Is age really just a number for Bollywood actresses, or a confinement?
Madhuri Dixit in ‘Aaja Nachle’, Aishwarya Rai in ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’, Sridevi in ‘English Vinglish’, and Tabu in ‘Haider’. What do you think is the common factor in these three divas and these respective movies of theirs? Well, let us tell you. All these actress made their comebacks with these movies. Nearly all of them were in their forties and extremely gorgeous (they still are). However, they all made a comeback playing a mother, or some other role that exaggerated the fact that they are ageing.
Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that playing a mother on-screen is bad in any way. After all, Late Nargis played a mother early in her career, in ‘Mother India’, and won numerous accolades. What we are saying is, when the actors who were once the co-stars of these beguiling divas, can play roles decades younger than they actually are, romancing half-their-age actresses, what is stopping these charming ladies to do the same?
We have seen the Khans, Akshay Kumar, and many actors who are in their forties and even fifties, playing college goers, and even 20-year-olds. However, the rules change when actresses come into picture.
Recently released ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil’ showed Aishwarya Rai Bachchan romancing Ranbir Kapoor, and we loved the electrifying chemistry. However, Aish’s character here was again constrained by age, as she was shown to be divorcee, much older than Ranbir. If you see, the age gap was not much evident between the two, and could have been foregone, but then again, the question comes in. Why are actresses past a certain age required to play roles of older woman?
We saw Tabu essay her role to perfection in ‘Haider’, and just can’t think of anyone else to do justice to the role more than her. However, at the age of 43, she was playing mother to Shahid Kapoor, while in the same year Saif Ali Khan, who is of the same age, was playing a 20-something in ‘Humshakals’, and even in ‘Happy Ending’, and though both the movies were not successful, the audience accepted him easily in the age group.
Same goes for even Kajol, who started playing a mother from ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’, which continued in ‘Fanaa’ and in more recent times, ‘My Name Is Khan’ and even ‘We Are Family’ where she played a mom to three kids. No doubt all of those were beautiful performances, but we feel she is so much more than just a mother on screen, there are so many shades of the plethora of talent she possesses.
It can be said that people have become used to the fact that if an actress is married, or over 35, she is confined to certain roles only, defined by her age.
Sad, given that the makers are leaving so much potential untapped, just because of a number, which has not much relevance, unless visible.
Flip the tables, and there are very few examples that can boast of not stereotyping the age factor of female actors. Agreed ‘Dilwale’ was not a run-out-of-the-mill kind of an experience, but we have to admire the fact that Kajol was the one playing the love interest of Shah Rukh Khan, be it their twenties romance, or a later, much matured one. That was one movie where the actress was not constraint by age factors forcibly. And accept the fact; we all loved the chemistry of Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol, much more than any other actress with the superstar.
This is one question that troubles us every time an actress makes a comeback. From Madhuri Dixit and Karisma Kapoor to Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerjee, they all have worked with top actors and carved a niche for themselves in the industry, but while the same actors have enjoyed decades of stardom and are in no mood of stopping (though we are not complaining), the actresses have slowly faded into oblivion, making a forgotten comeback once in a while. Even if they do make a comeback, those are the roles that complement their age more than their talent.
Let’s hope that in coming years we get to see the practice not that frequent.
Kapoor & Sons: Caught the plight of homosexuals tenderly and yet made 'coming out' look doable
Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921. The house proudly flaunted that to the world, nestled in the greens of Coonoor. No one knew the darkness that was inside, the demons that were individually dealt with. But then, isn’t every family like that?
Two years have passed by since this Shakun Batra-directorial, story of a dysfunctional family had come to our lives. However, amongst the various themes that tore apart the family and eventually brought it together, one that truly had the power to transform, was that of homosexuality.
Not many know, that the role played by Fawad Khan, that of family’s elder son, a successful author, was actually offered to many A-listers, who turned it down, eventually leading him to step into the shoes of Rahul. And it was, indeed, a very big step on his part. He was venturing out of his territory, a man who has such a huge female-fan following, and comes from a country with religion as its main running philosophy. He did the role and brought such conviction to it that we were forced to stand up and applaud, his courage, and the beauty with which his character was carved.
Since times immemorial, all our memories of gay characters on screen have been that of carelessly effeminate and unimportant roles, which are just there to add a comic element. The stereotype has been high to an extent that often the champions of the same channelise it and promote it, for it is wrapped in the shiny paper of presentation. The biggest example of this was ‘Dostana’, which was an amazing story of friendship, still used homosexuality as humour, as its backdrop. Ironically, it came from the same production house, though nearly eight years before that.
