Bollywood has long been problematic. And when it comes to being ridiculously sexist, Bollywood knows how to take the show. For Bollywood, life just begins at fifty. It’s true for all leading top actors in the country - all leading MALE actors in the country. Our Bollywood knights in shining armor are getting older, and their leading ladies to romance are getting younger, and younger and younger. Some of them are younger than me, and my life has honestly just begun.
Recently we saw Akshay Kumar, who is 52, freely romancing Nupur Sanon who is only 23, and Salman Bhai, who is 55, being paired with Disha Patani who is merely 27. Bollywood’s age-sexism has been spoken about enough, but somehow nothing ever changes. We are not here to say that there cannot be an age gap between on-screen couples. We are a modern progressive society that does not have those problems, I hope? I mean, take for example Milind Soman and Ankita, everyone is breaking those boundaries. So representation in cinema is actually a good thing. After all, love is love.
But here’s the problem, while we don’t blink an eye when we hear about a 50 + Salman Khan all set to romance Saiee Manjrekar who is just 21, or Akshay Kumar being paired opposite Manushi Chillar who is again 21, why do we never see any examples the other way?
Close your eyes - now think of Madhuri Dixit, who is 52, paired with...Ishaan Khattar, who is 24. Freaked? That age gap is lesser than the ones I just mentioned. Would it be totally normal if a film were announced with say Juhi Chawla romancing Tiger Shroff?
Bollywood has time and again sidelined women for age, while continuing to promote men who are the same age. Often times, women of certain age brackets simply do not get work. Remember when Soni Razdan and Neena Gupta had a problem with younger female actors playing older women? They had a point. Those are literally the only roles they get - those of mothers, and if we take that away from them too….
Speaking of mothers, Bollywood has often done some really weird things when it comes to casting them. For example, Shefali Shah was cast as Akshay Kumar’s mother in Waqt, however she is five years younger to him. In fact, Nargis played Sunil Dutt's mother in Mother India at a year younger than him. To prove my point, they eventually got married.
And while we honestly support the representation of all kinds, including couples with a significant age gap, this cannot be yet another thing that boxes women. By showing us that only older men are worth playing lead characters and that an older woman, on the other hand, can at best play a mother, we further build on extremely sexist, patriarchal thought processes that truly need to change. What’s more, it is only when both men and women have fair opportunities that we can address other things like wage gaps. Bollywood is working towards making its content more progressive, but we must constantly point out these forgotten problems if we truly want to see change.