Bhumi Pednekar says she hates ‘annoying’ term ‘female-led projects’ from her gut: ‘Gender doesn’t define…’

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Bhumi Pednekar is regarded as one of the few actresses of her generation who routinely does content-backed films with strong roles for women.Be it ensemble films like Bheed or her last released Bhakshak (where she was lead), Bhumi has done it all. Now, the actress has expressed her annoyance at calling her films ‘female-led projects’.Bhumi says, ‘There is a misconception that people are not immediately drawn to watch films or content headlined by women. Such projects are immediately bracketed as ‘female-led projects’. This is an annoying term and I hate it from my gut. Gender doesn’t define people’s watching preference. Audience wants to see good cinema, good content. They aren’t choosing to watch it basis gender. It’s ridiculous.’

The actress says that the term does not need a space in classifying films because in the end, audiences are drawn to content. Talking about the notion that male leads are more ‘saleable’, she says, ‘If that was the case, I wouldn’t have survived and I have built a career out of essaying remarkably strong women on screen! I got lucky because I started working at a time that coincided with how women characters were being written for cinema. There were author backed roles written for me. I was fortunate that directors liked my performances and chose me to headline in some of these incredibly beautiful projects that showed women as agents of change.’

She gives an example of her recent release Bhakshak, which was a success. ‘My last hit Bhakshak was about a woman’s willpower to fight the system for social good and it went on to become a huge hit globally. So audiences saw a female actor headline a subject that took on patriarchy and showed it in all its ugliness. Such a project should have never become a hit if audience were selecting to watch male-actor driven projects,’ she says.

Over the years, Bhumi has worked in several films that have been classified as ‘female-led’, ranging from Saand Ki Aankh to Bhakshak. But at the same time, the actress points out that she has also done stories with male leads where her character is the driving force. ‘Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Lust Stories, Dum Laga Ke Haisha, Saand Ki Aankh, Bala, Pati Patni Aur Woh are all films that had women driving the story and they are all successful projects. So, I feel it’s high time we discard all misconceptions and back projects led by women and give it the scale and mounting that we truly deserve,’ says Bhumi.6

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