But ‘Kapoor & Sons’ begged to differ here. The character here was real, someone who was hiding himself, for the society, his family. There was surreality to the theme of homosexuality here, which had the power to jar us inside out; and that, it did.
Two scenes from the movie specifically hit me. First one is when Sunita (Ratna Patak Shah) finds out that her ideal elder son, whom she adores and is proud of, is not straight. The aftereffects of the same jolt you, because the reaction is just what an Indian mother gives, in any situation that is beyond her control; uncontrollable anger at the offspring, and then uncontrollable guilt, of blaming herself and her upbringing. The scene is filmed so beautifully, that your eyes sting. The way Fawad’s facade falls and his fear is marked across his face, which is then replaced by the anger of hiding himself for all those years, and mother’s dilemma and hurt, it all comes out in a naked and real manner.
Another sequence is when Rahul (Fawad Khan) comes back home after the showdown with his mother and the death of his father totally uproots whatever sanity his family possessed. He sits with his mother, with whom his last encounter was one of his coming out, and she asks, hesitatingly, about his partner. A subtle way of expressing acceptance, the way they hold hands, without saying anything, it stays with you.
It may not be one masterpiece, but ‘Kapoor & Sons’ will forever remain a favourite for finally breaking the mainstream stereotype of a gay man, in Bollywood. And for that, no matter how many bans, I will forever be waiting for Fawad Khan to come back, and give us more performances; with dare and conviction.
An ode to Sridevi, the queen who inspired the queers long before it became mainstream
“I am a kid from the 90s but still can’t forget those days when, me-myself was not out and proud about my preferences. And inside my own sweet world would dance in front of the mirror on many songs, but majorly on ‘Hawa Hawai’ and ‘Main Teri Dushman, Dushman Tu Mera’. These songs were just not tunes for me, it made me feel exactly what I was; a QUEERby birth”.
The news of the legendary diva Sridevi being no more with us is still hard to believe, as she was part of my and every queer’s childhood memories. While in the late 90s my bunch of friends would idolise a star from the West as their gay icon, me being a full-fledged Bollywood fanatic was in love with Sridevi and she was a diva I used to worship (and will forever). Her golden costume and perfectly done makeup in ‘Hawa Hawai’ made me feel, “Yes! There is someone like me out there who loves bling and all things loud.” Her feather headgear in one of the songs from ‘Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja’, touched my drag Queen‘s soul. One of the lines from her song ‘Hawa Hawai’ which is ‘Soorat Hi Maine Aisi Paayi’ transported me into a world where I thought that there is someone narcissist just like me. Sridevi’s charm was on my mind and the feminine side in me just wanted to be a replica of her.
The gone actress has not only given a lot to the Indian cinema, but her sass and talent of naturally moulding herself into any character gave her an upper hand in whatever she used to do. When many gay men were struggling and were confused about their sexual orientation they found a connection to their on-going pain in Sridevi’s roles. Whether it was Sridevi as a meek Anju and ferocious Manju fighting for everything wrong in ‘ChaalBaaz’ (1989), Pooja’s mutiny against the everlasting societal conditions in ‘Lamhe’ (1991), Seema’s confidence-filled and fearless dance in the ‘Mr. India’ (1987) song ‘Hawa Hawaai’ or her role of a naagin (snake) coming out to the world about her dual identity in ‘Nagina’ (1986), Sri’s roles had a deep connection and were etched in every GAY man’s mind.
And how can one miss ‘Kate Nahin Kat Te’ song of Sridevi from ‘Mr. India’, where she owned the song and made every gay guy’s dream to dance on it once with his man. This particular song was wild, seductive and equal parts bold. Sridevi draped in a sky-blue coloured saree with a matching bindi and of course adding fuel to the fire was her dancing moves. Even at the end of the song, a fully wet in rainwater, Sridevi stretching herself on a pile of hay – ‘Tumne jo li angdayi hai’ – where the diva nibbles on straws with a drenched fire in her eyes, leaving Mr. Kapoor to chivalrously lie on a distant haystack.
While mostly when the film fraternity was in a zone where feminine men were used as a tool to add fun elements on the silver screen, Sridevi was a ray of hope for the LGBTQ community. She was like a powerful symbol for the QUEERS. Her role resonated each and every gays struggle, and also echoed their dysphoria into her characters. And with her, all the queer children surpassed the narrow-minded stereotypes which they were labelled with. Lastly, she might be gone, but the colourful rainbow universe she opened for all the fellow LGBTQ people remains there intact..
Hail the QUEEN! RIP Sridevi.