Velaikkaran, Iru Mugan and SK13: Male actors get more screen time, and all the attention in film posters

Karthik Keramalu

May,13 2018 16:41:31 IST

"Equal pay for equal work" is an oft-heard quote. Women are paid way lesser than their male counterparts in most industries around the world. The Indian movie industry is certainly not taking the lead in the fight for equality either as here too, the pay-disparity is startling.

The arguments that emerge from the foot-soldiers of male stars are that men work more than women (i.e. men shoot for more number of days). In a way, that’s true. But when ninety nine out of hundred films that come out of India are hero-centric, where would you find an equal-footing? A Piku (Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan) in Hindi, or an OK Kanmani (Dulquer Salmaan and Nithya Menen) in Tamil, is a rarity. Every other week, the hero is seen bashing the villain to make him look like dosa batter. The heroine appears every now and then to join the hero in songs, comedy scenes, and climax (maybe).

In the recently released Telugu action drama, Naa Peru Surya, Anu Emmanuel is majorly absent in the latter half. As if to remind the audience that there’s Emmanuel in the movie, she’s made to run toward Allu Arjun just after a fight sequence. An awkward embrace and a few romantic lines later, a “mass song” pops up to give her character the much-needed screen time.

Women actually play supporting roles in several Indian films. They are, however, billed as leading ladies. In an interview to The Indian Express, Parul Yadav, who plays the lead in Queen’s Kannada remake, says, "I feel Kannada industry could make a lot more women-oriented subjects and it was very important for me to do this. I also realised that we, women, are happy to play second fiddle to the hero.... I would like for things to change — when we happily play supporting roles, why can’t heroes do the same once in a while?"

Forget about pay disparity or screen time. They are not even given importance in film posters. While the hero’s name is written in bold letters, the heroine’s name is strangely missing from the promotional material.

Nayanthara, who is hailed as the Lady Superstar, has long-walked to box-office success on her own with films such as Aramm and Dora. In these films, you can see her name in the posters as she’s the main, and only, star of the movie.

Aramm. Facebook/Arammofficial page

Aramm. Facebook/Arammofficial page

Dora. Facebook/DoraTamilFilm

Dora. Facebook/DoraTamilFilm

However, her name-tag is taken off when she’s paired with Vikram (Iru Mugan), or even Sivakarthikeyan (Velaikkaran), who entered the film industry a decade after her debut.

Iru Mugan

Vikram in Iru Mugan

Velaikkaran

Sivakarthikeyan in Velaikkaran

Filmmaker Rajesh’s as-yet-untitled film is tentatively titled #SK13 – SK stands for Sivakarthikeyan, and, number 13 is, obviously, a denotation of his filmography’s ladder. Whenever a star-hero is signed for a project, the temporary title immediately becomes a hashtag followed by the hero’s initials.

Nayanthara in SK13

Nayanthara in #SK13

I raised a question on Facebook and Twitter about this treatment meted out to female stars, and the replies I got ranged from silly stats to filthy language. I was told that Sivakarthikeyan ranked amongst the top male stars of Kollywood. If that’s the case, my dear friends, what do you have to say about this:

BSS5

Kajal Aggarwal in BSS5

Kajal, who has been doing films for years is starring alongside Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas in a film temporarily titled #BSS5. Sreenivas hasn’t done one recommendation-worthy film in his career, and, yet his fifth film has his initials in the poster.

Samantha starred as the leading lady in Sreenivas’s debut film (Alludu Seenu, 2014), and Tamannaah dazzled the audiences via an item song. Can you believe that? These are the perks of having a father who’s also a movie producer.

This is a field where even Bollywood is leading by example. The posters of Imtiaz Ali’s Jab Harry Met Sejal feature the names of both actors: Anushka Sharma and Shah Rukh Khan.

Jab Harry Met Sejal

Jab Harry Met Sejal. Facebook/IamSRK

Raees’s posters, though don't carry Mahira Khan’s name. Mahira, however, is not a popular name in the Indian film circles, so perhaps that can be forgiven.

Raees

Raees

Hollywood of course is much further ahead in terms of naming its leading women.

The Post

Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in The Post

The Avengers

The Avengers

Actresses who enjoy stardom in the same sphere as men also don’t have their names on the posters. This poster says: Jeeva’s Kavalai Vendam. What happened to Kajal? Isn’t she a part of the film?

Kavalai Vendam

Kavalai Vendam. Image courtesy: Behance

The time is ripe to send women to the skies and this hero culture which doesn’t give space to women should be reduced to ashes.

Updated Date: May 13, 2018 16:41 PM