Bollywood runs on certain chauvinistic and patriarchal lines. Actresses have been literally abandoned and shunned by Bollywood post wifehood and mommyhood. When Ash’s post pregnancy weight incurred nasty comments from people, women came out in defense of her. 2013 will be important as three of Bollywood’s important leading ladies – Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Lara Dutta and Shilpa Shetty are all set to make a comeback after having a baby. Often critics have not been very supportive of actresses in this context. Harsh comments and negative feedback about how a certain actress’ caliber has diminished and her focus swayed because of her attention shifting sharply towards her child has resulted in a gradual decrease in the quality of her work.
It has been naturally assumed that actresses have a shorter shelf life compared to their male counterparts. Popularity and fan following also the chances of being cast for a lead role decrease with her growing age, marriage and mostly children. It kind of flows from the Indian society that marriage and children are more often than not a greater priority for women, especially in show business. Prime time of actresses is mostly limited till they hit 35. But then trajectories of perception and judgment are changing as Bollywood is fast evolving into a new age avatar.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, who turned 39 in November, is contemplating a comeback and is browsing through scripts to find a suitable role. She met with immense media hostility because of weight gain, after she delivered her daughter Aaradhya. But Ash being the epitome of grace and confidence maintained a dignified approach and ignored the negative feedback. She has given a few stellar, memorable and vital performances in Jodhaa Akbar, Guzaarish, and has ensured fans that the quality of her work will remain intact despite her being a mother. She finds it crucial to maintain professionalism and separate home life from work life.
While Ash completely cut herself off from films and turned her focus on her child, Shipa Shetty chose another way out. She has constantly remained close to the public eye. The 37 year old actress got married in 2009 and had a child in May, 2012. Her IPL team, Rajasthan Royals ensures that she isn’t far from the limelight. She recently agreed to judge reality show Nach Baliye, which will ensure that she is closer to public memory till an apt script comes her way.
Lara Dutta, who gave birth to her daughter Saira Bhupathi in January last year, is already seen in Bollywood, quite visibly. Promos of her next film David is already out and has managed to interest the audiences with the typical action thriller ambience it creates. The film will star notable actress Tabu and Neil Nitin Mukesh as well and is scheduled to release in February. David is simultaneously shot in Tamil as well.
Often, Bollywood actresses have not given successful performances after taking a break to have a baby. Madhuri Dixit’s Aaja Nachle failed to impress the audiences and Karisma Kapoor’s Dangerous Ishhq was dangerously disastrous. Perhaps it is more of a stereotypical, media created mindset than reality.
Hema Malini despite having two daughters reined as the Dream Girl for decades. She has rather given her best performances after becoming a mother. Similarly more recently, Kajol who is Karan Johar’s lucky charm gave two amazing performances in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and My Name Is Khan. In no way has Kajol’s zeal to act, or charm she carries with herself and mostly the energy she delivers in every scene diminishes. Her marriage to Ajay Devgn was disapproved by many, as Kajol was putting everything at stake when she was at the peak of her career! However, Kajol proved them wrong when she bagged the Filmfare’s Best Actress Award for Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham.
In times, when the script is the master of all and cinema is dynamically changing form and direction, actress’ age or personal life is taking a backseat. The audiences appreciate honest performances. Sridevi’s English Vinglish holds proof that age isn’t a factor for actresses anymore. Defying stereotypical norms that thin is beautiful and Bollywood belongs to younger guns is important.
So the newbie mommies Ash, Lara and Shilpa are all geared up to deliver good films and work because in Bollywood today Talent counts, and age is just a number. Koimoi wishes them our heartiest best wishes!