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When woman power stormed Bollywood

Sushmita Dutta

Hold on tightly to your thrones Khans, Kapoors, Johars and Chopras - you could be toppled very soon. Look very closely. It’s the ‘power-puff’ girls who are marching ahead with a resilient force to take over the reins of Bollywood in their own hands. The ladies are storming the bastions of men – a pure showcase of talent, acting prowess, great body of work and to top it up, excellent money spinners at the box office.

2011 was the year of revelation for Bollywood. It seemed to be awestruck by the lady brigade which seemed to possess a kind of midas touch. They were producing, directing and acting in movies with storylines as their hero, with little care for norms (showing bold scenes, mouthing expletives) and were rewarded with huge love and adulation. They are continuing with their good streak in 2012 also.

Gimme more…Balan

The biggest bombshell to explode this year from the female closet was without any doubt Vidya Balan. The demure girl of ‘Hum Paanch’ and the music album of ‘Euphoria’ has tread a long and arduous journey to make it to the top. Dubbed once as someone who could not act, was not nice looking and had a bad dress sense, she has made the nation salivate over her curves. She was once thrown out of a South Indian movie due to these reasons. But in a single stroke she has decimated all her critics. A role of a real life portrayal of a voluptuous siren from the southern movies was played by Vidya with great aplomb. She walked effortlessly into the role of Silk in the movie ‘The Dirty Picture’ and into everyone’s hearts. She gained an extra 12 kilos to fit into the role and had no qualms in flaunting the women in her before the world. Yes, her character in the movie did ooze oomph and sexuality, but in no frame did she appear vulgar - rather she looked classy. No other heroine has possibly traversed such a curvaceous path to glory. Vidya had the belief that she could pull off the role with ease and she did just that.

2011 began for Balan with another real life portrayal of the character of Sabrina Lall in ‘No One Killed Jessica’. A quiet yet powerful role and she excelled in that too. A journey that had begun with the portrayal of a coy bong beauty in ‘Parineeta’ unraveled over the years to reveal the layers of hidden talent beneath. With Ishqiya and Paa, she further wooed the critics as far as her acting talent was concerned. She has bagged three black ladies (Filmfare Awards) for best actress in the last three years. But the icing on the cake was definitely one of the most prestigious awards in the country, the National Awards which the maverick Balan received for ‘The Dirty Picture’. No wonder she was choked with emotion on hearing the news. Need we say more about her histrionics? Just when people were wondering what next she again enthralled the audience with her performance as a seven months pregnant lady in her latest venture ‘Kahaani’. In a movie with no recognizable face and no star quotient, she managed to carry the movie on her shoulders. This is a testimony of the artistes’ rare talent and versatility. Vidya has proved that a good story is all that is required to make a movie work and not big names or big stars.

The Ekta enigma

If Vidya was the revelation of 2011, Ekta Kapoor was the punch that the industry needed. It is a coincidence that both the ladies started their career with the same TV series ‘Hum Paanch’ and reached the zenith with the same movie ‘The Dirty Picture’. After ruling the hearts of many with her saas-bahu stories for over a decade, with massive runaway success like ‘Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki’, ‘Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’, Kasauti Zzindagi Ki’ etc, Ekta decided to divert her attention to the world of movies. The trinity of the above three soaps had already crowned her as the undisputed queen of TV soap operas.

Nonetheless she did not rest on her laurels but fearlessly entered the male-dominated world of Indian film industry and emerged as a producer to reckon with. She took a detour and reinvented herself with a host of ‘hatke’ movies. Year 2010 saw her in a new avatar when she produced an out the league movie ‘Love, Sex Aur Dhokha’ - a refreshing and innovative way of making movies. She followed it with the blockbuster ‘Once Upon a Time in Mumbai’. But it was in 2011 that she went all out and stamped her authority over Indian cinema. She began the year with a horror story ‘Ragini MMS’ and followed it with another wonderful movie in ‘Shor in the City’. And she ended the year with the much talked about ‘The Dirty Picture’ – a movie which propelled her as a top producer who had the guts and the intelligence to make the kind of movies she believed in. And yes she was also making pots of money in the process. Everyone was forced to sit up and take note of the arrival of Ekta Kapoor – the formidable and competitive producer of Indian Cinema.

The Akhtar bloodline

An Indian movie based on a road trip? Many had thought it to be an absurd idea, one that just would not work. But people forgot that she had the Akhtar blood flowing in her veins. She dismissed all speculation and proved that if the story is told in the right manner, then everything else works. Yes, it is Zoya Akhtar we are talking about, daughter of the famed scriptwriter and lyricist Javed Akhtar and sister of the multi-talented Farhan Akhtar.

In 2011 she took a huge risk by making a movie about a road trip that three guys undertake in Spain. But she pulled it off and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ was one of last year’s biggest success. She and her team swept the Filmfare Awards by grabbing 7 trophies. Zoya has carved a niche for herself with this movie and now she is ready for a higher flight.

Zoya had started her foray into movies in 2009 with ‘Luck By Chance’ which had her brother Farhan, playing the main lead. The movie did not do too well but her talent was recognized by everyone.

The other women

There were others too who made their mark last year and told the world that women power was here to stay. Kiran Rao’s rendition of Mumbai in ‘Dhobi Ghat’ was a new and brave way of storytelling. It was more like going through a diary rather than watching a movie. Though the movie did not do too well at the box office, she was hailed by the critics.

Another woman who impressed the audience by her portrayal of a foul mouthed reporter was the fiery Rani Mukerji in ‘No One Killed Jessica’. At a time when she was being written off by everyone, she delivered a powerful performance as Meera and left everyone speechless with her acting prowess. And how can we forget Priyanka Chopra? She was in mood to be left behind. She enacted the role of a ruthless killer and seductress in Vishal Bharadwaj’s ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’, leaving everyone wondering as to how she could be so realistic and convincing.

The year ended with a whiff of fresh air with a newbie who albeit in a small role succeeded in impressing everyone and walked away with the best debut female at all awards function. She is Parineeti Chopra – Priyanka Chopra’s cousin. In the movie ‘Ladies vs Ricky Bahl’, she managed to hold on her own against Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma. No wonder she is being considered as the next big thing in Bollywood.

The coming of age of female actors and the female cine makers was only a matter of time. Gender roles are getting redefined and women are competing with men on equal footing. This is a very welcome and refreshing change. With the kind of movies these females are dishing out, one can only say - we love it!