Is age really just a number for Bollywood actresses, or a confinement?

Is age really just a number for Bollywood actresses, or a confinement?

Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Kajol

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.

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