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The Piku Debate: Has The Bollywood Heroine Finally Come Of Age (In A Deeply Patriarchal Industry)?

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Is this the best time to be an actress in Bollywood? You’ll instantly nod in agreement if you watch Deepika Padukone starrer Piku. Looking at Bollywood’s transitory phase, one can easily claim that the roles offered to women are diverse, their screen presence has increased and women-centric movies are doing very well at the box office and they can easily claim a higher fee now from the producers because the myth that only heroes rule the box office have now taken a beating.

This comeback of sorts can be divided into three distinct categories but first let us focus on the young Turks who are ruling Bollywood and be it hardcore commercial cinema or middle cinema or even arty stuffs, they won’t back down if the role is good and will give their acting skills a substantial exposure.

Lead by Kangana Ranaut and Deepika Padukone, this young brigade has totally changed the landscape. Kangana in Queen and now the upcoming Tanu Weds Manu 2 or Deepika in Piku or Finding Fanny or even in Chennai Express have all managed to win hearts by their acting. Anushka Sharma’s NH10 was appreciated for its gory yet relevant take on honour killing. Parineeti Chopra has consistently done good roles which can be described by the Bollywood jargon of hatkeness. Movies like Hasee toh Phasee or Dawat-e-Ishq or Suddh Desi Romance proves her range. Sonakshi Sinha, part of the young brigade has mostly restricted herself to commercial movies but you can see that she did rather well in Lootera or the Dabbang franchise.

Coming to the second group we have actresses on the right side of thirties like Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor,Vidya Balan among others who have changed their careergraph doing roles that have brought them commercial as well as critical success. Vidya Balan’s biggest career hits, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani happened when she was in her thirties. As they say age is just a number. Priyanka Chopra too has reinvented her career. Her Mary Kom was a stupendous hit while she has gone international with her singing and acting career- collaborating with international artists as well as starring in Quantico, an upcoming CBS TV series which is creating quite a buzz. Kareena Kapoor too has done different roles recently, mainly comedies where she has always played headstrong characters and Ek Main aur ek Tu was much appreciated for its breezy script and breaking out of the archetypal romantic comedies known to be made in Bollywood.

Also another trend worth mentioning is how actresses from 90s are reinventing their careers in this new-age Bollywood. Look at Tabu in Haider, all the critics and audience had the same opinion that she was the heart and soul of the movie. And why only Haider she was brilliant in Maqbool itself, both being contemporary adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth. Madhuri Dixit’s comeback though slow happened rather well and her role in Dedh Ishiqiya where she was paired opposite Naseeruddin Shah blew away everyone. Rani Mukherjee too is doing fabulous lately with roles in Aiyaa and Mardaani proving that she has not lost her Midas touch. Sridevi too had a memorable comeback with her English Vinglish doing very well and it was very different from the roles we are accustomed to see her in. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan after a long break will appear in several movies but mainly the one that many are looking forward is Jazba, an adaptation of a Korean suspense thriller.

All these proves one thing that a change indeed has happened since there was a time when acting was not something that the heroines were taken for in a movie but rather they were all there to enhance the hero’s capability, to play that silly damsel in distress and no here we are not talking or questioning a Madhuri or a Tabu’s capabilities but Bollywood somewhere in the 80s and 90s had made the heroines generic and clichéd and that’s another big reason why good actresses always wanted a way out by acting in art movie projects. Heroines before or during this period, mainly the likes of Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi always did good commercial as well as art movies. This system somehow was lost but now we can definitely see a revival and how actresses in Bollywood reaping its benefits.

The initial reports of Piku, that has now met universal acclaim, encourage these points as most critics see that how well Deepika Padukone has gelled with acting powerhouses like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan and it is because of movies like Piku, that Bollywood can claim that it has really changed and changed for the better making it a better place for actresses.

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