I vaguely remember hearing Hema Malini in an interview a few years back that it wasn't her choice to quit films post-marriage - there was a sudden drop in appropriate roles being offered to her. She also mentioned being asked to play the mother of Jeetendra, with whom she had delivered many blockbusters, as his lady-love.
Recently even Saif Ali Khan categorically stated that questions on marriage negatively impact an actress's career.
All said and done, we've witnessed Bollywood turning unfair to actresses after they get married. Not to forget, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan was unceremoniously dropped from the film Heroine, being pregnant midway through the shooting and Kareena Kapoor was replaced at the last minute from Ram-Leela after she announced her marriage.
However recently, there have been instances that have surprised us. Roles are being written for 35-plus actresses, and we are seeing them playing meaty roles.
The Jazbaa trailer highlights one such pleasant change. Aishwarya is looking stunning and completely soaked in an advocate avatar. It brings along a feel good factor that the actresses can maintain their stardom even after they have family plans; or at least a "window" if not a "gate". Leaked pictures from the sets of Dilwale where Kajol will be romancing Shah Rukh Khan again is yet another exciting prospect.
Can this be viewed as the end of unfairness towards married actresses? All the examples given above are actually those of influential ladies in the film industry, but instances of married actresses being offered substantial roles are still very handful. Some of it could be a result of the actresses' personal choice but they mostly fall victim to declining stardom following the addition of the title of "Mrs" to their names. Indeed, almost overnight, an actress becomes "too old to be a heroine".
And it doesn't end with Bollywood. Married women are treated in the same way in all industries. Again, there is a handful of married women who make it big professionally; the rest mostly end at a mediocre level and eventually give up. What begins as passion diminishes to being a monotonous job. Few carry on for the money it brings along, and where money is not an issue, a job is traded to be at a place where one's presence is valued.
Coming back to the subject at hand, in our movies, is it more of a taboo that the audience may not accept married actresses because their appeal is over, or it just a phobia of the industry itself? When a hero can romance a girl half his age, at times even lesser, why is an actress termed "retired" after taking her marital vows.
Speaking in practical terms of demand and supply, is it failures at the box office in the past that makes filmmakers cringe about casting a married actress? Well, partially yes. As an audience, we have not been receptive to female-centric films.
But given today's trend where films like Piku, Tanu-Manu have emerged winners and audiences have outrightly rejected formula films, I think it's safe to say that viewers have evolved and are open to giving such subjects a fair chance.
|Sridevi in a still from English-Vinglish.|
I hope Jazbaa turns out to be as promising at it appears and manages to break the myth associated with "mummy-returns" on the silver screen. It's accepted with an open mind for our love for good cinema in which characters are important and are not placed as cheap tactics to dig gold at the box office.
I wish to see more such scripts like Drishyam, English-Vinglish, Gulaab Gang where women known for their acting calibre are rightly calibrated, and their talent, just like male actors is portrayed as timeless. An actor is an actor, regardless of gender and age. It's time to love films and subjects and bid goodbye to item numbers; at least when they are merely an object of distraction and used to cover a weak script. Let the script be the king and let queens also play longer innings.