Definitely, the process of producing a film involves a lot of people, but it is the stars that feature on the poster who are bestowed with great regard. Gender inequality in the film industry has been a topic of discussion for quite some time.
Whether it is representation in a film or the pay an actor receives, women have mostly held a secondary position. Whenever a new project is announced it is usually the name of the male protagonist or the ‘hero’ of the film that is given more importance.
While there is some positive change with respect to this, with an increase in well written and fleshed out women characters on screen, it is still rare for women to headline projects. When a project is recognized and referred to as a particular actor’s film, and on whose reputation the entire film’s reception among audiences and performance at the box-office is hinged onto, is what it means to “headline” a film; such as Sridevi’s English Vinglish (2012).
In what is still a very much male-driven industry, quite a few actors have managed to gain enough accreditation for studios and production companies to invest. More often than not this level of recognition is rendered to women after having spent a significant time in the industry.
However, more often such films are either biopics or largely women-centric. In the last few years, even when theatres were shut due to the pandemic for most of the year in 2020, several films headlined by women have released in theatres as well as online.
Anushka Sharma’s NH10 (2015), Sonam K Ahuja’s Neerja (2016), Alia Bhatt’s Raazi (2018), Deepika Padukone’s Chhapaak (2020), Taapsee Pannu’s Thappad (2020), Richa Chadha’s Madam Chief Minister (2021) are a few examples. Actors like Vidya Balan with films like the Kahaani franchise, Tumhari Sulu (2017) Shakuntala Devi (2020) and Kangana Ranaut in Queen (2014), Simran (2017), Manikarnika (2019) and upcoming Thalaivi, have had more success than others.
Regional languages also seem to be witnessing a similar incline. Actors Jyotika, Samantha Akkineni, Keerthy Suresh, and Nayanthara have had several hits in Tamil and Telugu language films. The incline in such productions is undeniable and quite noticeable but there is still a long way to go.