Romancing The Older Woman: Bollywood’s Trysts Before ‘ADHM’

May-December romances have always spooked Bollywood - except for these rare flicks in between. 

3 min read
Ranbir Kapoor and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in a still from <i>Ae Dil Hai Mushkil</i>. (Photo courtesy: YouTube grab)

Cross-generational love - not lust, mind you - has always been an iffy zone for Bollywood. A May-December romance is controversial territory in the Indian society (though not so much when the man is older) and cinema as usual, reflects it. While the more recent Saala Khadoos got past without much debate, remember the flak Amitabh Bachchan attracted for Nishabd?

The portrayal of a romantic relationship between a young man and an older woman is even rarer. But Karan Johar seems to be ready to make it a talking point again in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, where Ranbir Kapoor is seen dating a much older but stunning-as-ever Aishwarya Rai Bachchan.

While we are really curious about how Johar portrays the relationship - and if he really dares to go beyond the conventional approach - here’s looking at how Bollywood has been dealing with the romancing the older woman theme till now.

(Psst! It almost always ends in death or at least heartbreak. Grow up, Bollywood?!)


Mera Naam Joker (1970)

Like many Raj Kapoor films, Mera Naam Joker sought to break several taboos through the story of Raju, the clown’s life. Rishi Kapoor played the young Raju, who as a school boy, falls in love with his teacher Mary - played by the uber-sexy Simi Garewal. Initially powered by lust, Raju falls in love with the kind teacher, who helps boost his self-confidence. He is later heartbroken when she leaves after marrying her fiance (Manoj Kumar). This was perhaps the first depiction of this very familiar yet forbidden form of love in Bollywood.


Lamhe (1991)

One of Yash Chopra’s finest films, Lamhe was way ahead of its time - which probably accounts for its commercial failure in India. Looking at cross-generational love from both angles - that is once with an older woman and once with a much younger one (both played by Sridevi with Anil Kapoor being the male lead) - the film explored the many facets of such a relationship - from silent, unrequited love to complete adoration and passionate pursuit.


Dil Chahta Hai (2001)

One of the factors that contributed to Dil Chahta Hai’s success was its mature handling of the relationship between Sid and Tara, played by Akshaye Khanna and Dimple Kapadia respectively. What is essentially a friendship between a divorced alcoholic architect and the young but wise-beyond-his-years artist Sid, becomes love for the young man. But, refreshingly, it remains friendship for the older woman.


Leela (2002)

This English language film directed by Somnath Sen and starring Dimple Kapadia, Deepti Naval, Vinod Khanna and Amol Mhatre, was a refreshingly mature take on the May-December romance. Overshadowed by her poet husband all her life, Leela (Dimple), a professor, discovers herself when she goes to the US to teach and is befriended by a student. The film delves into the intellectual connection between partners that’s entirely ignored by Bollywood in general. What’s also refreshing is how Leela’s journey of self-discovery does not end with the affair.


Freaky Chakra (2003)

This flick is unlikely to remain in your memory for any reason apart from Deepti Naval. In Freaky Chakra, she plays an embittered, lonely widow - a doctor-turned-mortician, who falls in love with her 19-year-old paying guest. It’s one of those rare Indian films, which shows the woman taking the lead in love - and sex - and unapologetically at that. And it’s impossible to look away from the utterly stunning Naval. It also doesn’t end in loss or heartbreak. Yay!

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