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AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool
The queen of Bollywood.
KANGANA IS KING

No Khan here: A female star is leading Bollywood’s first Rs100 crore film this year

By Shelly Walia

Kangana Ranaut isn’t a big fan of the Rs100 crore ($16 million) club—a so-called benchmark of success reserved for Bollywood films that have a net earning of Rs100 crore or more within India.

“It’s a curse,” she said in a recent interview, “I don’t even pay attention to it.”

That might be, but the 28-year-old actor’s latest release Tanu Weds Manu Returns has become the first movie in 2015 to make it to that elite club this year. This is also the first time a female star has led a film to earn more than Rs100 crore, film trade analysts Taran Adarsh and Komal Nahta confirmed to Quartz.

“And the success is well deserved. The film is excellently scripted, beautifully made and has extraordinary performances. The success indicates that times are changing,” Nahta said.

The film—which is a sequel to the 2011 romantic comedy, Tanu Weds Manu—had one of the biggest openings in 2015 with Rs38.10 crore in box office collections in three days. Actor Akshay Kumar’s action-drama, Gabbar is Back, at Rs40 crore was the only film that collected more than Tanu Weds Manu Returns on the opening weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday.)

However, at the end of the second weekend—on May 31—the net box office collection of Tanu weds Manu Returns surpassed Gabbar is Back and stood at Rs98.37 crore. And on June 01, the film’s net (the box office collection of a film after taxes and other deductions) in India crossed the Rs100 crore benchmark.

Carving a niche

In an industry well known for sexism—be it in terms of how female characters are depicted onscreen, how female actors are written about in the media, or the much lesser remuneration they command—the Rs100 crore club is unsurprisingly reserved for, and dominated by, the three Khans: Salman, Shah Rukh and Aamir.

In fact, the top three films of 2014 were Aamir Khan’s PK, followed by Salman Khan’s Kick and Shah Rukh Khan’s Happy New Year—each earning more than Rs200 crore in Indian box office collections. If not the Khans, other male actors like Kumar, Hrithik Roshan and Ajay Devgn rule the box office.

Ranaut, however, is carving a niche in this man’s world—and not exactly playing by the rules. Unlike most of her female co-stars, she stood out for recently declining to perform item numbers in films or endorsing fairness creams.