MUMBAI: In one fell swoop, the Vidya Balan-starrer The Dirty Picture has broken the long-held belief that films with strong female characters can’t hold their own in a male-dominated Bollywood. Within a week of its release, the film – which rides on Balan’s able shoulders – has grossed nearly Rs 50 crore, taking on conventional biggies with even bigger budgets. The last female-centric film to have acquitted itself well in the Bollywood arena was Priyanka Chopra’s Fashion (2008), directed by Madhur Bhandarkar.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra is lavish in his praise for Milan Luthria’s The Dirty Picture which captures the tragic life of the sultry South Indian actress Silk Smitha. “Fashion was a Diwali release but The Dirty Picture (TDP) is a regular one. It is the biggest opening ever for a woman-oriented film in the history of Indian cinema. Not only is the film being appreciated in multiplexes, it’s doing roaring business in single screen cinema halls across the country. It is a hit with male and female audiences.”
The question that begs to be answered is whether industry heavyweights and producers will be more willing to invest in films where the female character eclipses or outshines her male counterpart?
Balan, who has reason to celebrate her success, said: “The reason for the success of such films is that they are no longer boring, grim or heavy like they used to be in the past. Today, films with female-centric plots and characters are more entertaining and engaging.”
TDP’s success stands out all the more clearly when compared with some of the bigger budget films like the Akshay Kumar- and John Abraham-starrer Desi Boyz. Mehra said, “Despite a heavy-duty star cast and fully commercial ingredients, Desi Boyz collected Rs 25 crore in its first weekend and then dropped drastically, while TDP bettered that figure by Rs 6 crore and continues to maintain high collections in the box office. It has virtually wiped out Desi Boyz from theatres.”
The film has been applauded and collections have been unprecedented even in states like Rajasthan, UP and Bihar – known for their male-centric traditions. Vishal Anand, operations head of Fun Cinemas said, “Vidya has done something a lot of male stars couldn’t do – netting Rs 50 crore with a bold subject like this. I think the film’s success is largely due to her acting, crisp one-liners, good marketing, word of mouth and men folk thronging theatres..”