Age is just a number.... isn't it?
When it comes to casting decisions in the glittering world of Bollywood, where dreams come true on the silver screen, age has frequently taken a back seat. The film industry has repeatedly relied on superstar status and chemistry between lead actors to draw audiences. Bollywood, known to audiences for its larger-than-life romances and enthralling dramas, has often cast actors with significant age gaps. The ridiculous age difference between the prominent couples is acceptable with Bollywood filmmakers. When we see an oddly matched pair, the conversation resurfaces but quickly fades. Or are we desensitized to the point where we don't want this to change?
This is more than just a characteristic unique to Akshay Kumar; it's a problem in an industry that sells stories centered on the male protagonist. Salman Khan in Dabangg and Sultan and more recently in Radhe-your most wanted bhai, Shahrukh Khan in Zero, and Rajnikanth in Robot have all appeared in such films. It is, without a doubt, problematic. It's anti-youth, and things must change. Women face much pressure to stay younger, prettier, and thinner. We only show this type of woman on social media. We do not want to normalize people who are overweight or elderly. By creating such films, we effectively tell women over forty that they do not exist. Your stories aren't real. On social media, your photos do not live. You lack identity because our stories and films do not portray you. Similarly, 50-year-old men acting like callous 16-year-old boys are problematic. These commercial cinema character archetypes have been around for a long time, and we continue to rehash the same models and stories.
When I first heard that Radhika Madan would be paired alongside Akshay Kumar, my immediate reaction was, "Isn't he too old to be cast as her love interest?" Yes, he was because if Madan, who is 28, is paired with the 56-year-old Akshay Kumar, it will mean that Kumar's first film, Saugandh, was released about four years before Madan was born! That's a long time for an actor; unfortunately, female actors don't have the same longevity. Previously, Akshay Kumar's Prithviraj reignited the debate, as the period film will cast former Miss World Manushi Chhillar as Princess Samyukta. While Tip Tip Barsa Panni in Sooryavanshi started discussing how Katrina Kaif replaced Raveena Tandon, but Kumar kept his role, why are we, as moviegoers, not rejecting such portrayals? Bachchan Pandey imagined phenomenal actress Seema Biswas as Akshay Kumar's mother, although she is three years his senior.
Many other movies besides Akshay Kumar's could be used as examples when discussing inappropriate age gaps. Waqt is a prime example of the bizarre age gap between male and female actors. It paired a 63-year-old Amitabh Bachchan with a 33-year-old Shefali Shah. It was difficult to watch them play husband and wife. As if that wasn't enough, the filmmakers cast Akshay Kumar, who is five years Shefali's senior, as her son. To top it all off, the female lead was played by Priyanka Chopra, who was 22 then. The film Zero defied all logic and physics concepts, so the age difference between Shah Rukh Khan and both female leads - Anushka Sharma and Katrina Kaif- was unsurprising. But Aanand L Rai took it a step further by casting Sheeba Chaddha as his mother, who is six years younger than Shah Rukh.
Salman Khan's reputation as the 'most eligible bachelor' does not appear to fade, as he is frequently seen wooing actresses nearly half his age. Even in Bharat, Katrina Kaif (18 years Salman's junior) plays his love interest. Sonali Kulkarni, who's nine years his junior, plays his mother. Problematic age gaps between Bollywood lead actors and actresses
Why do female actors have to make a comeback while their male counterparts never have to? Isn't there an age gap based on gender? It is hypocritical that when Nawazuddin Siddhique and Avneet Kaur were paired together for Tiku Weds Sheru, the audience, despite some criticism, just seemed to accept it. Still, on the other hand, the idea of Ranbir Kapoor romancing Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil caused so much uproar and discomfort amongst the audience, with the reasons being that she is married, older than Ranbir and has a daughter for whom she is not setting a good example. Problematic age gaps between Bollywood lead actors and actresses
These apparent stereotypes stem from our society's sexist mindset. Nevertheless, the idea of aging is limited to women. As a result, after a certain age, female actors are only cast as mothers, whereas men can play leading roles well into their 60s. While some age disparities are subtle and easily neglected, others have sparked heated debates and criticism from fans and detractors. The crux of the problem is the depiction of relationships and an interpretation of societal norms on the large screen. The reality is that no matter how many contemporary narratives attempt to be shown, our cinema still caters to the male gaze. Women are merely viewed as objects to be desired; these desires are so deeply rooted in patriarchy that when women reach a certain age, marry, and have children, they no longer have enough appeal to them, and they are no longer regarded as women of desire. Being a woman and a regular moviegoer, I strongly feel that just being uncomfortable with this isn't enough; it is our responsibility to be more vocal and minimize our engagement with content so that it forces the makers to make films that cater to our gender as well. Problematic age gaps between Bollywood lead actors and actresses Problematic age gaps between Bollywood lead actors and actresses Problematic age gaps between Bollywood lead actors and actresses