Alia Bhatt, Kangana Ranaut, Deepika Padukone, Shraddha Kapoor, Kriti Sanon, Parineeti Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Sonam Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Jacqueline Fernandez, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Bhoomi Pednekar, Vidya Balan. These are some of the most prominent and high profile actresses going around in the industry today and have made a mark with their acting and glamour. Indian cinema i.e. Bollywood often gets accused of being dominated by male actors and being patriarchal in structure and the only way your film can work is through big male stars and their presence.
India is the world’s largest democracy and women constitute around 50% of the population. But, sadly when we see Bollywood, there isn’t equal representation in terms of acting or wages. Bollywood actresses often get stereotyped and their roles aren’t meaty or powerful. The common excuse given for this is that they can’t carry a film on their shoulders and it’s a big risk to solely rely on actresses. In a way that is true as Indian masses are still not comfortable with the idea of an actress being in a lead role or playing the role of a protagonist.
Bollywood or Hindi film industry over the years has given fabulous actresses in Madhubala to Nargis to Rekha to Sridevi, so the argument of them not performing under pressure and not delivering commercially falls flat and many female-centric films have done well at the box-office. The current generation has Alia Bhatt (currently one of the most sought-after actress), Kangana Ranaut (three-time national award winner) and many more actresses, who have proved their mettle and class in the industry and are seriously good in their craft. Many acclaimed producers and directors don’t see heroines as performers but as objects, eye candy presence, divas and they use them only to attract eye balls and believe in the age-old practice of that only an actor or hero is good enough to bring in the audience and deliver a hit.
When you think of a successful film, you should ideally not consider gender and should rely on a concrete and full proof script and heroines should be given important and impactful roles. Many actresses do possess talent but suffer due to lack of powerful script, strong director and overall apathy from the industry. Like many male performers there are some mediocre and average female actors, but overall there is no dearth of talent or charisma.
Indian actresses, as opposed to their male counterparts, also have a shelf life (holy trinity of Khans are in their 50s and are still going strong) and once you get married or become a mother, your career invariably gets over and fans remember you as someone’s wife or fiancée and not for your performances or acting talent. The problem of getting a raw treatment is not an Indian one as worldwide actresses are still not given the same weight that would be given to a male artist.
Indian actresses have also been guilty of not standing up for their rights, when it comes to wages, equal treatment, and strong roles and for this to change; they (actresses) have to begin a change themselves and not be satisfied with some item song or dance number. Indian film industry is very big and diverse and for it to be commercially successful, it has to include both the sexes and talent is genderless. If this perception of dearth of talented actresses has to change, then it can only happen when we rely on quality and not quantity.