Pictured (left to right): Karan Johar, Samantha Prabhu, Akshay Kumar
In the latest season of Koffee with Karan when Akshay Kumar was shown a pan-India Ormax survey, he was the only Hindi film actor ranking at number five in the top ten (the rest being Telegu/Tamil actors). He spoke with assurance and honesty when asked what the Hindi film industry lacks that results in such a tipped balance. “In our Hindi cinema, actors are scared of doing two heroes, three heroes films. I don't know why and I don't think that happens in the South.” The conversation trickled further when Karan Johar joined in, saying that, as a producer, it is becoming challenging to cast two actors as leads. And both men went on to share how it was impossible to get the actors on board for a two-hero film in a recent movie they produced together. Further discussion and analysis of the situation revealed insecurity as the leading cause of this hesitance, as actors expect there to be one-upmanship in a two-hero film that will negatively impact their stardom, and they might feel as though they cannot own the movie entirely.
On hearing all this, Samantha Prabhu counters with an argument that puts the Bollywood culture in perspective. She says, “you would think the women would have this problem, but the women are all working together!” To this, Johar points out a movie directed by Farhan Akhtar with Katrina Kaif, Alia Bhatt, and Priyanka Chopra starring together, while Akshay Kumar mentions his film Mission Mangal (2019), which starred five actresses, further mentioning that they would eat together and it was a beautiful experience overall.
This dialogue between one of the biggest producers in Bollywood, one of the biggest Hindi film superstars, and the number one pan-India actress (according to the Ormax survey), conveys a lot more depth than what might be intended on a fun-loving show like Koffee with Karan, which is all about the latest Bollywood spice.
Since its inception, Bollywood has been the playground for female rivalry. Given the infamous rifts between Raveena Tandon and Karishma Kapoor, Madhuri Dixit and Sri Devi, and dating back to Zeenat Aman and Parveen Bibi, the list goes on. However, we have recently seen a shift that actresses are more than ready to put their personal rifts aside to work together and replace rivalry with healthy and professional competition. Some have even become great friends, like Katrina Kaif and Alia Bhatt, and Jhanvi Kapoor and Sara Ali Khan. These examples put the old Bollywood myth to shame; actresses cannot be friends with their contemporaries.
While most of the antagonism once stemmed from the media that pitted actresses against each other, I think for the actresses as well as the audience, these blossoming friendships are a breath of fresh air. They positively shape society’s view on how competing women can act towards one another and are an exemplary role model for young girls. As perspectives are majorly influenced by media, this shift in one of the largest media and film industries is bound to have domino effects in society and serve as an example for other industries like Lollywood. It is the age of adaptability and accepting change, and we can be hopeful for more positive examples of women friendships in the same field to look up to in the future.
The conversation on the show also highlights that men have adopted the insecurity now and refuse to work together in fear of losing their stardom. Yet again, another hurdle for the Bollywood film industry, which, hopefully, they will be able to overcome in the coming years.