If box office success is any yardstick, mainstream Hindi cinema continues to be overtly macho with four of 2019’s five top grossers dealing with themes of hyper masculinity leaving women as mere props or maybe a side note at best.
War, which topped the charts with collections of over Rs 500 crore at the box office, centres around the mentor-protege bromance of Hrithik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, both RAW agents playing a globe-trotting game of spies.
The film has two prominent women characters — Vaani Kapoor and Anupriya Goenka — but both just forward the hero agenda of the film and get barely any screen time. For many, the success of War was a relief as it dislodged Shahid Kapoor starrer Kabir Singh, a remake of Telugu hit Arjun Reddy, from the top spot.
Though praised for Shahid’s performance, the movie polarised viewers with its glorification of toxic romance. The film earned Rs 379 crore at the box office. Defending the film, Shahid said it is hypocritical to criticise the movie when critics praise similar content from the west for being honest and politically incorrect.
Uri, one of the early hits of the year, is about India’s 2016 surgical strike on terror camps across the Line of Control. Its carefully crafted story coupled with the war cry “How’s the Josh?” enabled it to tap into nationalistic sentiments at the box office.
The film made Rs 342 crore since its release in January. Though debutant Aditya Dhar treated women characters — played by Yami Gautam and Kirti Kulhari — rather well, they were not the ones leading the movie.
Bharat, a high-octane post-Partition father-son drama, also featured Katrina Kaif and Disha Patani. They were given opportunities to shine but it was inevitably a “Salman Khan film”.
The fifth highest grosser was Mission Mangal, which made Rs 290 crore.
The makers tried to promote it by boasting about the cast ratio — five women versus one Akshay Kumar.However, many who watched the film said Akshay had a bigger and more central part in the film than Vidya Balan, Taapsee Pannu, Nithya Menen, Kirti Kulhari and Sonakshi Sinha even though the movie was about the women scientists who led the mission to Mars at Indian Space Research Organisation.
The film’s poster showed Akshay getting bigger play than his women colleagues.”The star value is such… That’s a brutal truth that we need to accept and then think that there is no point questioning it. Be the reason to change this truth,” says Taapsee Pannu.