Over the last 4 days in my 26 part series , we have explored representation of Women in Movies . I’ve attempted to put forth stats and findings from various studies that compare visibility and nature of depiction of female actors in popular Indian movies with our global counterparts. The focus so far has been on the positivity , where in some contemporary movie characters are changing the ‘norms’ with respect to screen space and criticality in the narrative.
A lot of us at some point of time have noticed stereotypical portrayals [ the dumb rich girl , the loud Punjabi aunty , the conservative Muslim lady ] and on other occasions wondered why was a female cast at all if all she did was drop by out of no where for a song and dance just to make the hero look good.
Under E for Elder Women it’s time we take on the blatant Age gap that exists between female leads that are getting younger and the male super stars that are getting older.
As per a Mint Study out of 925 popular Indian movies observed , the male actors were older than women by a decade in 40% of the cases . While women start out young [ even as teenagers] and peak in their 20s , the men continue to work and get starred opposite women half their age right beyond their 50s. No surprise in a country where we still worship an 70 + yesteryear’s icon as God!
This representation is far away from reality in offscreen world , but the larger point is , this impacts the shelf life of the female actor and can actually be touted as a workplace malpractice! Imagine having different retirement ages for men and women at our place or work? Yes, it’s that bad! Even the recent spate of ‘admired’ movies with respect to representation of women with Arfa [ Sultan] and Phogat Sistes [ Dangal] comply to this norm. Both these movies cast much younger actresses as sports women vs a much older love interest in former and their father as the central male character in the later. The much loved Dear Zindagi with the flawed but fabulous Kaira did indicate a potential romantic track between a 20 something girl and her almost 50 psychiatrist .
In context of these opportunity costs or professional hazards , it’s as important to note the ‘why’ if we are talking about the ‘what’. The reason why younger actresses are cast opposite really old actors is because Indian movies run on its male super stars. The roles written for women also lack the level of detailing to include finer , more mature actresses in its purview , ofcourse the movies I mentioned are an exception to the second observation .
Lamhe , an ahead of its time classic was perhaps the only movie I can remember in last couple of decades that had a younger man – older woman and younger woman – older man track handled with utmost sensitivity and grace in the same canvas. While the much younger Viren falls in love with an older Pallavi during his trip to India but moves on when he realizes she is engaged to someone else . Years later Pallavi is dead and Viren is the guardian of Pooja , Pallavi’s daughter who falls in love with him and they end up together. Another movie that takes the younger woman , older hero storyline and adds a little twist to it was Cheeni Kum .
But talking about the contemporary movies that reversed the age gap by portraying the elder women as love interests of younger men without really playing up their age have to be Wake up Sid , with an atleast 5-6 years age gap between Ayesha and Sid and Ae Dil Hai Muhskil with a gap of more than a decade between Ayan and Saba. My favourite portrayal though shall remain of Ram Prasad [ an operative undercover as a student ] falling for his teacher Chandni . Don’t ask me why I love the way he heard violins playing every time she walked past and how gorgeous she looked in those oh so pretty saris , she made years of living with a filmy name worth it!
Do you feel the age gap of both actors and characters in Indian cinema is glaring and some movies are now moving beyond that, do share your favorite portrayals?
I am collaborating with Jaibala Rao who is blogging about Iconic movies of our generation here . Click here to Join me in my #AtoZChallenge journey this April as I explore Women representation in contemporary movies. If you are participating in AtoZ too , do leave your link and I’d try my best to drop by .