Friday, January 13, 2012

2012: The year of the heroine as 'hero'!

Yet another Marathon is upon us. But I sense a chill in the air. and it has little to do with the mercury being substantially lower than is normal at this time of the year. Like with most 'events', Mumbai once again displayed how fickle-minded it is. The Mumbai Marathon has lost its original glam quotient and the 'kya kool hai hum' set has moved on to other thrills. No matter, the act of giving has not been totally forgotten. Though, I do find it strange that after so much effort and bandobast, all this super rich city can contribute is a measly 12.5 crores to various causes. That is chicken feed! But at least our Sealink will get its due footage. And Milind Soman will once again demonstrate his awesome fitness levels. Now we know what exactly Bipasha finds attractive in her boyfriends, past, present and future... stamina.
Bhago , Mumbai, Bhago!!!

This appeared in Hi! Blitz!

2011: The Year of the ‘Heroine’ as ‘Hero’….?

“Vidya Balan is the real hero in Bollywood.” The first time I read that remark, I seriously thought it came from a bitchy rival. This was just after critics had finished going gaga over ‘Dirty Vidya’ and the impressive box office figures of her latest movie had started to come in. But no! It was a genuine, if back- handed compliment from an industry source and seen in the right context, it also made perfect sense. Vidya carried ‘Dirty Picture’ on her hefty shoulders, all by herself. When was the last time a Bollywood heroine managed such a feat? Even the multi-faceted Priyanka Chopra delivered a dud with ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’. And she had seven men to prop up the film. Vidya had a senior citizen ( Naseeruddin Shah doing a brilliant take off on Sivaji Ganesan) as a co-star. I am not counting Emraan Hashmi ( blink and he was gone!). It was Vidya’s show all the way.Ekta Kapoor and Milan Luthria had conspired brilliantly to get the maximum mileage out of their co-operative heroine. Maximum exposure , too. And Vidya, clever girl that she undoubtedly is, went along gamely, perhaps realizing that this would be her unchallenged hour of triumph. And such a woman-centric film would possibly not come her way again. It was a brave call to take for all three. For, had it backfired, not only would Ekta have lost money, but Milan and Vidya would have lost face. And perhaps, a rosy future in Bollywood, too.
Whatever happened to woman-oriented movies like ‘Sujata’, ‘Bandini’, ‘Charulata’,
“Seeta aur Geeta’ ‘Bandit Queen’ ? Considering the vintage of those classics, it is fair to say, we have moved several steps backwards in Bollywood. This is ironical, given all the big talk about women’s empowerment and how lucky we are to be living in this day and age in which women are calling the shots. If that truly was the reality, why would we be celebrating the success of a solitary film that revolves around a Southern porn-star named Silk, who’s the central character of ‘Dirty Picture’?Why would we be making such a big deal out of Vidya – undoubtedly, a superb actress ? Are we desperately searching for the next Smita Patil? Or even the next Tabu? That is the opinion of a top female star I got chatting with right after the success of ‘Dirty Picture’. Said this luscious star somewhat tartly, “Well… Vidya had nothing to lose. But those of us who are in the big league would never touch such a role.” I asked her to name the others she considers her big league equals and she giggled, “You know… all of us… Katrina, Priyanka, Bebo, Aishwarya.” And that puts Vidya…. errr, exactly where? The actress paused before saying sweetly, “Vidya is not a star. She maybe looking to become the next Tabu. Matlab, a thinking actress. We prefer to be stars and divas.That’s the only way to grab all the top endorsements.” Aha – so, that’s what it is. Career decisions are no longer about scripts and roles. They are about the ads that follow a commercial hit. Fair enough. It is the girls stuck in between who are finding the going tough – girls like Kangana, Sonakshi, Anoushka, who are neither here nor there, but latko-ing in between. I remember running into Kangana at a really posh event, where she was looking rather lost even though she was dressed by a top designer brand. She looked around boredly and commented, “I look so much better than some of the actresses who bag big brands. Why do you think those people don’t approach me?” I summoned a top photographer and asked him to explain. After all, he was the one who recommended stars to those international brands. He told Kangana bluntly that her image was all wrong! I was taken back. What was so wrong about it? Before it got more detailed, I changed the subject. What if this happens to Vidya? Her film is a huge hit, and the producers are over the moon , but Vidya’s uninhibited performance ( with all that tongue rolling, lip biting, jiggling and wiggling), is likely to impact her positioning. It will be interesting to monitor how it goes from here. Either, she could zoom to the top of the heap and take on all those smug and snooty actresses on her own terms, or be happy doing the odd strong role that showcases her talent and allows her to shine. But the more important question is: how will Vidya cope with our top heroes with their fragile egoes? Which one of them will have the himmat to act opposite her and risk being overshadowed? Frankly, I cannot think of even one. Is Vidya the Meryl Streep of India? A fearless actress who goes where others refuse to tread? Streep is likely to walk away with the most prestigious acting awards for her portrayal as Maggie Thatcher in ‘The Lady’. Balan as Silk will certainly be the top contender here in India . But which award will she walk away with – Best Heroine? Or, Best Hero?? Watch out, everyone!


