Both 2018 and 2017 proved to be a strong year for the leading ladies in the film business. And 2019 too has started on a strong note for this genre.
Kangana Ranaut-starrer Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi has minted Rs 75 crore in 10 days, a rare achievement for a woman-centric film in Bollywood.
But then, its success also cements a paradigm shift that the industry has been witnessing in the last few years.
The period drama's performance reflects the change the movie market is going through. The film is not only fronted by a woman but also directed leading lady Kangana.
Manikarnika has also joined the list of highest openers for a female-driven film.
Both 2017 and 2018 proved to be strong years for leading ladies in the film business. And 2019, too, has started on a strong note for this genre.
Film experts say over the last few years, women have made noticeable strides in the Indian entertainment industry.
In an earlier interview to Moneycontrol, Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar had said in the last three years, directors, producers, artists and professionals in the sector have pushed the envelope to create gender-equal cinema. Plus, their cinema has also been appreciated and commercially rewarded.
Manikarnika’s success also reiterates what Ranaut had once said in an interview: Women-centric films have become mainstream.
In 2017, some of the prominent female-centric movies included Naam Shabana, Lipstick Under My Burkha, Secret Superstar and Tumhari Sulu.
The trend continued a year later, with the release of Padmaavat, Hichki, Veere Di Wedding, Raazi, Bhaagmathie and Mahanati in 2018.
Many of these movies saw box office success too.
While Padmaavat made Rs 300 crore, Raazi clocked Rs 122 crore and Veere Di wedding did business worth Rs 80 crore.
It's all about content
However, film trade analyst Joginder Tuteja has a different point of view. “My key point is good film vs bad film. There was a big male-centric film Zero with Shah Rukh Khan, then there was Thugs of Hindostan with Aamir Khan and Amitabh Bachchan and Salman Khan and Anil Kapoor’s Race 3. You saw what happened to those films. So, Manikarnika is going as per the merits. A film will do well with the right kind of content. It’s a good movie which will get a business of around Rs 80-100 crore.”
Elucidating this point further, there were as many as 12 films with female-driven stories in 2017. But not all worked. Rangoon, starring Kangana Ranaut in the lead, bombed at the BO. The movie collected only Rs 28.82 crore with a big budget of Rs 61 crore.
This signals that along with strong female-centric roles, quality content also matters to the audience.
“People are interested in either big screen entertainment or ideas that are really interesting to watch. In case of Manikarnika, people will think it is a big film. For example, Uri is a battle drama and hence people would want to watch that on the big screen. So, people have moved to this point that if the subject is good, they will definitely go watch the movie,” added Tuteja.
While the last three years have been an indicator of change for women in the film and it looks like 2019 might follow in their footsteps, experts say now is not the time to be satisfied but instead take focused measures.Films like Shakeela, based on the life of a female superstar of Malayalam films, Womaniya starring Taapsee Pannu, the Saina Nehwal biopic and Gul Makai, based on the life of Malala Yousafzai, are scheduled for release in 2019.