The Deepika Padukone starrer Chhapaak may have collected around Rs 24 crore in four days. But when the film opened at less than Rs 5 crore on day 1 for an actress considered the biggest A-lister in the country, question marks were raised yet again about the ability of actresses to draw audiences.
Most women-centric films in Bollywood, with no big heroes or makers, are not raking in the shekels. One wonders if heroines have not cultivated a fan base beyond social media!
While there have been films like Tanu Weds Manu Returns or Raazi which crossed the Rs 8 crore opening day barrier, the last 12 months have only seen Kangana Ranaut’s Manikarnika getting an opening over Rs 5 crore. Other films which were driven by big female stars — Rani Mukerji in Mardaani 2 or Priyanka Chopra in The Sky is Pink — we are not including the Taapsee Pannus and Bhumi Pednekars in this list — have not crossed the milestone on the opening day. Mardaani 2 went on to do well, but the same cannot be said for the movies of other female stars.
Kangana Ranaut defends the women, though. “Women-oriented films are niche. The literacy rate in India is low There is a kind of educated audience that comes in for niche subjects. Few people have the concentration span to sit through a film of this type. You cannot dub them as ‘small openings.’ These films cannot be compared with typical masala Bollywood films or films that have cultivated a huge fan base. Since the concept will have limited appeal even if you put big male stars in it, it will still not get large openings,” says the actress whose last release, Judgementall Hai Kya, also had a low-key opening compared to her Manikarnika and Tanu Weds Manu Returns.
Atul Mohan, editor, Complete Cinema, feels that niche films such as women-oriented movies on complex issues and unique concepts should be released at the ‘right’ time and not on a crowded Friday. “Had the makers of Chhapaak pushed the release by a week, following Deepika’s JNU visit, the film would have had time to grow, since Deepika was in the news. While I am not questioning why Deepika went to JNU, once you put an item to fry in oil, it takes time to cook. You cannot have a superficial activity and hope for it to bear results quickly,” he feels.
While the male stars have openings crossing Rs 10-15 crores at times — and even over Rs 40 and 50 (crore) in the recent past — Kangana feels female actresses haven’t worked hard to cultivate audiences.
“Women films are made on smaller budgets because no woman star except I have directly connected with the audience, which is why a Tanu Weds Manu Returns 2 happened, and a Manikarnika could afford a budget of Rs 70 crore. Women here don’t have their own audience. That is the reason why they opt for big heroes or big directors. They haven’t cultivated their own audience and will only be able to afford small, niche concepts. When they work on this, even they can do a Manikarnika, Thalaivi or Dhakkad with higher budgets and no big heroes,” concludes Kangana.