In 2018, we had a film with a female protagonist emerge as one of the highest-grossing films of the year (Raazi). In 2018, we had a female antagonist who was not your usual 'vamp' (Tabu in Andadhun). In 2018, we had movies with female characters who were relatable, but not clichéd (Badhaai Ho).
But dear Bollywood, what the hell happened in 2019?
Most films, like War, Kabir Singh, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Bharat--that actually went on to become the highest-grossing films of the year--had stereotypical female characters with little to no contribution to the story.
War and Uri were action-dramas with female characters who had a blink-and-miss appearance. Kabir Singh, despite being cited as a 'romantic drama', dedicated 1 monologue and a handful of dialogues, at most, to its female.
And Mission Mangal, which was technically a movie about the prowess of female ISRO scientists, had the male protagonist running the show - something that was evident by the poster itself.
These movies are only a representation of the way female characters were shelved in mainstream cinema in 2019. Filmmakers either did not afford enough screentime to female characters, or crafted the characters in a clichéd, unidimensional manner.
Though the last decade did see a change in the way female characters were represented on-screen, 2019 went back to providing more dance sequences than dialogues to its female leads.
While we take into account that a well-written character does not necessarily need expansive screen time, in 2019 most movies failed their female actors in both aspects - character development and ample screentime. Films like Gully Boy or Judgementall Hai Kya, were the exception, and not the norm in 2019.
Barring a few movies (Article 15, The Sky Is Pink, Photograph), female characters--whether in lead or supporting role--had little to contribute to the stories they were a part of. Additionally, even movies with a female protagonist failed to either develop well-sketched out characters or justify the treatment of their central subject.
2018 saw a patriotic film--a genre largely dominated by male actors in Bollywood-- with a female protagonist win over the critics and the Box Office. Clearly, a well-written and well-developed story will resonate with the audience.
Then why not repeat that formula, rather than rely on the same old tropes of 'dance numbers' and sexist representations?
With movies like Panga, Chapaak, and others coming out in 2020, we hope that 2019's erring representation becomes nothing more than a blip in an otherwise great decade of female-centric movies.