When was the last time an actress was the chief guest at a film event? You might have been hard-pressed to think of such an occasion till recently, but the situation is changing now.
With more women entering the industry, filmmakers are looking beyond star heroes and calling leading ladies to be the chief guests at various events.
When the makers of the film Adavallu Meeku Joharlu (Hail the women) announced that Keerthy Suresh and Sai Pallavi were the chief guests for their trailer launch, many were surprised. Although the family drama stars Rashmika Mandanna who has a pan-India presence, Keerthy and Sai Pallavi were chosen.
Explaining the decision, the film’s director Kishore Tirumala says the film celebrates womanhood and he chose the actresses as chief guests in keeping with the theme.
"Keerthy and Sai Pallavi have been setting great examples, not just with their roles on screen but also off-screen, with their demeanour and elegance," says Kishore, adding that women are calling the shots in reel and real life too.
Filmmaker Swpana Dutt who is bankrolling the Prabhas-Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Project K, (directed by Nag Ashwin), asks, "Aren’t women superstars when they are shouldering a film that’s worth Rs 40 crore?" People come to the theatres to watch these superstar women in action, she points out.
"Things are getting to a point where women are being recognised independently as stars," says Swapna, adding that when women superstars say something on a big platform (like a pre-release event) it means a lot.
Women @ work
Last year, Pooja Hegde hit the headlines when she was the chief guest at the pre-release event of the film Varudu Kavalenu. The actress admits that she was surprised to get the invite as it was very rare for women to be invited for such events.
"Although my body of work has gained respect, the gesture from Varudu Kavalenu makers shows how much they value women. I’m glad to see women being honoured and celebrated in the film industry," she says.
Over the last decade more women have been working in the industry. Neelima Guna, who is producing the Samantha-starrer Shakuntalam, says actresses headlining events is a welcome change. She adds that this trend exists only in Tollywood and sets a great example for the other industries.
In an industry that’s dominated by males, Samantha has broken stereotypes. Her choice as the guest of honour at the teaser launch of Adivi Sesh-starrer Evaru a couple of years ago won praise. Interestingly, Sam had released the teaser of the Adivi Sesh’s Kshanam back in 2016. The film went on to become a blockbuster.
So did Sesh invite Sam as the chief guest believing her to be Lady Luck? "Yes," he answers unhesitatingly. But he’s also quick to add that it was more than that.
"Sam has positive vibes and that turns into a good luck charm! She is a woman of substance and is full of positive energy. Her body of work is inspiring and speaks of her passion for films," says Sesh, while pointing out that Evaru became a blockbuster too.
Content is king
A star hero’s presence at a filmy event will definitely create a buzz. But does an actress attending such an event help drive the film’s business?
Distributor and producer Abhishek Nama acknowledges that the presence of a celebrity does expand the reach of a film because of the fan-following, but stresses that, ultimately, if the film doesn’t have enough content, these eyeballs don't translate into tickets.
"I call celebs for greater footfalls for my film, but it doesn’t make any difference if it’s a male or female celeb. Content is king," clarifies Abhishek while asserting that women being named chief guests is a ‘healthy trend’.