. But she insisted on putting on weight and making the character as real as possible. What we see in the picture is the real Kangana without prosthetics.”
With her last two films Judgemental Hai Kya in 2019 and Panga in 2020 underperforming at the boxoffice Kangana needs a hit to consolidate her position as a boxoffice-friendly female hero.
Alia Bhatt too has had successes in author-backed roles. In Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Gangubai Kathiawadi she is cast as a real-life gangster. And there lies the problem. Apart from the fact that female-centric films are not doing well in 2020 the other stress-point is that audiences tend to reject films where women play criminals. Shradha Kapoor as a female gangster was a disaster in Apoorva Lakhia’s Haseena Parkar. Even Shabana Azmi’s National award-winning performance as a criminal-politician in Godmother didn’t set the boxoffice on fire. Deepika Padukone’s gangster drama Sapna Didi to be directed by Vishal Bhardwaj was shelved last year.
With films featuring woman at the helm doing poorly at the boxoffice , it will be interesting to see which way Kangana and Alia’s power-play goes.