Films with female heroes are facing rough weather at the box office this year. After the unexpected underperformance of Meghna Gulzar’s Chhapaak and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari’s Panga, Thappad opened to collections as low as 10 per cent in some sectors, thereby putting a question mark on the female-hero genre.
Director Anubhav Sinha says the poor opening does not overly bother him. “Unlike my last two films Mulk and Article 15, Thappad is not based on 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,” he asserts.
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 Jayalalithaa. This is Kangana’s second biopic, and she is leaving no stone unturned to make sure she does justice to the character. Producer Shailesh R Singh says, “All credit for Kangana’s resemblance to Jayalalithaaji must go to Kangana. We wanted to use prosthetics, but she insisted on putting on weight and making the character as real as possible.”
With her last two films Judgemental Hai Kya in 2019 and Panga in 2020 underperforming at the box office, Kangana needs a hit to consolidate her position as a box-office-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, wherein 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. Shraddha Kapoor as a female gangster was a disaster in Apoorva Lakhia’s Haseena Parkar. Even Shabana Azmi’s performance as a criminal-politician in Godmother didn’t set the box office on fire. Deepika Padukone’s gangster drama Sapna Didi, to be directed by Vishal Bhardwaj, was shelved last year.
With films featuring women at the helm doing poorly at the box office, it will be interesting to see which way Kangana and Alia’s power play goes.