Taapsee Pannu Calls Out Superiority Complex Of Bollywood Heroes When It Comes To Women-Centric Films
I admire Taapsee Pannu not just as an actor but also how she conducts herself on social media. It’s one of my favourite flex stories that she retweeted me calling her handling of trolls on Twitter ‘savage AF’. You know, back when ‘savage replies’ were all the rage. She doesn’t shy away from expressing her political opinions, and her body own work is slowly amounting to a checklist of women empowerment topics. After Thappad, she’s bringing us Rashmi Rocket. And while talking about the film, she’s once again impressed me by calling out male leads in Bollywood for their approach to women-centric films.
For those unaware, Rashmi Rocket is an upcoming film about a girl from a village in Gujarat, called Rashmi, who runs so fast that her villagers call her ‘Rocket’. The film is written by Nanda Periyasamy, Aniruddha Guha, and Kanika Dhillon and directed by actor-director Akarsh Khurana. Priyanshu Painyuli of Mirzapur and Bhavesh Joshi Superhero fame will be playing Rashmi’s husband in the film.
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In a recent interview, Taapsee Pannu was talking about male leads in women centric films and how it’s rare to find Bollywood A-listers in those roles that require them to relinquish their ‘importance’ and ‘screen time’ to female leads. What’s sad is that the other way round, where female A-listers are merely show pieces and supporting acts, happens all the time.
“How many times do you see a male A-lister feature in a female A- lister’s film unless he is co-producing it, but the opposite happens all the time and no one bats an eyelid. It’s tedious to find actors to be a part of a film where the actress might have 10-20% more screen time.”
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The past couple of years have seen a steady rise in women-centric content internationally and in India. We’ve had films like Tumhari Sulu, Raazi, Chhapaak, Panga, Thappad, Saand Ki Aankh, Shakuntala Devi, Dolly Kitty Aur Woh Chamakte Sitare and many more films where women are leading. But if you glance to their side, do you see male A-listers? Not really. And no, we’re not going to take away an inch from the actors who starred in these movies. But you see the point right. As Taapsee points out, actresses do a role, irrespective of their screen time. But male superstars tend to hold themselves in too much high esteem to play second fiddle to their female counterparts.
“There have been times when actors, who have done lesser films than me, refused to co-star claiming there was nothing ‘heroic’ about their part. Not just me, Deepika Padukone, who has worked with such big names, had to work with a fabulous actor like Vikrant Massey in Chhapaak, Kangana Ranaut paired up with Jassie Gill for Panga, Alia Bhatt with Vicky Kaushal in Raazi, Vidya Balan with Manav Kaul for Tumhari Sulu. You see the pattern? Actresses never do that.”
I do agree with Taapsee Pannu, that for the sake of argument, male leads need to get off their high horses and be willing to play husbands, brothers, sons or fathers to strong, female leads. However, that being said, I’ve seen what happened with Dangal, and how Aamir Khan just happened to cast such a huge shadow of his stardom, that the film became more about him than it did about two female wrestlers who choke-slammed patriarchy and sexism. You can’t really say it is his fault, but I am afraid of the possibility that the fame of male superstars is so toxic sometimes that it overshadows the script, the message, everything. That’s why we cast an Ayushmann Khurrana when we want to send a real message, but an Akshay Kumar when we want to make a patriotic film with massy appeal.
If you ask me, when it comes to acting, we’d take a Vikrant Massey, Jisshu Sengupta and Manav Kaul over others any day. Their craft speaks volumes and they play convincing female allies on screen, letting the lady have her moment in the spotlight without it looking patronising.
But seriously, male superstars, what’s with the attitude?