Is old not gold…in movie-dom?

FireShot capture , originally uploaded by priyankarocks.

Triggered by an article in Bombay Times, that talks about eroding shelf lives of our Bollywood heroines, I wondered aloud to my husband:

You see even the glamorous and supposedly upwardly progressive film industry has such deep rooted prejudices for younger looking ‘unmarried’ women. A nearly 50-year-old actor can romance a 20-something college girl but a married Madhuri Dixit is promptly rejected by audiences and industry despite her much graceful dance sequences in Aaja Nach Le.

His response: “Women get older and look older on screen, maybe that’s why they phase out faster.

My retort: “What! And you think a balding Sanjay Dutt and irregular bulging of Salman Khan’s body parts make for a lustful viewing on 70 mm?

His response: “No, they don’t look young but they do carry off the characters. Women, on other hand, cannot hold off the glamorous cliches that are a norm of every mass-bollywood-drama once they opt for domesticated lifestyle or once beyond a certain age. Case in point, Sushmita Sen. No one wants to see her sizzle on screen or Rani Mukherjee for that matter. They were so bad in earlier movies when they tried to pass off as young-somethings with tight clothes and bad wigs.

My answer (was waiting for him to finish, so that I could launch my tirade):
This is so typical of males to write off women once they step over the 30-mark. I mean, how can you guys say that Karisma Kapoor (despite being married and post one kid) is not sexy. Have you seen her in a sari on those inane TV shows that she was judging? She’s definitely hotter than a balding and pot-bellied Sanjay Dutt in Blue
in his scuba diving gear.

I know I made a valid point, as husband nodded in approval, but he wasn’t giving up just yet.

His cool reply: “Right. But the point is Bollywood babes are Indian afterall who undergo a 360 degree transformation once married with a few exceptions like Malaika who continue to shed clothes to tantalise the starved indians. Other married women shirk away from shedding both, weight and clothes. Swiftly, newer faces like Deepika, Kareena or Priyanka Chopra fill replacing Rani, Kajol, Sushmita, Lara or Bipasha. Women eat into each others share, practically. Men stop trying and shrinking their ganji’s after one flop, eg that Bhagnani chap, Harman Baweja, Neil Mukesh etc.

(Underlined meaning: Male actors know that they can try in time as they wouldn’t be deemed ‘old‘ by directors and producers)

I was fuming by now. “You mean to say in attempt to get noticed actresses start shedding clothes in this industry. And when they can shed no more, they are replaced?”

He promptly brings in Demi Moore, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Angelina Jolie etc etc who have repeatedly gone nude in magazines to draw attention to themselves despite bearing several rounds of kids and changing several partners.

You are just like any other male out there. Biased and completely opinionated on why younger women are needed to fuel Bollywood’s business.” I shouted before hailing a cab to reach my office.

As you see clearly that I could not really conclude the issue with husband still holding on to his idea of male vs female shelf life in Bollywood and me debating on how we continue to do this to our female actors.

But really is movie industry just about skin show-off in movies? Is that why great actors like Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore (and many others) chose to stand out from the filmi-crowd by doing films of a different kind? Are we (including myself) so delusional about male and female beauty on screen?

I am still thinking…


5 thoughts on “Is old not gold…in movie-dom?

  1. I have two views. One, actress after 30+ married and getting married, will mostly be not accepted as a lead actress because we have portrayed the Indian cinema like that. Young hot heroine and mature, romantc hero running after her. It has been like this, since ages, atleast in bollywood. Female do look older after a point of time because of the physical changes they have to undergo after marriage, baby, etc and on the other hand male actors can still carry themselves well.

    Second point is – Look at Kajol in My Name is Khan, she looks so elegant! Hands dwn she is still gorgeous. On a broader perspective, older female can still do meaningful role like Dimple Kapadi in DCH, but getting roles like Kareena in Jab we met, etc is difficult.

  2. its hardly the industry's fault, if you do nothin to change the system, then how can you blame it? Have any of these 30+ women really tried their hand at writing a script or hiring a team to write a script that wuld do justice to their talent. Preity Zinta and Kajol for example are not lacking the finances or the support required, not so sure if they want to challenge status quo! and if they don't then is it really the industry's fault. I don't remember this very industry having meaty roles for senior actors aka dilip kumar, variety. Amitabh Bachchan challenged status quo, took the risks and it paid off, people starting exploring different stories, it takes just one person to make that leap of faith and the a trend is built… it will take just one kajol or aishwarya to drive home to point and the rest will follow… at the end of the day – film-making like any other business is about results and revenues, if the producers feel just as well rewarded and the audience just as satiated with the entertainment value – then why not? after all we saw amitabh too making mistakes and not being accepted by his audience despite being the industry alpha male – its nt so much about gender than it is about the lack of proactivity to change things on the part of the female actors – as your hubby pointed out – the culture here has always been slow down your career after marriage – which is not necessarily the case in Hollywood… our female actors need to do some rethinking – not the audiences!

  3. We get- not what we want but what we deserve. In this case, this society has a mindset. Either the filmakers appeal to it or make a very moving picture to shake the inertia like hirani, amir khan etc movies in recent past. This involves risks. I remember an excellent woman-oriented movie of karishma kapoor- zubeida(she got a national award for the same). But it was not commercially hit while ppl really loved it like aaina and many other that are woman-oriented lovely movies but not hit on box-office. What he means is that its both ways that the society is yet to develop to appreciating a movie like PS. I love you. While there have been attempts by producers at this like lamhe etc but still, we will have to wait for another generation for accepting things like gays and women in leading roles on mass accepted platforms. With >30% ppl below poverty line and illiterates, cant expect too much at this moment. You are right, but not many to blame. Rather do something to change it, begin the change, ppl will follow.

  4. Really but Bollywood is reflection of modern India, mirroring the societal changes & economical leaps the country has taken.

    Alas, we haven't learnt to set aside our male-dominated mentality. Ironic, but true

  5. 100% agreed
    The problem is in the mindset. The people who make movies and the scripts they churn out. I can't think of a single script in the last few years which was made for a 30 plus woman.
    It all boils down to our social fabric of non-acceptance of change where women are concerned.
    And why blame the film makers alone, they give us what we want.

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