All that money being made but where do they stand? How far has the quintessential Bollywood heroine come since the beginning of big Bollywood box office business (aka the ‘100 Crore era’) and what is the measure of her worth?
I ask this neither to be catty nor to raise hell between *fandoms but for the simple fact that the stellar Priyanka Chopra’s recent interview with the Times of India has me thinking about the status quo in Bollywood with regards to Ms. Chopra and her peers.
“Bombay Times is the only paper that does not give credit to female stars for the box office performance unless the film is riding on the actress such as a KAHAANI, THE DIRTY PICTURE or QUEEN.” – Times of India
As I type this, the estimated first day box office returns of pre-100-Crore-era actress Rani Mukerji’s new film MARDAANI have begun to trickle in and going by Koimoi (my trusted source for Hindi film figures and so much more) the film has made Rs 3.75 Crores. This time last week, we were all commenting across social media, reporting on the whopping success of actor Ajay Devgn’s latest film SINGHAM RETURNS as it smashed records previously set by other actors of equal or higher celebrity standing. Its day 1 returns? Rs 32.09 Crores. A few days later, the film crossed the coveted Rs 100 Crores threshold, signifying yet another feather in the actor’s hat thus either minting any female counterpart(s) with a significant enough role starring opposite him as a ‘100 Crore Heroine’ or if said heroine had previously been inaugurated into the club, she continues to be known as a ‘100 Crore Heroine’ or simply an A-list actress. While it is too early to tell whether or not the figures of MARDAANI will pick up from its abysmal day 1 returns, it is safe to say that Mukerji is a tried and true actress who does not need any labels or special crowns to prove herself because she has already done more than that years before the club came into existence. Though it must also be pointed out that it is essentially this kind of box office disparity that scares most Bollywood actresses away from starring in films helmed by just them, most would rather hide behind a superstar actor in a film then take credit for the film’s success later and bask in the glory of their thriving A-list status which for many of them can only be maintained by remaining in the club with each new film. Earlier this week, it was reported that an A-list actress had allegedly opted out of an eagerly anticipated upcoming vehicle because no superstar actor had signed on to co-star in it.
“Why should you credit heroines, who are riding on the back of a hero saying that they are `100-crore heroines? You can’t give me credit for DON or KRRISH.” – Priyanka Chopra, Bollywood actress
In order to understand the concept and relevance of the ‘100 Crore Heroine’ one would have to go back to the beginning of the trend which most people choose to identify with the 2008 film GHAJINI starring Aamir Khan and Southern cross-over actress Asin. The film solidified the status of its lead actor as a masterclass actor with box office clout and shot his co-star into super stardom in her new industry where she went on to star in many hit films backed by other superstars of equal acclaim with Khan. It is said that GHAJINI was the first film to net over 100 Crores after the deduction of fees and taxes. According to wikipedia.org, the term has since been expanded to denote “the film itself, its director and its lead actress” but if you pay close attention you would notice that there is no expansion of the term to denote the lead actor (because there is no need to do so) as it goes without saying that the film belongs to him. Seems simple enough and while there is nothing wrong with it, it is a system that makes one wonder why any self-respecting actress would not want to break away from it to foster her own worth. Prior to the ‘100 Crore’ era, the success of a film was marked by the number of weeks it spent at the box office and how popular its soundtrack was, meaning that an actress (not just the actor) would have had to have given a memorable enough performance in the film to keep the audience coming back for more. Popular songs were dependent not just on the melodious voice of the playback singer(s) but the picturisation on film where many excelled, especially the best dancers. The films with the best pairings and sweetest or most compelling story lines enjoyed long runs at the box office as evident with 1995’s DILWALE DULHANIA LE JAYENGE which still runs in select theatres in India till this day. Now that actresses have a bigger platform to showcase their talent it is a shame to see that many opt to hide behind heroes instead. Only a selected few care enough about their craft to want to explore every aspect of it.
According to Koimoi, as of August 23rd, 2014 there are only thirty-two films in Bollywood’s ‘100 Crore club’ (based on domestic returns only) only nine films in the ‘200 Crore club’ (based on domestic returns only) and it should be noted that eight of them are films starring at least one of the three major Khans of Bollywood (Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman) except for one whose lead actor is Ranbir Kapoor. As the stakes rise the rare feats thin out as evident with the four films in the ‘300 Crore or above club’ i.e. DHOOM 3, CHENNAI EXPRESS, KRRISH 3 & KICK) three of which star at least one of the three major Khans of Bollywood. So naturally, it would be any actress’s dream to be cast in a film opposite one of these Khans or a Devgn and even a Kumar.
