The last smash hit Dabbang had a 44 year old Salman serenading a 20 something potter girl in impeccably styled backless cholis. Three Idiots considered an epic by many had a 45 year old Amir playing the college genius cum wannabe gynae with a vacuum cleaner. Shahrukh at 45 has yet to outgrow his cutesy expressions. And at 52, a haggard looking Sanjay Dutt is still playing the male lead and fancies himself as a rock star. Good for them!
Strangely when it comes to age, Bollywood is not as forgiving when it comes to its leading ladies. The moment the heroine touches her 30’s she is considered over the hill and has to earn her living endorsing hair oils and mosquito mats. And actresses in their forties are mostly relegated to maternal martyrdom. Yes, we do have an Aishwarya who at 38 still manages to rule the box office with élan but she is an aberration. Look at Rekha! At 56 she looks gorgeous beyond words, but is mostly seen at award functions in her bridal Kanjeevarams, (somebody gift her a sari) air-kissing her ex colleagues. She is beautiful, talented, so why is it that we don’t see her in movies?
Because in the 21st century, where we talk of women seeking an identity of their own and making a mark in this world - the cine world, unfortunately is still stuck in the dark ages. And women are stuck with stereotypes. She is mostly scantily clad, hot and the object of desire for many a Pappu, Sonu and Rocky. No wonder the leading lady has such a short shelf life. Her midriff evokes more interest than her acting skills. Her weight loss becomes the subject of a national debate. She is not expected to cover up, even in freezing cold locales. So what if she is going blue in the face and almost dying of hypothermia, the audience must get its paisa vasool !
When was the last time you related to a woman’s character in a movie? She is either a femme fatale, conveniently working with a fashion house, in her itsy bitsy wardrobe to show off her wash board abs. The nasty corporate climber, who needs a man to bring her to her senses. The airhead, played to perfection by Sonam Kapoor, living her designer dream. The ever sacrificing mother, the conniving sis-in-law... Too many females on screen are just pleasurable distractions: looking pretty, helpless, waiting for her waxed-chest hero on his Harley Davidson, dancing vigorously and baring flesh.
And television is much worse. The women are decked up in psychedelic horrors, spend many a happy hour indulging in kitchen politics and have the unenviable distinction of deep freezing their expressions when in distress. If they are livid, they are so livid that they press the pause button, wait for the camera to capture that epic expression from all angles (remember that feeling when you discovered your brother had pilfered your entire box of Swiss Chocolates) and press the start button for a headache inducing background score. Jhinggg Jhingggg Jhangggg… I have a sinking suspicion that most of these soaps are produced by pharmaceutical companies. The ad world treats women as mere props. Does any anyone recall the JK cement which showed a woman in a bikini, the sea as the backdrop with the tag line – Vishwas hain, is mein kuck khaas hain. Is the brand implying that all they add to their cement is sand and you are better off living on the beach?
So why should men taken women seriously? All he sees is a babe who is meant to be ogled at. Even the animation flicks he watched while growing up, portrayed women with waists so small that the organs had to be outsourced and a rack so big that it defied all rules of gravity. And if she was being brave and saving the world, she had to look like a supermodel with no bad hair days. And young impressionable girls, what are we teaching them? That it’s ok to be on the sidelines? All she needs to do is look pretty, eat less and wait to latch on to a loaded, good looking guy who will take care of her and her shopping frenzies? Imagine my shock when my daughter told me, that all that her girlfriends talk about in school is boyfriends and getting married. And mind you she goes to one the most progressive schools of Delhi.
We need to see more real women on screen, not caricatures and certainly not Hissterical creatures whose butt shot gets more coverage than the movie itself! Agreed there is a new breed of filmmakers who are more clued in to changing times. But they are too few and far in between. Show us women who throw temper tantrums, yet are capable of loving unconditionally. Who demand a cup of tea from their husband when they get back home tired. That it is possible to have a successful career without sacrificing your family. That it’s okay to grow old and life doesn’t end at 40 but gets a new lease. Show us women, who inspire us despite their ordinariness. And please, please show us men romancing women their age.