Vidya Balan says it’s ‘unfortunate’ Mission Mangal was seen as ‘an Akshay Kumar film’, comments on Bollywood films ‘bombing terribly’

Actor Vidya Balan pointed out that the majority of the films that are bombing at the box office amid the ongoing Bollywood slump are male-centric, big-budget tentpoles. Female-driven films, on the other hand, are doing well, Vidya said. But for some reason, they’ve become the collateral damage.

Vidya was speaking at the O Womaniya! 2022 Adda organised by Film Companion, where she was joined by her colleagues from both the business and creative sides of the film industry. Vidya also cited the example of how Akshay Kumar was largely credited with the success of the film Mission Mangal, which featured five female actors in pivotal roles.

She said, “The pandemic has become an easy excuse for people to say that now female-led films will not work in the theatres, because basically, our industry is going through some kind of flux where a lot of our films are bombing, terribly. And they are your so-called, male hero-led films. But who takes the beating is the female-led films. Do you not realise that Gangubai Kathiawadi had no man spearheading it, it was Alia Bhatt. That film has done great numbers compared to a lot of other films with male heroes. It’s very frustrating, because there’s no logic to it.”

Vidya said that the economics of female-led films is different, because they cost much less than male-driven blockbusters. She said that even her ‘worst flops have made more money’, in terms of ratios and return-on-investments, than some of the major bombs of this year.

Abunduntia Entertainment CEO Vikram Malhotra, who was also a part of the discussion, said, “From a box office point of view, I’ve done this analysis. If you pick up the last 50 films that have had women protagonists, you’re going to find an alarmingly higher success rate as compared to the overall industry average.”

Vidya pointed out that producers are ‘apologetic’ about having made female-led films, because they’re afraid that male audiences will not show up for them if they’re positioned as such in the marketing. “For example, even a film like Mission Mangal, which did great business, finally it will be seen as an Akshay Kumar film, which is very unfortunate. It’s not Akshay Kumar and five other leading ladies, because we’re not being seen as having led the film in any way. But the story couldn’t have been told with just Akshay Kumar, and it wasn’t told with just him. Someone was talking to me about my last hits, and they didn’t mention Mission Mangal, and they said, ‘Woh toh Akshay Kumar…’ and I was like, ‘Did you not see me and four other female actors?’”

Mission Mangal, directed by Jagan Shakti, was based on the Mars Orbiter Mission, and the ISRO scientists behind it. The film made nearly Rs 300 crore worldwide against a reported budget of Rs 32 crore. In addition to Akshay and Vidya, it featured Taapsee Pannu, Sonakshi Sinha, Nithya Menen and Kirti Kulhari. At the recent Express Adda, Alia Bhatt supported the idea of stars reducing their fees to offset how budgets are designed in major Bollywood films.

Akshay Kumar has starred in two of the biggest box office bombs of 2022 — Bachchhan Paandey and Samrat Prithviraj. Vidya has starred in three back-to-back Prime Video releases, Shanktula Devi, Sherni and Jalsa.

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