“I’d do one of these Rs 100-crore movies with an Aamir or a Shah Rukh Khan, but since they’re not coming my way, I have moved to the horror genre where I have no competition.” – Bipasha Basu (Bollywood actress)
From those thirty-two films, here are the ‘100 Crore Heroines’ of Bollywood and a brief look into the highlights of their careers so far (note: the FILMFARE award is Bollywood’s equivalent of the OSCAR):
Asin: Started the 100 Crore club and won a FILMFARE award for best female debut for her role in GHAJINI, her only Bollywood FILMFARE award and nomination since her 2008 debut in the film. Best role(s): In Bollywood, GHAJINI & BOL BACHCHAN. ★
Priyanka Chopra: Proved herself right out the gate with turns in ANDAAZ & AITRAAZ (won the FILMFARE for Best Female Debut & Best Performance in a Negative Role consecutively & subsequently won 2 Best Actress FILMFARE awards) before the 100 crores club was even formed. Best Role(s): BARFI, FASHION, AITRAAZ, 7 KHOON MAAF & possibly MARY KOM. ★★★★★
Kareena Kapoor Khan: Despite being a *filmy kid, she proved herself right out the gate with tough roles in REFUGEE & ASOKA (won the FILMFARE award for best debut and subsequently won 5 more FILMFARE awards for best actress/best supporting actress through the years) Best role(s): CHAMELI, OMKARA, DEV, ASOKA, KURBAAN, JAB WE MET & HEROINE. ★★★★★
Deepika Padukone: Former runway model, burst onto the scene under the clutch of a Khan and won the FILMFARE award for best female debut. Took a break from the Khan bandwagon to give turns in poorly received social films like AARAKSHAN & KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SEY as well as commercially successful films like 2010’s HOUSEFULL before returning to take both the critics and box office by storm by delivering riveting performances in five back to back hit films between 2012 & 2013. Best role(s): COCKTAIL, RAM LEELA, OM SHANTI OM, CHENNAI EXPRESS & possibly FINDING FANNY. ★★★★
Anushka Sharma: Another former runway model with luck on her side who also entered B-town under the clutch of a Khan in RAB NE BANA DI JODI but managed to prove herself as an actress in a role that ultimately earned her two FILMFARE nominations; one for best female debut & the other for best actress. Has subsequently garnered 4 FILMFARE nominations since 2009, including a best supporting actress win for JAB TAK HAIN JAAN. Best role(s): RAB NE BANA DI JODI, BAND BAAJA BAARAT, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA & possibly BOMBAY VELVET & P.K. ★★★
Kangana Ranaut: Burst onto the scene defying the odds with riveting turns in GANGSTER & WOH LAMHE for which she won the FILMFARE award for best female debut. Continued her unconventional streak with turns in LIFE IN A METRO & FASHION (a role which earned her every best supporting actress award given that year, including the FILMFARE) Best role(s): WOH LAMHE, FASHION, QUEEN, GANGSTER, TANU WEDS MANU & KRRISH 3 in an excellent villainous role that catapulted her into the 100 Crore club and beyond. ★★★★★
Kalki Koechlin: An outsider just like Ranaut, she burst onto the scene in 2009’s DEV D. (a modern day take on DEVDAS) for which she garnered critical acclaim and won the FILMFARE award for best supporting actress and subsequently received further FILMFARE nominations for her supporting work in hit films ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA & YEH JAWAANI HAI DEEWANI. Best role(s): DEV D, SHAITAN, SHANGHAI, MY FRIEND PINTO, THE GIRL IN THE YELLOW BOOTS. ★★★★★
Alia Bhatt: Burst onto the scene living every filmy kid’s dream debuting in Karan Johar’s STUDENT OF THE YEAR which earned her a nomination for the best female debut FILMFARE. She hastily threw critics of her scent with an unconventional turn in her second film HIGHWAY, proving she can actually act. Also, noteworthy is the fact that she hasn’t yet ridden the coattails of any previously established hero. Best role(s): out of her three films thus far…HIGHWAY & 2 STATES. ★★
Shraddha Kapoor: Another filmy kid with a Bollywood dream, burst onto the scene in 2010’s TEEN PATTI which earned her a FILMFARE nomination for best female debut but not the attention she deserved. Changed career directions in 2013, possibly because she realised she wouldn’t have a career if she didn’t make like the competition and sex it up. Like Bhatt, she too is 100-crore-heroine who has yet to enter or coast the Khan-doms, Kumar-dom, Devgn-dom or any other pre-established hero’s kingdom of hit films. Best role(s): AASHIQUI 2 (which earned her a FILMFARE nomination for best actress), GORI TERE PYAAR MEIN & possibly HAIDER. ★★
Sonam Kapoor: Your guessed it, another filmy kid with a dream. Misfired on her debut in 2007’s SAAWARIYA but still earned a FILMFARE nomination for best female debut. Subsequently became a world renowned fashionista, who after a series of flop films and a couple of lukewarm hits entered the 100 crore club in 2013 with BHAAG MILKHA BAAG. Best role(s): RAANJHANAA, DELHI 6, MAUSAM, BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG, AISHA, & I HATE LUV STORIES. ★★