Anonymous said...

Best Actress Award for sure if not Best Heroine. Anyways, a Question:
How many actors have done negative/middle age man roles despite giving super hit as Hero during early prime time of their career? Very few. Likewise Vidya is the one who believes - Different.
Heroine lambi race ki - correct?
Re.: Ekta
100% filmy.

चंद्रमौलेश्वर प्रसाद said...

....but is this the way to show talent!!!!! What fall my country-women... from Bandini to Dirty picture!!!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Arrey this is Vidya's first film hit as a solo act. The choice of subject was tittilating enough to the desi audiences that the movie would have got a first rush if eyeballs... enough to ensure atleast a moderate hit. Woh to hona hi tha!

The publicity machine worked overtime and Vidya was a willing participant in the selling of the film. If Vidya slipped into the role easily, that was a double bonus. So she can act. Good! Kudos to Vidya for selecting the right role.

It remains to be seen if she can carry any other solo act films on her shoulders. Doing it once is easy, twice is hard and thrice is very iffy for Hindi Cinema.

Once she does she will be typecast as a Tabu type and told to wear Khadi saris and a pony tail and play a harrased housewife or an aanganwadi worker.

To be honest, type casting is not a bad thing at all. It ensures work. I mean there is always a slot for a harrassed housewife or a corrupt khadi wearing woman politician or a fiery village woman... no? I am not being snarky at all. It is a good thing all around. Tabu and Smita Patil, understood this and worked clever careers around this typecasting. Perhaps Vidya will too, or perhaps she will be able to be chameleon like and have both careers glamorous and ones that need read acting chops. I dont think any actress in Bollywood in the last 4 decades has been able play both sides of the fence.

In any case calling Vidya a Khan is premature. She is Vidya Balan and if she is smart one she will continue being a Balan and try and straddle both fences where she does not have to carry every single film.

The photographer was right. The Image is all. Endorsement magnet Heroine types - all have one thing in common. The type of men they are seen with in public.

All these Heroine types, either have an international crown on their head or a seemingly well bred man on their arm (though I have to say Beauty crowns have lost their tarnish now, so Priyanka get yourself a society man or a minor princeling or something, to stay current. Katrina is ok, she is a gori afterall... no man required all the time, her firangipan works well enough, no acting skills required either).

Desi society is still paternalistic and men centric enough that - the type of man that a woman is seen with - stamps which rung of society she is categorised in... aka that ill used term "class". Her appeal to an aspirational buying public is based on this class thing. Oh well.

So Kangana quit being seen with regular guys and snag yourself a man who is seen in newspaper photographs sometimes but never written about except in terms of how much money he makes and who his grandfather is. Endorsements will come rolling in.

Okay my lesson for a "bollywood business plan for attracting endorsements" is now over and I will go back to being a regular gal with no endorsement appeal at all :)

Unknown said...

Meryl Streep played as 'Maggie Thatcher' in the 'The Iron Lady' and not 'The Lady'. While, 'The Lady' is story based on 'Aung San Suu Kyi'.

Anil Kumar said...

(“A gal’s gotta do what a gal’s gotta do”)

Shobhaji a better way would be to say "a bitch gotta do what a bitch does best".

Just wait for the mating season for dogs and you will find various stray dogs following a poor bitch and almost all of them trying to reproduce with her at the same time - right on street, in broad daylight.

I think you call this behaviour as bold in bollywood...Wonderful.

Desi Babu said...

All the best to the Bombay-wallahs for their bhago-festival.

Sure, an anti corruption movement to save the country cannot bring you out in large numbers, but a marathon with film stars and models probably can. Bombay, you are truly enlightened!

And oh, make sure that you put a halo around the head of the guy who would issue a fatwa on me for not calling your city Mumbai. If you can get him to run with you - Jhakaas!

venkat gaddam said...

I think VB has done an amazing job with the handling of her career. And i also hope she continues doign so considering the capability she's. Balan has managed to create a niche for herself. shes def not in the top conventional slot of heroines- true,but tis not like she ever aimed to be one. Look at her career, it ranges from a fantastic performance in Parineeta to a Munnabhai to a Paa, Ishqiya, NOKJ and TDP. I think she offers variety which people like viewing. ill be happy to see her is such films which are definetely entertaining not too art-housey but not too cliched and seen-that-already kinds.
Shes not a Tabu! Tabu's fab but her career and the time around which she acted is different from Vidya's.
i comprehend what you've say about other actresses- anushka, etc who're just there grabbing whatever they can but they need to create an image for themselves firstly by their selection of films, in terms of the clothes they wear and CONTACTS. so its a mix of it all.

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Subhorup Dasgupta said...

The previous post and this one both point out the direction in which gender sensitivity is being guided by the moral spin doctors of our times. Both are steps towards liberating the Indian woman from the shackles of inequity but they are either very cautious steps or steps backward, since they manage to sneak past the male supremacy watchdogs within each one of us with a familiar wave of the hand rather than cheekiness.

Here is a post that looks at Dirty Picture, Sunny Leone, and Crimes Against Women: The Real Dirt. Do take a look !