“Heroine-oriented” or “women-orientated” cinema is increasing its profile in Bollywood with a number of the most high-profile actresses at the top of their earning potential are choosing lead roles in films that would otherwise have been considered as of interest to only a niche audience, and perhaps only viable within the realms of parallel cinema as supposed to among more mainstream fare.
This includes the first “100 crore” plus grossing movie with a female protagonist releasing just last year, Kangana Ranaut’s “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”. This landmark in an industry dominated by the increasing box office returns of films led by a handful of male superstars (the “three Khans” paramount among these), sees a number of interesting debates arising both within and around these so-called “heroine-oriented” films – the term itself even causing significant controversy.
This blog will review and discuss releases in light of both their own artistic merit, themes discussed and explored within the films themselves, and within a wider context of women and girls’ rights within India, South Asia more widely and internationally, including the West.
An important disclaimer – I am not an Indian and a non-Hindi speaker, so this naturally leads to specific biases when watching these films and understanding and responding to them within a specific context. On the other hand, as a lover of Hindi cinema of many years now, but with also significant exposure to other countries’ and languages’ film making repertoire, I hope this provides a different perspective and some interesting insights. I am nevertheless grateful for any clarifications or additions from Indians and from Hindi speakers that I may have missed.