Bollywood veterans sermonise too much and frequently talk about how Bollywood has finally come of age.
I disagree, Sir.
Bollywood is still as archaic as its archives.
The reality of this film industry is a far cry from the general perception outside of it. Bollywood has only gone through a few cosmetic changes from what it used to be 25 years back.
The popular notion about Bollywood is that the female stars here share an equal footing as the males.
My experience and observations tell me that Bollywood is as male-dominated as it used to be 25 years back and the heroines are still as replaceable as they used to be.
Nothing has changed here in Bollywood.
Even today, most commercial film scripts are written with the heroes in mind and the heroine is just an add-on. Films get delayed or even shelved for the lack of a hero’s dates, but does a film falter because the heroine’s date diary is full? No. She is promptly replaced.
The male stars who used to dominate Bollywood 25 years ago still dominate the industry today.They have gained more importance in film projects over the years and still hold the reins as far as big budget films are concerned. Examples of female oriented films scoring at the box-office are far too few to even challenge this trend.
The cluster of heroes in Bollywood are now like that of the erstwhile Left Front in West Bengal. In West Bengal, the Left Front was officially a democratically elected politically party but in reality they were the kings who ruled West Bengal for 34 years before being overthrown by a rival party led by a woman.
Unfortunately, Bollywood is yet to see a woman who can give the men a run for their money.
Even today most commercial film scripts are written with the heroes in mind and the heroine is just an add-on. Films get delayed or even shelved for the lack of a hero’s dates, but does a film falter because the heroine’s date diary is full? No. She is promptly replaced from the film.
Ask anybody in the industry and they will tell you that it is always the heroine who has to match her dates with the hero and never vice versa.
It is interesting to note that most top male stars in Bollywood have been in the industry for more than 20 years and over the years, have assumed more importance in film projects.
Previously most heroes used to get paid a fee for their performance. Today, the dependence on the heroes have become so important that most leading heroes get a share of the profit that is generated from the film’s box office sales. The producers have no option but to agree because Bollywood heroes continue to drive ticket sales. If a heroine talks about sharing profits then most producers will die of shock.
They say that you have to be a part of the system to know it well. I don’t want to claim that I am outside the system. I am very much a part of it whether I like it or not, even though I frequently try to be an exception to it. Like me, there are a lot of heroines who want to be an exception to the system and some have even tried with some amount of success.
In the end, they have only proven the general rule that it is a male dominated hierarchy which is considered regressive and archaic by all standards.
The shelf-life a female star in Bollywood is not even half of that of a male star. Most female heroines hold on to their positions for somewhere around 10 years before being regulated to character roles.
The female heroines in Bollywood are replaced much faster by a younger crop than the male superstars who keep on playing the role of a hero for at least 20 years.
I will now present some statistics to prove my case and show that all the ‘superstars’ in Bollywood have completed 20 years in the industry while the heroines haven’t even gone half that distance.
Here is a comparative analysis of the ‘seniority’ of Bollywood’s top stars.
While compiling this list, I have only considered actors who are still playing lead roles in Bollywood movies. Those who have moved onto character roles have not been included in the list.
Also, I have considered only the top 10 heroes and heroines though they have not been listed in any particular order. This top 10 list is prepared by me and has no resemblance or bearing with any other list.
Interestingly, while compiling this list I found out that Salman Khan has completed 25 years in the film industry this year, while Sunny Deol completes 40 years in Bollywood. Though a smaller landmark but still Emraan Hashmi completes 10 years in Bollywood this year.
So, the male stars are all marathon runners, some of whom are about to complete the race, some are at the starting point while others are just somewhere in the middle.
Below are the number of years the Bollywood heroes have completed in the industry.
- Salman Khan — Biwi Ho To Aisi (1988). 25 years.
- Shah Rukh Khan — Idiot (1992). 21 years
- Aamir Khan — Holi (1985). 28 years.
- Akshay Kumar — Saugandh (1991). 22 years.
- Ajay Devgn — Phool Aur Kaante (1991). 22 years.
- Sanjay Dutt —Rocky (1981). 32 years.
- Amitabh Bachchan — Saat Hindustani (1969). 44 years.
- Ranbir Kapoor — Saawariya (2007). Six years.
- Sunny Deol — Betaab. 1983. 30 years.
- Emraan Hashmi — Footpath (2003). 10 years.
This is also a landmark year for heroines like Vidya Balan and Katrina Kaif, who complete 10 years in Bollywood this year. Also, this is Anushka Sharma’s fifth year in the industry.
Below are the number of years the heroines have spent in the industry.
- Kareena Kapoor: Refugee (2000). 13 years.
- Vidya Balan: Bhalo Theko (Bengali) (2003). 10 years.
- Katrina Kaif: Boom (2003). 10 years.
- Priyanka Chopra: Thamizhan (Tamil) (2002). 11 years.
- Aishwarya Rai: Iruvar (Tamil). 1997. 16 years.
- Rani Mukerji: Biyer Phool (Bengali). 1992. 21 years.
- Deepika Padukone: Aishwarya (Kannada). 2006. 7 years.
- Anushka Sharma: Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. 2008. 5 years.
- Sonakshi Sinha: Dabangg (2010). 3 years.
- Bipasha Basu: Ajnabee (2001). 12 years.
I am sure time and again you have heard the leading female stars complain how Bollywood has always been a male dominated industry. I remember Priyanka Chopra and Bipasha Basu saying it for years now. Please trust every word of it.
Even now, heroines try to desperately trip one another to bag a film which stars a top Bollywood hero regardless of the length and the importance of the role. When it comes to a film that has a heroine in the lead, the top heroes actually stay away and one has to make do with a B-lister.
Short-link of the post -> http://goo.gl/WY3yM0
Coming up: The sequel to The Interview where I talk about my experiences while interviewing Bollywood heroines.