Many point out that a wave of feminism has surged into Bollywood, with examples like “Piku”, “Queen” and “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”, but filmmaker Sudhir Mishra notes that it’s just a blast from the past.
The filmmaker says the Hindi film industry saw a lean period for actresses in the late 1990s, but now it is right back on the track with women getting on the centerstage.
The showbiz is filled with talented female stars like Kangana Ranaut, Priyanka Chopra, Deepika Padukone and Vidya Balan, but Mishra feels that finding a star with the stature of yesteryear heroines like Meena Kumari or Nargis is tough.
“The change is wonderful. With the change we are going back to the 1950s era in terms of female actors. In the middle of 1980s and 1990s the film industry became regressive with sayings like ‘people don’t want to see women as leading actors’ or ‘you cannot make women-centric films because they will not work’.”
“Look at 1950s heroines like Meena Kumari, Nargis, Madhubala — they were as good as a male stars,” Mishra said the sidelines of Film Bazaar.
He added: “So, it is not new. When we say new, let us not insult the old because they were big. Today, we have no one at the level of Meena Kumari, Nargis or Waheeda Rehman. In fact, Tanuja is underrated but look at her effervescent acting skills with the spunkiness, frankness and her comedic spirit.”
The National Award-winning director, who became part of the annual film market for a session on Saturday, asserted that feminist films are not a fad of the current times.
“When you see ‘Piku’, ‘Queen’, when you see work of Shyam Benegal, the characters portrayed by Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Deepti Naval or films by Prakash Jha — many filmmakers in India have displayed that women are as capable, as devious, wonderful, as capable of betrayal as anything as men,” he said.
Be it his “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi”, “Chameli”, “Inkaar” or “Khoya Khoya Chand” — all Mishra’s films have a recurring pattern of strong female characters.
And the director, who entered the showbiz as a director with “Yeh Woh Manzil To Nahin” in 1987, quips he is only acquainted to strong women.
“I don’t know any other kind of women. So you could expect another strong female character in my upcoming film ‘Dasdev’,” he said.
Mishra has tried to rehash the classic tale of “Devdas” and stir the story with a whiff of freshness. The director puts that he has flipped the story in a modern context.
The political drama stars Richa Chadha, Aditi Rao Hydari and Rahul Bhat.
“I have taken characters — Devdas, Paro and Chandramukhi from Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic novel and put their life in other context. In the movie, they will be addicted to power with everyone getting hooked to power,” he said.
Mishra also shared that he is working on his next script “Mehrunnisa”, but refused to divulge any information.
“You cannot get it out of me,” he said when asked about some names on top of his mind for the film.
By Sugandha Rawal