How apos;small-town Girls apos; Have Become Big Hits In Bollywood Town
Mainstream Bollywood is finally learning how to create women of substance, and the industry lately has been looking towards grassroots India for inspiration.
The small-town girl has been a recurring protagonist in Hindi films over the past few months.
While the prototype perhaps existed forever, the new-age small-town girl is vastly different from all that we have seen in the past.
Kickstarter: Kangana Ranaut's rebellious act in the Tanu Weds Manu films popularised the small-town girl on Bollywood screen in recent times
She not only hesitates to fight for her own dreams and rights, as we have seen in films as diverse as Lipstick Under My Burkha or Badrinath Ki Dulhania, but she is also willing to stand up against taboos that may afflict a dear one, as Bhumi Pednekar brilliantly essayed in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan.
One filmmaker, more than the rest of Bollywood, perhaps deserves credit for turning the small-town girl into Bollywood's new-age 'It Girl'.
Things started changing quietly when Aanand L. Rai made Tanu Weds Manu about six years ago.
A new kind of small-town girl became popular, with Kangana Ranaut's Tanuja Trivedi.
The audience lapped up her rebellious streak. By the time Rai released Tanu Weds Manu Returns a few years later, with Raanjhanaa riding the heroine-centric formula in between, many other directors had recognised the potential of small-town tales centred on a female protagonist.
In Bollywood, where nothing happens without a reason, the motives driving the heroine-centric small-town saga were obvious.
Kriti Sanon in Bareilly Ki Barfi: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's rom-com co-starred Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana. The classic film love-triangle got a spin in Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari's rom-com. Although not strictly a heroine-oriented flick, the film set in the UP small town of Bareilly presented its female protagonist as a young woman of substance. Kriti Sanon played the young heroine who finds resonance of her happy-go-lucky life in a character she reads in a book named Bareilly Ki Barfi. Her quest to find the author of the book will have her interact with two guys (played by Rajkummar Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana). The script's humour takes off as both fall in love with the girl
Bhumi Pednekar in Shubh Mangal Saavdhan. RS Prasanna's rom-com co-starring Ayushmann Khurrana Crossover's new favourite Bhumi Pednekar essayed Sugandha, a small-town girl who discovers before her arranged marriage that her groom-to-be, Mudit (Ayushmann Khurrana), suffers from erectile dysfunction. While most of the world derides the guy and everyone including the hero has given up, Sugandha is adamant to get married to Mudit. She is confident she will heal him. Subjects related to sex have traditionally been a taboo in mainstream Hindi cinema, and ones driven by heroines — unless they serve sleazy spread — are quite unheard of. RS Prasanna's debut feature is a winner for the way it unfolds its unusual heroine-centric tale
This is an easy way to mint quick money within a limited budget, at a time when the multiplex culture was changing tastes.
The audience, over the past few years, is no longer happy with glittery formula-driven drivel.
They want to watch solid and fresh stories. Films centred on small-town female protagonists allowed just that, cutting across genres.
Diana Penty's role of Harpreet ‘Happy' Kaur has been one of the genuinely funny heroine that Bollywood has created this year so far. Rarely do we get smalltown protagonists that draw a humour quotient from personality traits rather than slapstick antics, and Happy Bhag Jayegi let the actress do just that. The film, about how a girl eloping from home to marry her boyfriend accidentally lands in Pakistan, was set in Amritsar to begin with, before the story moves across the border. The film subtly uses humour and satire to put forward a few comments on volatile Indo-Pak equations
Suddenly small-town girls were becoming the portrait of angst (Bhoomi), defining rom-com (Happy Bhaag Jayegi, Behen Hogi Teri and Bareilly Ki Barfi), making socio-cultural comment (Anaarkali Of Aarah) and dev.eunsoogi.com even lending mojo to crime drama (Babumoshai Bandookbaaz).
But why small-town girls? Perhaps because setting heroine-centric films in exotic foreign locations would escalate budgets and make business risky.
Small budget, after all, is a major reason why films riding small-town female protagonists have looked like a comfortable deal.
Alia Bhatt in Badrinath Ki Dulhania: Rom-com co-starring Varun Dhawan and directed by Shashank Khaitan. Alia Bhatt had essayed a small-town girl once before, in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhania. Although Badrinath Ki Dulhania was also a romcom like that earlier film, it gave her a more solid character. Vaidehi, Alia's character, belongs to Kota and represents the modern young Indian girl with a firm mindset, who wants to do something substantial in life rather than moon around with the hero, Badrinath of Jhansi (played by Varun Dhawan). Reversing many clichés set all those years ago by the blockbuster Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, the Alia-starrer worked as a commercial entertainer banking on a solid female protagonist
Shruti Haasan in Behen Hogi Teri: Rom-com starring Rajkummar Rao and directed by Ajay K. Pannalal. The film drew from a mindset that is prevalent in most small-towns even today, whereby boys and girls who grow up in the same neighbourhood are expected to think of each other as siblings. The trouble starts for Lucknowi boy Gattu (Rajkummar Rao) when he starts falling in love with the neighbourhood hottie Binny, because everyone including his folks and hers think of them as brother and sister. Shruti Haasan's Binny was interesting because of the girl's initial reaction to the situation. Understanding Gattu's weakness for her well, Binny keeps manipulating him to her advantage till true love takes over
In a year when many top male superstars and their ambitious biggies have floundered, Bollywood producers, forever on the lookout for safe investments, seem to have found a foolproof formula in small films driven by heroines.
The rise of the small-town girl on the Hindi screen also pleasantly coincides with the government's various schemes for the progress of women, including 'Beti Bachao Beti Padhao', 'Save The Girl Child' and the campaign to stop violence against women.
Directly or indirectly most of these films have left an eddying impact or two somewhere, after all.
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