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…