At the trailer launch of Thalaivi, Kangana Ranaut pointed out that not many big heroes come forward to support women-centric films. Kangana was attempting to shed light on the fact that male superstars don’t seem to work on projects wherein the story revolves around a female character, which she says, is not the case with A-list actresses who have long been taking on secondary characters in films headlined by their male counterparts without any hesitation.
Thalaivi, which sees Kangana in the role of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa, also features Tamil star Arvind Swamy, who is best known for hit films like Roja, Bombay, Minsaara Kanavu, Thani Oruvan, Dhruva, Bogan, and Chekka Chivantha Vaanam. During the mega event, Kangana thanked Arvind for signing on Thalaivi as “not many big heroes are keen to work in women-centric films."
Here’s a list of female-led Hindi films which had extended cameos or supporting roles from male superstars or where male leads took the backseat in the narrative and let the women characters shine on screen. However, the number of these films is drastically low as Kangana pointed out.
Directed by Gauri Shinde, Dear Zindagi tells the story of Kyra, a young talented cinematographer, played by Alia Bhatt, who can’t handle relationships in her life and deals with a lot of insecurities. Her troubled relationships eventually lead her to see a therapist, played by Shah Rukh Khan, who uses unconventional ways of helping Kyra cope with her problems. It was among the first few films in the modern Hindi cinema where a male superstar was cast in an extended cameo role. At the time of its release, Shah Rukh had said, “I hear that I should be part of other stuff and not just star vehicles. I have done all that in my career but I want to do more and this is one step in that direction. I am a support in the film, more like an extended cameo. I have never played such a role in my entire career."
Pink, directed by Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, follows the story of three working women Meenal Arora (Taapsee Pannu), Falak Ali (Kirti Kulhari), and Andrea Tariang (Andrea Tariang) who meet Rajveer (Angad Bedi) and his friends at a rock concert. But their happening encounter soon turns into a nightmare after Meenal hits Rajveer with a bottle for touching her inappropriately. Rajveer, who belongs to a high-profile political background, later vows to seek revenge on Meenal by making her life a living hell. His series of cunning moves lead to Meenal’s arrest and finally a showdown in the courtroom. Amitabh Bachchan plays the lawyer of the girls and powerfully tackles sexist victim-blaming that the three women are subjected to throughout the trial. Bachchan’s intense screen presence pumps in so much life into the film that it is his performance that steals the show.
Dangal, directed by Nitesh Tiwari, revolves around the inspiring real-story of two champion female Indian wrestlers, Geeta Phogal (Fatima Sana Shaikh and Babita Kumari (Sanya Malhotra). Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan plays their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, who evolves them into World Class Fighters. The film majorly focuses on Geeta and Babita’s growing up years in a small town in the northern state of Haryana, and them defying patriarchal norms by training in a male-dominated sport like wrestling with the help of their father.
Directed by Advait Chandan, Secret Superstar chronicles the story of a teenage girl, Insiya Malik (Zaira Wasim), who aspires to be a singer but her conservative father doesn’t support her musical endeavour. In the film, Aamir Khan plays a flamboyant music composer who discovers Insiya on the internet and invites her to Mumbai to record a song for him. The film received critical acclaim upon its release and did exceptionally well at the box office. Advait Chandan had admitted that not just Aamir’s star-power as an actor but his association as a producer of the film contributed majorly to the movie’s success.
Piku pairs Deepika Padukone with two of India’s megastars Amitabh Bachchan and late Irrfan Khan. The film tells the story of an unmarried architect and dutiful daughter, Piku, whose life seems to unescapably revolve around her irritable father and his imaginary ailments. When Bhashkor and Piku decide to visit their family home in Kolkata, Piku ropes in Rana (Irrfan), the owner of a cab service, to drive them to their home state. The film was lauded for its unconventional casting and won multiple awards at the 63rd National Film Awards.
The film marked Taapsee Pannu’s reunion with Amitabh Bachchan after Pink. Directed by Sujoy Ghosh, the mystery thriller stars Taapsee as Naina Sethi, a married woman accused of murdering her lover in what seems like an open-and-shut case for the prosecution. Bachchan plays Badal Gupta, a top lawyer hired to take up the defence of Taapsee who delivered a terrific performance as the antagonist of the film.