Bollywood may be considered a male dominated industry by many, but 2012 saw Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor and Sridevi becoming the champions of change by carrying films on their more than able shoulders and establishing that actresses are more than just a glamour quotient with the success of their ventures.
"Kahaani", featuring Vidya Balan, who had already challenged the male bastion with her 2011 big hit "The Dirty Picture", was the first female-centric film of the year that hit the bull's eye.
Made on a shoestring budget of Rs.8 crore, Sujoy Ghosh-directed "Kahaani" revolved around seven-month pregnant Vidya Bagchi. High on suspense, thrill and drama, the film entertained audiences so much so that it became a gold spinner by raking in Rs.59.26 crore at the box-office.
Following the success of the film, Vidya commented: "Women are taking centrestage in various walks of life all over the country and cinema is just a reflection of that. I'm happy to be part of the film that is celebrating the new role of women."
"Kahaani" was followed by the release of Karisma Kapoor's comeback film "Dangerous Ishhq", in which she played a supermodel who undergoes past-life regression. The story spanned across 500 years. Though it fared averagely, Karisma's acting was appreciated.
Although few in number, women-centric films stood out among big-budget and big-starrer ones and forced everyone to sit up and take notice.
One of them was Bipasha Basu-starrer "Raaz 3", which turned out to be a saving grace for the actress who has not given any substantial hits in recent times. She not only won critical acclaim for her portrayal of a successful actress struggling to keep up with the stardom but her film also became a hit with an earning of reportedly Rs.70 crore.
The success of "Raaz 3" was followed by Kareena Kapoor-starrer "Heroine". Made at Rs.32 crore, including marketing and promotion costs, it did good business and grossed Rs.44.25 crore.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh welcomed the change. "Making women-centric films was earlier considered a risky proposition. But actresses like Vidya, Kareena and Sridevi have turned out to be game-changers. Their films have not only done well at the domestic box-office, but also in overseas market. These actresses have brought in a new wave of change and it seems to be a positive trend."
It's a known fact that Sridevi used to have a magical presence on the big screen and her charm remained intact even when she returned after 15 years with "English Vinglish".
Her portrayal of a non-English speaking housewife who decides to learn English to keep up with her children and husband in Gaurie Shinde's directorial debut struck an emotional connect with all and sundry.
Shinde said that her mother was the inspiration for this film. "Most people in India struggle with this language. It is the insecurity and insensitivity that I have shown in the film," she added.
Reportedly made at a budget of Rs.15 core, it earned Rs.45.78 crore worldwide in 10 days.
Historian S.M.M. Ausaja too feels that the "year has been really good in terms of women-centric films working at the box-office, whether it is Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor or Sridevi". She however adds: "I wouldn't say it will bring a new wave in the film industry."
"There was a time when in the 1930s actresses were shown in a bigger way on film posters than the actors. So times keep changing. Bollywood still remains male- dominated," he said.
But Vidya said what is important is that new kinds of roles are being written for actresses and feels a lot has changed over the years.
"New kinds of roles are being written for them and they get such a wide variety to play on screen. I'm glad that I am working in this era where different roles are being written for women. I credit the filmmakers for bringing in such a big change," Vidya said.
(Priyanka Sharma can be contacted at [email protected])