Never mind the box-office fate of No One Killed Jessica. From preliminary reports, it has opened well. But it is an important film for another reason. It is a rare film out of Bollywood, that has female protagonists, and is proud to market itself as a film about strong women. When most leading ladies are merely props and item girls in films, and there is this fuzzy notion that films with women in leading roles do not sell, this film stands out.
As it is, except Madhur Bhandarkar, how many filmmakers make movies about with female leads? In fact, how many films are there about the contemporary woman—the kind of women we see all around us, living rich and fulfilling lives, having successful careers and handling families. Even a women director like Farah Khan, reduces the heroine in her Tees Maar Khan to a bimbette, and then stands on her shoulders to promote the film with the raunchy Sheila Ki Jawani song.
In Raj Kumar Gupta’s film, a female reporter played by Rani Mukerji and Sabrina Lall played by Vidya Balan, fight to get the killer of Jessica Lall to book. In real life, when the men chickened out, women fought for justice. Why should such interesting stories not be told, and one should thank producers UTV Spotboy for backing it. Interestingly, the other film released alongside is the small budget Vikalp, also has a female protagonist, going by the face of Deepal Shaw on the posters.
Another film, whose promos have triggered off a lot of interest is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Saat Khoon Maaf, with Priyanka Chopra as the main selling point, with the seven men in the shadows. It maybe too early to herald a revolution (a re-revolution rather, because before the seventies, women were given their due in films), but there is definitely a change taking place, and it is a welcome one. If our female stars are as talented as the males, then why should they be treated as lesser beings. If audiences have not patronized women-oriented subjects, it is because the films have been bad, and the writers/directors have to be blamed rather than the actresses. It’s time audiences changes their perceptions too—if No One Killed Jessica and Saat Khoon Maaf succeed commercially, it might just give women more power in the all-male pecking order.