Why Do Female Actors Have To “Choose” Between A Career And A Family?

Posted: January 4, 2019

Why does a female actor necessarily need to choose between career and marriage even today? And when she does choose career, why do some of us have a problem?

Some time ago, Kannada actor Rashmika Mandanna was in the news for breaking up her wedding engagement with fellow actor Rakshit Shetty. News channels and newspapers did a detailed panel discussion on who is right and who is wrong in this state of affairs.

Some people proclaimed negatively that the actress was “too professional”. A few sympathised with Rakshit Shetty. Surprisingly, Rakshit Shetty handled the situation well in a mature way and gave a statement in her support. Meanwhile, many believe that she decided to break off the wedding engagement, as she was getting good offers in Telugu film industry. So, she had to choose between family or career prospects, and she chose her career very affirmatively. In this situation, some people quoted a similar instance of another actor Radhika Pandit choosing marriage with fellow actor Yash and putting an end to her film career. The message they gave was: if you fall in love, be like Radhika Pandit, not Rashmika Mandanna.

In this context, it is very important to discuss whether it is mandatory for a young woman to choose marriage instead of a career. To quote the words of a feminist I know, “my mother chose family instead of career, I am trying to balance both and my daughter would surely choose career over family”. Times are changing and we have to change according to the changing times. Our society can’t accept a woman choosing career over family. The whole social system has been working tirelessly since thousands of years in preparing a girl child for her marriage, the ultimate goal in her life. The socially expected role is to be a family woman. Society can’t digest the fact that a woman can be so independent and choose career over family. After all, family should be the first priority of a woman.

If you look at the way the top actresses in Bollywood or regional cinema choose their family or career, we understand that most of them left their film careers after marriage, some in fact at the peak of their careers. The obvious reason could be that married women don’t get roles as they lose their appeal with the audience. What we can make out from this observation is that, an actress holds appeal with the audience only till her marriage. First of all, women don’t get meaningful roles in films and their space in a film revolves around the male character with a few steamy dance numbers and a few forgettable scenes. As a result, once she gets married, the audience loses interest in her.

What is evident is that she is merely an object of prurient interest and nothing more than that. Her acting skills mean nothing to them. In comparison, a male actor might lose some of his female fans after his marriage, but he survives in the industry. However, for a female actor marriage shuts the door of the industry. As a general tendency, producers, directors or the male leading actors won’t show interest in casting a married woman in leading role in their films.

Nonetheless, there is a change in the way female actors handle their life, though it is a minor development for now. Female actors like Kajol, Aishwarya Rai, Kareena Kapoor, Vidya Balan, Anushka Sharma, et al are getting roles and acting in films even after their marriage. Some of them take a break for childbirth and get back to their career with the same zeal. If this trend becomes mainstream, many women in the film industry won’t think twice before getting married in the prime of their acting career.

Many girls flock to the film industry with a lot of dreams and aspirations. And only a few of them become successful. Then, they might fall in love with fellow actors or others outside the industry. But they get stranded in a dilemma – to choose career or marriage. In this case, to choose one means sacrificing the other. However, our traditional society expects a woman to choose her marriage and end her career, as marriage should be the first choice, not career.

My point here is that, a woman should be able to take any decision, listening to her mind, consciousness and dreams, but not due to societal pressures and cultural expectations. She is the sole decision maker and need not feel guilty for her decisions. The outside world has no business to decide or comment on her decisions. Finally, it is her life and her choice.

Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been a

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