It started in 2011
The Dirty Picture has hit pay dirt; and its elated leading lady Vidya Balan enthuses, "Fifty years ago, Meena Kumari, Nargis and Nutan played characters of substance. We are returning to those times."
If 7 Khoon Maaf hadn't bled red all over the box-office balance sheet, the credit for re-ushering heroine-dominated films would have gone to Priyanka Chopra, who turned the tide three years ago with Fashion. The movement has been surging and ebbing ever since. In 2011, Rani Mukerji and Balan anchored No One Killed Jessica and in Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Katrina Kaif was like a bride walking down the aisle, the cynosure of all eyes.
But it was Balan's take-no-prisoners performance in the year's most-talked about film, The Dirty Picture, that earned the heroine the epitaph of the Female Khan. Unlike a Chameli or a Corporate that wowed the critics but cowered at the box-office, The Dirty Picture is an all-round winner.
Balan's power has motivated others. Sonam Kapoor says, "It is not just about big heroes any more. It is easier now for girls to put their foot down and assert, 'This is the kind of role I want to do.'" A spirited Chopra agrees, "It's a great time for women in Bollywood."
Women have passed the litmus test of success. In 2012, it will be time for the Heroine (Kareena Kapoor plays the titular role in this Madhur Bhandarkar film) to tell her Kahaani (Balan will essay the protagonist in this Sujoy Ghosh thriller).
Big hit in 2012: Heroines Turn Heroes
I wanted to approach Vidya's character as The Dirty Picture's hero rather than its heroine. She does all the things that a man would -- she is ambitious, brazen, entertaining. I was convinced that the female audiences, and not the men, would make the film a blockbuster; and I was right. I think it takes immense courage to make a movie about a woman. Besides me, Naseer, Emraan, Tusshar and Rajat Aroraa allowed her to take the bit between her teeth. Men have to be gallant enough to allow the actress that privilege. It will, however, take time for heroine-centric films to become a trend, because men have big egos. Besides, there aren't many women who can pull off what Vidya has.
-- Milan Luthria, director, The Dirty Picture