It isn’t often that this happens, but Bollywood in 2013 threw up a bunch of roles for female leads that were as important as the male leads in the film. This is unusual for this shamelessly male-dominated industry that continues to give precedence to the male gaze, male stars, male characters in films and stories told from the male point of view. Deepika Padukone led the ladies’ gang with not one, but three films offering her roles as crucial as her male co-stars’ characters: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Goliyon ki Raasleela Ram-leela.
It’s a measure of how difficult the situation remains for women, that despite this year of progress, two out of these three films were based on stories being told from the hero’s point of view. Only Ram-leela brought to us a world seen as much through Leela’s eyes as through Ram’s. It’s good not to forget either that in this same year, Deepika also starred in a non-descript role in Race 2, the sort that her industry would describe as the “traditional Bollywood heroine role” where the woman’s job is to be the “glamour element” in the film, the hero’s “love interest” and a pretty prop against the backdrop of which the man’s life plays out.
More to the point is the fact that each of the films from which I picked 11 Best Actress nominees had equally important if not more important male protagonists, but if you go back to the poll for Best Actor, you will find the following pattern among the 15 nominees:
7 out of 15 Best Actor nominees came from films which had an equally crucial role for a woman (in terms of screen time and the character’s importance): Lootera, Club 60, The Lunchbox, Raanjhanaa, Prague, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani and Ram-Leela.
2 out of 15 had what Bollywood might insist on calling a heroine but what in truth can at best be described as a supporting role to the hero: Krrish 3 and Jolly LLB.
6 out of 15 had no female lead at all: Shahid, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Special 26, Aurangzeb, Kai Po Che and Nautanki Saala.
Despite this, 2013 was still a better than usual year for women in Bollywood.
So the question I asked in this poll was:
FROM THE FOLLOWING PERFORMANCES, WHO WOULD YOU PICK AS BOLLYWOOD’S BEST ACTRESS OF 2013?
Here’s how you voted:
The winner, the one picked by a majority of you as the year’s Best Actress: 38.5% of you chose Deepika Padukone for her role in Ram-leela
The runner-up with 28.8% of the votes is Deepika Padukone in Chennai Express, which should underline the point I made when I announced the poll, that while giving away acting awards we should always pick performances and not roles or actors and actresses.
The third spot with 9.6% of the votes went to newcomer Nimrat Kaur in the highly critically acclaimed film The Lunchbox
9.1% of you voted for Deepika Padukone (again!) for her performance in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Clearly, 2013 was Deepika’s year all the way. And going by the box-office and reviewer response to Ram-leela, Chennai Express and YJHD, hopefully she will avoid forgettable roles in films like Race 2 in the future, however much they may seem guaranteed to make big bucks at the turnstiles.
6.7% of you picked Sonakshi Sinha’s performance in Lootera
3% of you voted for Parineeti Chopra in Shuddh Desi Romance
Elena Kazan in Prague, Mahie Gill in Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns and Sarika in Club 60 each got 0.5% of the vote
Since I’ll be filing a separate blog on my choice of Best Actress 2013, I won’t tell you here who I voted for. Do look out for that blog post in the coming weeks.
Until then, do vote in the next poll which is already up. Question: From the following performances (listed in alphabetical order), who would you pick as Bollywood’s Best Supporting Actress of 2013?
Photographs courtesy: (a) The Wikipedia pages of Lootera, The Lunchbox and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (b) annavetticadgoes2themovies for Raanjhanaa, Ghanchakkar, Chennai Express, Club 60, Ram-leela, Prague, Shuddh Desi Romance and Prague