A few weeks ago, I had written about stars & genres, where I spoke about consumer expectations from the top male stars in Bollywood. Given the high interest in the post from the film fraternity, we decided to undertake a similar research for the leading ladies of Bollywood.
But we faced a unique problem. In the case of men, we could simply ask for genre fit on the popular genres like comedy, action, romance and family. However, for the female actors, this classification made little sense. While the male stars often play the genre-defining character in a film, that is rarely the case with a female star. She typically plays a character type that may often have nothing to do with the genre of the film itself.
So, we decided to redefine the objective to ‘understanding the type of role the audience wants to see each of the top female stars in’. Four types of roles were given as options to the respondents in the research – Carefree & bindaas, Bold & sexy, Strong & powerful and Emotional & serious. Of course, like the male stars research, a fifth option of ‘None of these’ was allowed, to avoid forced choices.
The table below showcases the results:
|Heroine||Bindaas||Bold & Sexy||Powerful||Emotional||None|
Some key takeouts:
1. Very few heroines have a distinct profile, with many being “clones” of each other in terms of the expectations from them. One big set is the Bindaas heroines gang, led by Kareena Kapoor (evidently driven strongly by Jab We Met) and including Anushka Sharma, Parineeti Chopra, Genelia D’Souza and Preity Zinta. This also tells us how important a film Heroine is for Kareena. She needs to get out of a seemingly unidimensional image of a carefree/ bindaas heroine.
2. Katrina Kaif and Priyanka Chopra have very similar profiles, with a combination of bindaas and bold, in that order, defining their image. No wonder then that Priyanka has been the one most affected by Katrina’s meteoric rise in the last 3-4 years. They are competing for similar roles and similar audience reactions. Even Sonakshi Sinha has a similar profile. But Katrina has a huge advantage in looks, making her lead this pack comfortably.
3. Deepika Padukone and Kangana Ranaut are the two heroines highest on the ‘bold and sexy’ attribute. This research was conducted well before Cocktail’s release, and hence, we can expect Deepika to have grown further and acquired the status of the hottest heroine in Bollywood, at least in terms of relative strength, if not absolute.
4. Vidya Balan has acquired a unique profile of her own – a mix of bold and powerful characters. While most of the roles being ‘written’ for heroines today tend to be in the bindaas space, Balan is the only candidate for the few strong & powerful roles, as and when they come by.
5. The serious & emotional roles for heroines are a thing of the past. Kajol, Rani Mukherjee and Aishwarya Rai show a skew on this dimension, but all of them are well past the prime of their career. No recent films have showcased heroines in such roles. This is fairly similar to very few contemporary men being associated with the family genre.
Of course, this data is about the current viewer expectations, and not a measure of what a heroine can or can’t do. Some, like Balan, will continue to explore unchartered territories and manage to stand out in the crowd. While others, like Kaif, will lead the pack by playing roles that work across the masses today – the bindaas, hot babe roles.