Akshay Kumar's latest film Samrat Prithviraj has him opposite Miss World 2017 Manushi Chillar, and the age difference between the leading hero and the heroine in this case is 29 years – the widest so far in Akshay's filmography.
Also, remember it was 1994 when we first heard the tunes of Tip Tip Barsa Paani, where a 27-year-old Akshay was seen romancing a 20-year-old Raveena Tandon. It’s now 2022. Akshay is 54 now. While the actress dancing with him has been replaced with a younger one, he stays mighty strong in the spot of the hero, 27 years on.
This provides a perfect example of how stark the problem of ageism in Bollywood is. With a body of work as vast and diverse as that of Akshay Kumar, it becomes clearer how time and Bollywood have failed his female contemporaries.
Here's a look at other Bollywood actors who have romanced actresses much younger than them in movies:
Akshay Kumar & His On-Screen Partners – Startling Age Disparity
We studied all the films of the actor where he played the protagonist with a romantic partner. Here’s a look at the startling age disparity.
It's not Akshay Kumar alone, the question of ageism in Bollywood is as old as time and as big as the disparity between the treatment of men and women in the business. It is most heavily reflected in the leading pairs of films and the often-ridiculous age difference between them. With time, the gap has only widened, and I’m afraid, normalised.
The question is not whether it is okay for a man, almost three decades older, to romance a 20-something in the movies. It is rather important to question why this has increasingly become the norm and what reactions it would invite if the roles were reversed.
It poses a serious inquiry into the longevity of a woman’s career in the movies when compared to that of her male contemporaries. Moreover, it's a reflection on the kind of roles women are offered after a certain age while men continue to play characters half their actual age. It’s no surprise then that the age disparity would find its share in the wage disparity in Bollywood as well.
Salman Khan – Immune to the Passage of Time in His Films
In his career spanning over three decades, Salman Khan has remained immune to the passage of time in his movies. In a study done by Indian Express, it was found that the average age of actresses opposite Salman from all of his filmography is 25.493 years. Katrina Kaif, Sonakshi Sinha, and Anushka Sharma were all in their 20s when they shared the screen with him, while he was in his 50s.
Let's take a look at the age gap between Salman Khan and the female leads in his film over the past decade.
Rajinikanth – Not Aged an Inch in His Films
Rajinikanth has been in the movies since the 1970s and it is safe to say that he has not aged in his films. The 70-year-old actor has been paired with actresses much younger. The leading ladies in his films rarely cross the 40-year mark. In the 2018 film 2.0, the age gap between him and Amy Jackson was about 42 years.
Following are the age differences between the leading pair in the films Rajinikanth has starred in since the turn of the century.
The issue of ageism in Bollywood has consequences in real life. Women are often rendered undesirable after their 30s; it even finds its way in how the institutions of marriage and family are perceived in our country.
Bollywood, however, has also gotten it right a few times. Nuanced stories with sensible and sensitive scripts have been able to do justice to narratives that feature wide age gaps between the leading pair; be it Amitabh Bachchan and Jiah Khan in Nishabd, or Victor Bannerjee and Perizaad Zorabian in Joggers' Park.
What's to be noted is that whenever an older female actor is paired with a younger male actor - the age difference itself becomes the plot point of the film - and is treated as something 'unusual'. Films such as Freaky Chakra, Shabd, Leela, and Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (the track between Aishwarya Rai and Ranbir Kapoor) come to mind where the age difference between the older heroine and younger hero becomes the selling point of the story.