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Wrapup: How women-centric films fared in 2016

Sonam Kapoor's Neerja has been a big booster for female-centric films this year. 

Keyur Seta

Over the last few years, a positive gender equality change has been observed in mainstream Hindi cinema. Gone are the days when the main protagonist had to be a male. In the last 4-5 years, more and more films are being made where the story revolves around a female character. Some of the popular names in this genre of films include Kahaani (2012), Queen (2014), The Dirty Picture (2011), etc. 

As expected, 2016 also saw a good number of women-centric films. As many as nine such films hit the theatres this year: Sonam Kapoor’s Neerja, Priyanka Chopra’s Jai Gangaajal, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s Sarbjit, Swara Bhaskar’s Nil Battey Sannata, Radhika Apte’s Phobia, Radhika, Tannishtha Chatterjee and Surveen Chawla’s Parched, Sonakshi Sinha's Akira, Taapsee Pannu’s Pink, Diana Penty’s Happy Bhag Jayegi and Vidya Balan’s Kahaani 2. 

Unfortunately, very few of these films have tasted success this year, as compared to previous years. Neerja and Pink are the only runaway hits. Parched, Nil Battey Sannata and Phobia received immense critical acclaim, while Happy Bhag Jayegi and Akira fared in the decent and average categories respectively, as far as box-office numbers are concerned. 

However, trade analyst Amul Mohan believes the year hasn’t been that bad for this genre. “This was a genre not touched in India for a long time. Barring Kahaani 2, these films haven’t faced big losses.” The failure of Kahaani 2 comes as a big surprise because even almost five years after its release, Kahaani (2012), remains one of the biggest hits as far as female-centric films are concerned. 

Despite this and few other failures, Mohan believes the situation isn’t that bad. “Happy Bhag Jayegi did decent business. Neel Battey Sannata didn’t earn that well. But it did receive praises,” he added.

Veteran film critic Bhavna Somaiya doesn’t feel the trend of women-centric films is new. “The trend has been there since time immemorial. In the 1980s, the parallel cinema was championed by women. That was a phase when Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil and Deepti Naval were in the making. Filmmakers like Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Basu Chatterjee and Basu Bhattacharya were supporting women-based films. Even when a man was the protagonist, cinema has always taken issues on behalf of the women. What has now changed is the portrayal, identity and message of women,” she said.

Mohan believes that some of these films suffered from high spending, like few other films. “For example, considering there was no big hero in Akira and only Sonakshi Sinha as the lead, the film earned Rs34-35 crore, which is decent. The budget was wrong in that film. If the budget was right, the film would have been successful. It would have been a safer bet,” he added.  

He also feels filmmakers shouldn’t get disheartened when trying out this genre in the coming year. “Such films will keep coming regularly in the future. It’s a great zone to make the correct film, otherwise it becomes difficult,” he signed off. 

Somaiya echoes the same sentiment. “One day, there will be more films being made on women. There have been times when these movies have worked. There have been times when they haven’t. But that doesn’t mean there is no audience for it,” she added.

The genre indeed will be explored more in 2017 in the form of Veere Di Wedding, Begum Jaan, Running Shaadi.com, Naam Shabana, Haseena - The Queen Of Mumbai, etc.