For the longest time in Bollywood, we have always seen actresses’ market value based on their age. Yes, when it comes to the Hindi film industry the shelf-life of an actress has nothing to do with her talent. Its solely decided on the fact that if she is young enough to romance heroes (twice her age) and whether she is still desirable by the masses. Sounds absurd right? But sadly that’s the truth.
Since time immemorial, our industry is plagued with some of the most concerning issues like casting couch, sexism, gender pay gap, sexual harassment, male privilege, toxic-masculinity…I think the list is endless. But what is more saddening that its 2020 and very little to almost no effort has been put by the industry A-listers to root out these problems.
Earlier, actors would never reveal their marital status in the fear of losing out on their female fan-following. Slowly and slowly things changed and we saw a shift in this attitude. However, today a married actor still enjoys all the privileges of being ‘a star’ and nobody questions him about family planning or balancing work and personal life. But when it comes to an actress, who chooses to continue with work post marriage, she is always bombarded with questions like “So when are you giving the good news?” or “How are you going to balance work and married life now?” These questions sum up the sexist attitude of our society. And Bollywood is happily contributing in continuation of this ancient tradition.
Fans have no problem in watching a 50 plus actor romance an actress half or one third his age. Since ages, we have been fed with the notion that there’s nothing wrong with an old actor romancing a young lady onscreen. In fact, the younger the actress is the chances of the film being a huge hit increases. Yes, that’s what we have seen in all these years. But is it necessary to continue with all these horrific sexist, ageist and misogynistic mindset? It’s laughable that actresses in the age group of the 40s-50s are never paired with actors of the same age! But its absolutely fine for the viewers and makers to show a 50 plus actor lusting after a 20-year-old. For how long are we going to continue with this sexist ideology?
52-year-old Akshay Kumar romanced 29-year-old Kriti Sanon in last year’s ‘Housefull 4’. Khiladi Kumar will be next seen opposite 24-year-old Sara Ali Khan in Aanand L Rai’s ‘Atrangi Re‘. In ‘Laxmmi Bomb‘ he will star alongside 27-year-old Kiara Advani. Then he will be romancing Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar in Yash Raj’s historical period drama ‘Prithviraj’. Manushi is just 22-years-old for god’s sake!
In ‘Bharat’ 54-year-old Salman Khan was paired opposite Disha Patani(27). He will be again romancing the pretty actress in Prabhudeva’s ‘Radhe’. Last he was seen opposite 21-year-old Saiee Manjrekar in ‘Dabangg 3’. Salman is the ultimate massy hero and he doesn’t follow any rule book. He makes the rules and people follow them. Yes, that’s how things work here.
In the recent past, we saw 50-year-old Ajay Devgn paired opposite actresses like Rakul Preet, Esha Gupta and Ileana D’Cruz. They all are at least 10-15 years younger than Devgn. 18-year-old Sayyeshaa had played his love interest in ‘Shivaay’.
And it’s not like only these superstars are bashfully enjoying the “perks” of their position. The new generation actors too are following the same path. 34-year-old Sushant Singh Rajput will be seen opposite Sanjana Sanghi in ‘Dil Bechara’ which is an adaptation of ‘The Fault In Our Stars’. Sanjana is apparently just 23-year-old. Then we have 46-years-old Farhan Akhtar, who will be probably romancing 27-year-old Mrunal Thakur in the sports drama ‘Toofan’.
54-year-old Mr Perfectionist Aamir Khan was last seen romancing 36-year-old Katrina Kaif in ‘Thugs of Hindustan’ and next will be seen opposite Kareena Kapoor Khan in ‘Laal Singh Chadha’. Bebo is 15 years younger than Aamir.
Recently, watching Saif Ali Khan opposite Tabu in ‘Jawaani Jaaneman’ or Ajay Devgn opposite Tabu in ‘De De Pyaar De’ and Kajol in ‘Tanhaji’ was a refreshing change. But that is just a one-off situation which happens rarely and only when the “script demands it”. Why can’t we have more of such amazing and appropriate casting?
No amount of women empowerment messages and speeches on the part of these privileged actors will ever help in changing the sorry state of affairs. Until and unless they themselves take the initiative of casting age-appropriate screen partners, things won’t change. We know how things run in this film industry and how much power an actor holds when it comes to deciding which actress will be cast opposite him or just in his film.
So that clearly indicates the hypocrisy of the industry. And please don’t tell me that its the audience’s demand. The viewers will lap up anything, so the onus is definitely on the actors and the filmmakers to actually walk the talk. All massy entertainers focus only on the lead actors and actresses are cast just as eye-candy. Are we still going to follow the same age-old narrative? Actresses like Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Tabu, Shilpa Shetty, Raveena Tandon are playing moms on silver-screen, whereas all the Khans, who despite being from the same age group, are still playing the lead. Isn’t this the classic example of male entitlement?
It’s 2020 for god’s sake! How much more time do these actors need to come out of their bubble and realise that romancing actresses half or one-third their age is so passé.
Also Read: Women telling women stories- Why we need more of that in this post #MeToo era