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While 57 year old Khan, being a man, enjoys the luxury of "ageing gracefully", 41 year old Mona Singh must give in to our societal norms where older women are considered to be easily disposable.
As a twelve year old, it was shocking for me to watch a sixty year old Naseeruddin Shah running towards a much younger woman and resting his head in her lap while referring to her as ‘Maa’ in the 2011 film, The Dirty Picture. In that film, Shah played the role of Surya Kant, a South Indian superstar whose character was loosely based on the once famous actor Gemini Ganesan.
“Does this actually happen?” I had asked my mother as we watched the film. “Do men in their sixties get to be the sons of women in their late-twenties or early thirties?”
“It happened a lot during the 1980s,” she replied. “Times are changing now. I am sure things will be different by the time you grow up.”
Eleven years later, as a twenty two year old, I can see that nothing has changed.
Even now, we have a fifty-seven year old Aamir Khan casting a woman in her early forties as his mother in the film Laal Singh Chaddha (2022). Mona Singh seems to have graduated from playing Khan’s love interest’s elder sister in 3 Idiots (2009) to playing his mother’s role in 2022.
While Khan, being a man, enjoys the luxury of ageing gracefully, Mona Singh must give in to our societal norms where older women are considered to be easily disposable.
What upsets me about Bollywood is the obvious insensitive extremism when it comes to how it treats male and female actors. An ageing popular male actor gets to play the role of a man in his twenties or thirties in a film. However, a popular female actor has to either restrict herself to “age appropriate roles” or take on roles similar to ones Mona Singh seems to have taken up.
An example of the same can be seen if the the career arcs of the two actors, Akshay Kumar and Madhuri Dixit are compared. Despite the two of them being of the same age, Kumar is able to bag movies in which he romances women less than half his age. But, Dixit must restrict herself to playing the roles of more than a decade older Naseeruddin Shah’s lover in Dedh Ishqiya (2014) and Varun Dhawan’s mother in Kalank (2019).
In every way, this is nothing but gendered ageism which only seeks to glorify men while completely disregarding the caliber of equally talented women.
I sometimes ask myself what is a bigger shame for Bollywood? Men in their late fifties being cheered as they don the armours of characters in their thirties while romancing women one third their age? Or young women being forced to act as lovers and mothers to men who are as old as their fathers?
By the time I will have an answer to this, my teenage daughter would be asking me if the Indian film industry would ever stop being sexist towards women. I genuinely hope that when the same happens, my response, unlike my mother’s, wouldn’t be falsified by men like Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar.
A dysgraphic writer who spends most of their time watching (and thinking about) Bollywood films. read more...
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