The rise, fall and rise of Indian action heroines

© Provided by Hindustan Times We are yet to see Sonakshi Sinha’s performance in a short kurta-jeans clad action avatar in Akira, but the film’s trailer is enough to remind us that we don’t have enough female actors known for performing stunts in Bollywood.

It’s unfair to expect that an Indian heroine will transform into a Michelle Yeoh overnight, but that’s also because Bollywood producers have not yet focussed on ‘female action’ as a profitable genre.

© Provided by Hindustan Times

Mary Ann Evans aka Fearless Nadia was known for her action films in the 1930s. Bringing cash for the producers, Wadia Movietone, Nadia became the reigning queen. Her whip rose to fame, but the genre did not get any push.

© Provided by Hindustan Times

Male actors continued to dominate the game and they were mostly about socialism and its after-effects in India. Actresses like Meena Kumari, Madhubala, Nargis and Nutan featured in some great films, but no producer showed the guts to put them in actioners.

Occasionally, Hema Malini in Seeta Aur Geeta, Rekha in Khoon Bhari Maang and Sridevi in Chaalbaaz threw some punches around, but none evolved as a hardcore onscreen fighter the way Hollywood’s Pam Grier (Coffee, Foxy Brown) or Cynthia Rothrock (China O’Brien) did.

Then arrived the great gamechangers like Uma Thurman (Kill Bill), Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angeles), Angelina Jolie (Lara Croft), Hilary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) and a number of other female actors who were much different than the femme fatale of the late 40s and early 50s.

These women didn’t need tricks to make a man bite the dust. They were equally good at fist fighting and biking all the way to the farthest deserts. In short, they were badass in true senses.

At the same time, Indians were still watching women running around trees. By the beginning of the new millennium, things changed, but for very little when Aishwarya Rai featured in Dhoom 2 and Priyanka Chopra in Drona.

It was the spark other female actors needed. Though they were far from being Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragons) or Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil), the willingness to excel was visible.

Then films like Don 1 and 2, Chandni Chowk To China, Race 2 and Krrish 3 released and the scenario changed drastically. Last year’s Anushka Sharma-starrer NH 10 hinted that we are ready for female action stars who need not be overly sexualised.

Being at par with Hollywood is still a far-fetched idea, but Indian audiences should be happy that filmmakers are at least taking their chances with these action-happy actors.

After saving India’s pride at the recently concluded Olympic Games at Rio de Janeiro, this could be another avenue for the women to triumph.

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The rise, fall and rise of Indian action heroines

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