Even when Bollywood makes movies about powerful women, there seems to be a need for a male presence to bolster the film’s box-office prospects.
The superstar’s prominent presence at the promotions of Mission Mangal, with its otherwise all-women star cast, reeks of Bollywood’s patriarchal mindset.
Mission Mangal, a fact-based film about a group of women scientists who are planning and executing a mission to Mars, which has the gorgeous line-up of lady actors — Tapsee Pannu, Vidya Balan, Kirti Kulhari and Sonakshi Sinha among others — has actor Akshay Kumar, hogging the maximum limelight when promoting the film! For an actor of his stature, the gallant thing to do would have been to let the ladies take centre stage and enjoy the company of their own gender. But no, Akshay was happy to have all the attention on himself. During media interactions too, the actor would butt in with his wisecracks and pranks. At one event, he literally fell off his chair as Sonakshi Sinha giggled helplessly, like a faithful heroine is supposed to when the mighty male superstar cracks a joke!
Akshay could have possibly opted out of the film’s publicity instead of hanging around constantly, distracting the women from having their say. At one media interaction, when Kirti Kulhari was answering a question, Akshay distracted the entire gathering by answering one of the journalists’ phones while his leading ladies giggled collectively.
Yet another interview saw the ladies of Mission Mangal being asked questions on how well they knew Akshay Kumar, followed by a prize for the one who got the most answers correct.
This kind of pampering of the ego is a prevalent practice in the patriarchal entertainment industry. But to see intelligent and savvy ladies like Vidya Balan and Tapsee Pannu getting hysterical over the hero’s juvenile pranks was surprising. In fact, one of the ladies of the film admitted in private that all the “hero-giri” was a bit stifling. “But it’s the way things are.
The male superstar’s face will be more prominent than ours on the poster because he will bring in the audience, not us. But hopefully, once the audience comes to see the film, they will appreciate the fact that Mission Mangal is not about the male superstar. It’s about us,” she says....