taapsee

We’re halfway into 2022 and it’s already swamped with testosterone thanks to the slew of macho action heroes that have come our way so far. The most recent is Aditya Roy Kapur, who gunned down bad guys and all semblance of logic in Rashtra Kavach Om. Earlier, we saw John Abraham in Attack Part 1, taking on the most literal meaning of the phrase ‘one-man army’; Tiger Shroff in Heropanti 2 where, “super-hacker Babloo (Shroff) goes to a veterinarian clinic (in a barn?) to have a bullet extracted from his butt and is tended to by… a stripper doctor?”; and Abhimanyu Dassani in Nikamma, who insists on saving a seemingly competent woman using a cricket bat and his six-pack abs. 

Here’s a thought: how about retiring the male action hero and introducing a few warrior queens instead? 

Taapsee Pannu, for one, is up for it. Speaking to Film Companion, she said, “I am definitely on the lookout for a good action film,” while agreeing that she’s been typecast as the Bollywood go-to girl for roles of athletes. Sports films used to be the domain of male actors, but as Pannu’s filmography as well as the success of films like Mary Kom show, the audience is ready to see women flex their muscles and beat the odds.  

Think of action films starring a female and immediately the same names pop up, including Anushka Sharma’s brilliant NH10 (2015), Sonakshi Sinha’s Akira (2016) and Pannu’s Naam Shabana (2017).

 

Naam Shabana was born out of a powerful, seven-minute cameo Pannu delivered in Baby (2015), as an intelligence agent and spy. Performing fight sequences next to bona fide action stars — Akshay Kumar and Rana Daggubati — Pannu held her own in Baby as Shabana Khan. So much so that two years later, Naam Shabana came out as the prequel to Baby. It traced how Shabana became a spy and despite its right-wing jingoism (probably inherited from its predecessor), it showed off Pannu’s potential as an action star.

Pannu said that while she has got some scripts with action-oriented roles for her, “nothing that is going to up the game of Shabana” has made its way to her so far. In a world with films like Black Widow, Birds of Prey and Gunpowder Milkshake, what is our excuse for not reimagining the action genre so that actors like Pannu play the protagonists? Isn’t it about time that the action genre snapped out of casting women as characters who are either sidelined or need saving? 

Why is it so difficult to catch a woman serving badassery on-screen, even as nonsensical male-centric action films continue to regularly barrage the senses? 

Here’s hoping Pannu gets the roles she’s dreaming of and we get a woman action hero who doesn’t pull her punches. 

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