New Delhi: For some time now, Bollywood’s revered and coveted 100 crore club has been storming centre stage. Across all media channels – especially publications and magazines – this subject has been blitzing the mind space of one and all suggesting that this is the ultimate benchmark, yardstick and criteria of a movie’s excellence and quality.
After all, raking in big bucks demonstrates audience’s acceptance and appreciation and ultimately that’s the name of the game, right?
Critical acclaim from the intellectuals and niche culturally-driven discerning intelligentsia maybe the chicken soup for the soul, but won’t get you big endorsements, big banners, big wows, so at the end of the day, the bottom line is ‘how much is the first weekend collection’?
That is the litmus test of a star’s worth in the market – take it or leave it. As an observer succinctly put it, “Beyond brawls, alleged link-ups or even socially inappropriate behaviour, the biggest ‘jhatka’ for a star today is a turkey at the cash counters.
While one can manipulate the media with good PR in terms of image-damage control, the BO is beyond their control. Friday jitters is the most deadly and infectious disease in B-town and anyone who says that he doesn’t care, is lying.”
As most Bollywood devotees must know perfectionist Khan was the first star to enter this revered club in year 2008 with ‘Ghajini’. Salman followed with ‘Dabangg’, ‘Bodyguard’ and ‘Ready’. SRK with ‘Don 2’ and ‘Ra.One’, Ajay with ‘Golmaal’ and ‘Singham’, Hrithik with ‘Agneepath’ and Akshay with ‘Housefull 2’ and ‘Rowdy Rathore’, also entered the club.
Amazingly, not a single female star features in this exclusive club, although Kareena (3 Idiots, Golmaal 3, Bodyguard and Ra.One), Asin (Gajini, Ready, Housefull 2), Priyanka (Don 2 and Agneepath), Kajal (Singham) and Sonakshi (Dabangg) have shared the screen with star hunks in the blockbusters indicated.
Why? Insiders ascribe the reason the club rules being formed by the trade and media. Despite all the hype and hoopla floated in the press about women stars coming into their own and female directors blazing ahead, the truth remains a zillion miles away.
For example, while all the big male stars demand – and receive – huge amount as fees, is there one female star who receives a quarter of that?
The Producer’s biggest – and most convenient – reason is heroines don’t sell tickets. They are there essentially for glamour, sex appeal and romantic interest; necessary but not critical, market-friendly, audience-driven and BO specific components.
Insiders tend to agree and say that “the last two saleable star heroines were Sridevi and Madhuri. These new girls are attractive, sexy and talented but on their own, can’t carry a film”. They point ‘Saat Khoon Maaf’ and ‘What’s your Rashee’ (Priyanka Chopra) as appropriate examples of female star-power falling flat, conveniently forgetting Fashion.
Funnily, in the middle of this 100 crore hungama, valourising the male stars for having the magical charisma and drawing power to rake in the loot without even offering a cursory look at the poor female stars, the name of Vidya Balan seems to be shockingly forgotten.
The star of 2011 with ‘The Dirty Picture’ and later ‘Kahaani’, sweeping every conceivable media platforms, why are these very same dumbos forgetting one simple fact? She was single-handedly responsible in zooming both these modestly budgeted films into the Rs 100 crore stratosphere. When compared to the sound and fury, thunder and lightning – not to speak of the mega bucks and promo/marketing drama – that accompanied the other Rs 100 crore biggies, her releases were small fry. ‘TDP’ with Naseer, Tushar and Emran as co-stars hardly warranted footfalls in the ‘star/glamour’ department. Kahaani, even lesser, if possible.
Consider the background. Vidya was coming off a particularly low period where nothing really seemed to be going her way. ‘Paa’ was the miracle of Big B and ‘Ishqiya’ – where she was excellent – a small film was a critical success generating no big media audience hoo-haa.
About the earlier films, the less said the better. Now comes this completely freaky, audacious, bold and brazen portrayal of a sex symbol of Tamil movies of the 70’s. Ms Parineeta had never, ever imagined that she would be cast in a role like this – and be able to pull it off with such style and conviction.
‘Kahaani’ was the exact opposite where she played a de-glamourised, pregnant woman looking for her husband in the bylanes of Kolkata. Sans stars, Vidya rocked this too – and this time single handedly, since most of her co-stars were local Kolkata actors. True, she got oodles of accolade, but hey, was there one single voice acknowledging these fantastic feats and welcoming her to the Rs 100 crore club?
Is this omission by accident or design? Is this our collective version of India shining, resurgent India, Mera Bharat Mahaan, when you choose to ignore, overlook, neglect, dismiss – or at best leverage tokenism and patronize – a glorious fraternity that occupies half the sky? Think.