Sonakshi Sinha: Yet another filmy kid. Sigh. She burst onto the scene under the clutch of a Khan and won the FILMFARE award for best debut. When criticism arose regarding her penchant for ‘same-role-different-outfit’ scripts helmed by big name male co-stars, she quickly found a way to prove she was more than that with 2013’s LOOTERA for which she earned a FILMFARE nomination for best actress. ★★
Daisy Shah: a former assistant choreographer under the wings of masterclass choreographer Ganesh Acharya, made her Bollywood debut as a back-up dancer in the song ROCKSTAR from 2006’s HUMKO DEEWANA KAR GAYE and made her acting debut in Salman’s Khan-dom critically-panned-but-still-a-hit-film JAI HO. No award nominations as yet. Best role(s): Her choreography work in the films ZAMEEN & KHAKEE + her stints as an *item girl. ZERO STARS
IIeana D’Cruz: Cross-over seasoned actress from the South just like Asin, made her Bollywood debut in 2012’s BARFI immediately entering the 100 crore club just like her cross-over predecessor Asin who started it, earning two FILMFARE nominations including one win for best female debut. Best role(s): BARFI, PHATA POSTER NIKLA HERO & MAIN TERA HERO. ★
Prachi Desai: Former TV star, entered Bollywood in 2008’s ROCK ON! Has yet to enter the Khan-doms but has been very lucky in Devgn-dom (ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI, BOL BACHCHAN) with films that welcomed her into the 100 crore club. Best role(s): ROCK ON, TERI MERI KAHAANI & BOL BACHCHAN. ★★
Kainaat Arora: Bollywood item girl turned actress. Reason for being in the 100 Crore club = GRAND MASTI. Shameless as that seems, no Khans, Devgns, Kumars, Kapoors were involved which is commendable or maybe it is time to elevate Riteish Deshmukh to a well deserved new Bollywood status, since he is now minting heroines that too into the ‘100 Crore club.’ A total of six heroines entered the ‘100 Crore club’ via DESHMUKH’s hit film GRAND MASTI. ZERO STARS
Manjari Fadnis: Former TV star turned Bollywood actress, began acting in 2004 and enjoyed her big break via the hit film JAANE TU…YA JAANE NA four years later. Entered the 100 Crores club via GRAND MASTI in 2013. Best role(s): In Bollywood, ZOKKOMON & JAANE TU…YA JAANE NA. ★
Sonalee Kulkarni: Marathi cross-over actress who hit the jackpot with her Hindi debut film GRAND MASTI in 2013, currently enjoying the success of another hit film with 2014’s SINGHAM RETURNS. Best role(s): Perhaps her work in Marathi? ZERO STARS
Karishma Tanna: Television star turned Bollywood actress, made her acting debut in 2005’s DOSTI: FRIENDS FOREVER and entered the 100 crores club with 2013’s GRAND MASTI. Best role(s): Maybe her television stuff? Or possibly the upcoming TINA AND LOLO with Sunny Leone? ZERO STARS
Jacqueline Fernandez: Sri-Lankan beauty queen turned Bollywood actress, burst onto the scene in 2009’s ALADIN which was critically and commercially a failure but didn’t deter her from trying harder and ultimately giving three back to back hits on the sequel circuit with MURDER 2, HOUSEFULL 2 & RACE 2. Her fourth hit film came under the clutch of a Khan with 2014’s KICK. Best role(s): ALADIN & possibly ROY. ★★
Katrina Kaif: British model turned Bollywood actress. Showed somewhat of a semblance of acting in 2009’S NEW YORK for which she earned her first FILMFARE nomination best actress (six years after her Bollywood acting debut) No best actress or best supporting actress wins just yet. Best role(s): NEW YORK & perhaps her stints as an item girl. ★
Bruna Abdullah: Brazilian model turned Bollywood actress got her start in 2007’s CASH as an item girl. Has three hit films under her belt; I HATE LUV STORIES, GRAND MASTI & JAI HO. Best role(s): Her item numbers, especially the one in DESI BOYZ. ★
Maryam Zakaria: Swedish-Iranian dance teacher turned Indian actress/dancer entered the 100 crores club via GRAND MASTI. Best role(s): Agent Vinod and all her item girl work. ★
“So if a girl does a big film with heroes, only then she becomes a No. 1 heroine? To me, that is not the testament of it. A lot of the films that I have done in my career are not piggybacking on the heroes. I have done the KRRISHS and the DONS, but that is not what my career is about. My career is about the work I do.” Priyanka Chopra
*fandoms: from the word ‘fandom’ which is a combination of ‘fanatic’ and ‘kingdom; a subculture of enthusiastic people who share a common interest. .
*item girl: a female who performs a special dance number in a film, usually not associated with the script but is interjected to help the plot along.
*filmy kid: someone with ties to the film industry (usually Bollywood) either a sibling or spawn of a previously established star or star family.