How many Bollywood actresses have reached top billing by the sheer dint of woman-centric-powerful-performances?
Let’s call this phenomenon the Ace Woman of Spades card.
Answer is – So far only one, Kangana Ranaut.
Let’s look at the arcs of other actresses.
Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Kareena Kapoor
Strong players of the Buzurg Khan Piya Card.
Priyanka Chopra, Anoushka Sharma who had played this card in their early days are now struggling to break away from this mould while still swimming in the mainstream. They are attempting independent productions and women centric roles but changing the game doesn’t seem to be their intention. The Weak Woman Card.
Vidya Balan has an arc similar to Kangana but hasn’t reached top billing yet, but will be interesting to watch. The Wild Card.
Strictly from the safety of the comfort of their environment, many established actresses are time to time calling out gender issues. For example, when Padukone’s cleavage made headlines, and Rani Mukherjee talked about child trafficking. The Safe Woman Card.
Sociology and the national importance of Deepika Padukone’s cleavage
The younger generation of actresses, Alia Bhatt, Shraddha Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha are grooming themselves to follow the rules, and steer clear from any attempts to change the game. The Good Girl Card.
Needless to say all of them are quiet on the nepotism debate.
Now let’s look at the wake of destruction Kangana leaves behind, and how she changes the game as she goes along, and the rules she breaks.
Rule number 1. Do the sex, get the break, and keep the code of silence.
Men in this scenario play the classic man’s privilege card. There are many variations to the man card. Aditya Pancholi uses the card most men take. Platinum misogyny card.
Kangana breaks the sacred code of silence. She shows no remorse for sleeping with a married man for work. She asks the wife for help!
Who does that?!
Only a woman who understands that both the mistress and the wife are pawns in the same game.
She has refrained from commenting on both wives Susanne Khan and Zarina Wahab’s hot defence of The Husband, even though one is divorced, and the other barely married. Both wives instinctively will do whatever it takes to protect The Man. Commonly played by the most modern, even post-modern woman. The Ek Chutki Sindur Card.
Rule number 2. Never talk about your affair with the national heart throb.
There are grave repercussions to breaking this code. All doors can shut and you might never get work again. That’s what Roshan and son tried to do when Kangana broke the code. They played the Alpha Male Card.
Two of them Roshans. They tried to destroy her. Shekhar Suman and his son played their man cards too. That’s four man cards. Plus one Pancholi. What the Roshans did was equivalent to dragging Kangana out by the hair in a public place and stripping her naked. With Pancholi and Suman cheering from the sidelines along with wives, mothers and daughters. Three men across the age spectrum, who she must have bared her most intimate vulnerable self to.
Her explosion in front of the cameras was not film promotion. It was retribution. Thank god she is trending. It means that there are more people out there who want a fair world.
But this is just the personal stuff, supposedly different from the professional stuff. Actually this difference is but an illusion, but that’s for a later time.
Rule number 3. Woman writes, man takes credit.
Apurva Asrani’s outrage against Kangana comes after his previous theft of Ishani Banerjee’s writing credits. With Kangana it seems like the hissy fit of a man who is being denied his candy by a woman who refuses to become invisible like the rest.
The women should be seen and not heard card.
This is the single most reason why there are so few acknowledged women writers and directors in Bollywood.
Rule number 4. Woman does not defend other woman publicly without self interest.
Kangana broke this rule in support of the victim in her director Vikas Bahl’s molestation case. She does this even though very few women have taken a stand for her.
Rule number 5. Don’t challenge the man.
Women who break this rule allegedly-
a) are crazy, deranged, stupid, schizophrenic, arrogant, cunning, aggressive, weird, dominating, egoistic, self- centred etc etc etc
b) have poor people skills
c) are never successful. This is probably true. But Kangana broke this rule too. Unsparingly.
Karan Johar is licking his wounds somewhere after Kangana trumped his my dukan my rules card.
Sanjay Dutt and Ajay Devgun have slunk off and are lying low after playing we are the babalog card.
isn’t there always a but?
There is trouble in this little solo feminist paradise.
Kangana’s artistic skills do not match up with her personal integrity.
She is not a director’s actor.
This is her fatal flaw as an actress. And acting is the one skill that has brought her to the heady place that she is now.
It is very difficult to review the movie Simran because Simran is not a movie. It is a showcase of Kangana’s personality dressed up as Gujju housekeeping staff. While Praful Patel is endearing Simran is not. The conflict is fairly evident. Praful was written by Kangana and Simran was written by Hansal Mehta and Apurva, to whatever little extent he claims.
So whatever Simran’s box office collections may be, she will benefit from analysing and reviewing her role as actor, writer, associate director and producer in the film.
Maybe like Amir Khan and Mel Gibson, she will move on to star in great films that she makes. Of course cocking a snook at her naysayers while she does it. That would be a treat to watch.
If that is the arc she takes, and only time will tell, she will not be iconic like Shah Rukh Khan or Amitabh Bhachchan. She will be a little more. She will be messianic.