According to the World Health Organisation, ageism is the practice of stereotyping and discriminating against people on the basis of their age. More often than not, ageism has a lasting impact on the mental health and careers of old people. Bollywood, though, seems to have personified the whole practice of ageism.
There are innumerable examples of Bollywood being an ageist site unworthy to behold! Casting actresses who are half the age of the male lead ranges from movies, like Jab Harry Met Sejal to Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. However, the debate of ageism plaguing Bollywood reached its height with the release of Saand Ki Aankh.
Saand Ki Aankh, starring Bhumi Pednekar and Taapsee Pannu sparked several debates. The movie is based on the lives of sharpshooters, Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar. The debates were circled around Bollywood’s ignorance of casting two young actresses to play the roles of much older women. Why can’t older actresses be cast for the role of older women? Why is there a need to rope in younger people only to give them a makeover and make them look older? Is it fair to take away essential opportunities from older actresses like this?
“We’ve worked hard as much as our male counterparts. Yet, at 28 or 29, women are issued a suspension letter stating, “This profession is not very kind to the fine lines in your face”. Our intellectual growth, wrinkles, grey hair are frowned upon. I don’t want my job to be identified by my gender. I would like to leave this profession on my terms, not because my wrinkles are frowned upon”. This is what Kangana Ranaut said when the trailer of her movie Panga released. This indeed sums up the entire issue of ageism in Bollywood.
One is relevant within the industry as long as their face screams of youth. However, it is not just about filmmakers not giving older actors a chance, it is about the likes of the audience too. We all mindlessly choose glamour over a good piece of plot and passionate acting. When an older actor’s movie is released, isn’t it one of our common practices to celebrate it as a ‘comeback’? We, the audience, is to be equally blamed for shoving away actors over 40 to such a situation. If we give it a serious thought, this ageism in the movie industry has also proven to be sexist.
In 2017, a movie called Golmaal Again was released, starring Parineeti Chopra and Ajay Devgn as the romantic leads. The 20-year-old age gap between the two is not the only shocking part! The movie had a song which was a remake of another song in the movie Ishq, released in 1997. The earlier version of the song was picturised around Kajol and Ajay Devgn. Exactly 20 years after, Kajol fails to play a female lead while her male counterpart does.
Think about it, why is Amitabh Bachchan still such a relevant actor in the industry while the actresses he came to fame with, such as Jaya Bachchan and Rekha are only seen in award shows and parties? Why is he still a choice of so many filmmakers while his female counterparts are more of a victim of their wrinkles and age lines? Ageism is a bigger deal to women in Bollywood than it is for men. We know this when actresses like Neena Gupta and Seema Pahwa continue to amaze us with their acting, yet they are unable to prove themselves worthy of getting a lead role of a character of their very age.