Archive for the ‘Superstars’ Category

Is Bollywood sexist?

July 18, 2011

In the recent Aishwarya Rai – Madhur Bhandarkar controversy a fierce debate of whether Bollywood is sexist or not became a topic of our discussion with friends one afternoon and thus gave me a much needed topic for blogging.

More on this controversy a little later but first I want to share some scenarios with all of you to set the premise behind this allegation and leave the decision for you to make.

Bollywood has several male actors in their 40s and 50s still playing lead roles alongside actresses who are barely 20. But one doesn’t get to see female actors getting this opportunity. Forget the age factor but the moment they get married and have kids their opportunities start to dwindle. Or does it?

Some examples of male actors are Salman Khan (45), Sanjay Dutt (52), Aamir Khan (46) and Shah Rukh (45). Just recently Jackie Shroff (51) has refused father roles. They all show their age but yet get meaty roles. In fact the only guy who looks fit and young despite his age is Akshay Kumar (43).

Bollywood Actors

Or, take a look at Rajinikanth (60), how he is in real life and how he looks in reel life –

Rajini

But for a lot of actresses, marriage and motherhood translates to early retirement from films. Some have chosen to stage a comeback much later when they are gray and old and take on “mother” roles while some don’t.

Then there is Raakhee who, despite age and motherhood received great opportunities. But then she surprised everyone by taking on the “mother” role for a lead actor (Amitabh Bachchan) with whom she had successful onscreen romantic pairing and since then her fate was sealed. The same goes for Hema Malini but at least with her it was not until her late 40s that she started playing more matured roles. Clearly this shows that Bollywood is not sexist.

Look at their counterparts from Hollywood like Diane Lane (46), Jodie Foster (48), and Julianne Moore (50), they are still sexy and they are still in demand. The key is that the Hollywood actresses understand what it takes to be successful in their profession and hence they get into all kinds of fitness and beauty regimen to remain bankable. Who cannot but get impressed with Meryl Streep even today.

Hollywood Actress

So if actresses don’t maintain their looks then why should the producers put their money on them? So is it really fair to say Bollywood is sexist?

Here is now a tricky part. What about Madhuri Dixit (44) and Sridevi (47)? They are still very beautiful and extremely fit. Why are they finding it hard to land a role?

I think it is purely a business decision. Rajinikanth is still in demand because the brand “Rajini” is imperishable.  But these actresses are out of touch with reality due to a very long break that they took from their career. Simply put their brand is no longer relevant albeit still popular. For example melodrama that was at its peak during their time has very little role to play in today’s movies.

So the second part to this conundrum is actresses taking a long hiatus from their career. Most Hollywood actresses remain true to their professions. Here are  more examples:  J Lo (42), Halle Berry (44) or Angelina Jolie (36). They had kids and they were back in form in less than a year looking as sexy as always. Their name, their body and their face is big money and they know that.

The only actress in Bollywood to have worked through marriage and motherhood is Kajol (36). She looks as beautiful as always although some fitness regimen will not hurt her. We might be at an early stage of change where our actresses don’t look at marriage and motherhood as roadblocks but just as a part of life while continuing to hone their brand image. A lot depends on the next generation of actresses (Deepika Padukone, Anushka Sharma, Priyanka Chopra, and Konkona Sen Sharma).

Now to the topic of Aishwarya Rai! I don’t think Bollywood or for that matter Madhur Bhandarkar is anymore sexist than Aishwarya Rai being completely unprofessional. A true professional will never walk out on a commitment. In fact I have heard of actresses being  dropped from projects because of pregnancy. Even Meryl Streep lost out on “Thelma and Louise” to Susan Sarandon because of pregnancy but it did not stop her from being a successful actress or from being a mother to 4 children.

I am happy Madhur is moving on. He is a great director and there are great actresses equally beautiful who can do justice to his script. He has nevertheless settled the issue with Aishwarya and now looking at Priyanka or Kareena.

It will also be interesting to see what Aishwarya (37) would do. Will she let the brand “Aishwarya” to fade away by following the footsteps of her mother-in-law or whether she will come back looking just as beautiful and stunning in a year’s time or will she stick to matured roles like many other married actresses like Juhi Chawla for one. Whatever it is she should not be forced into it either by family or the industry or the audience.

The day we start seeing female actors in Bollywood enjoying a success like Hollywood’s Meryl Streep or like our own ageless legend Amitabh Bachchan then yes we can stop debating on this issues. For now the case rests.

*Ages as referenced in Wikipedia

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Is Ranbir Kapoor the next Superstar?

June 26, 2010

Ever since Amitabh Bachchan was conferred the title of a superstar, all of us from simple viewers and fans like me to the media and the movie industry have been waiting for a successor to this prestigious Bollywood title. Every some years we have young actors showing a lot of potential but falling short somewhere. 

I still remember when Shahrukh Khan made his debut in Baazigar he played the same angry young man’s role which had catapulted Amitabh to a profound fame and glory unmatched to this day. Although Shahrukh’s retribution tactics was a bit more on the gray side than that of Amitabh’s character Vijay, Shahrukh’s screen presence and his charisma with women (or should I say the would-be mothers-in-law) were awesome. But somehow it was nowhere near Vijay’s devotion to his mother, his style of avenging injustice a la Robin Hood style and his romance with women played by timeless beauties like Parveen Babi, Zeenat Aman and the evergreen Rekha. Well, no wonder Shahrukh Khan stopped doing the roles of an angry young man and became a romantic hero more like Rajesh Khanna and created a separate niche for himself as the “Baadshah” of Bollywood. Befitting, indeed!

Amitabh Bachchan vs Shahrukh

Another contender for Amitabh’s much coveted title was Hrithik Roshan. I fell flat for him in Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai, loved his raw emotions in Fizaa and was smitten by him in Lakshya. But something happened after that. He just decided to go the Sallu way, shirtless, bearing his 6-pack and showcasing his dancing skills more than his acting talent. Guess what, Shahid Kapoor stole his thunder as a dancer and the 6-packs are so common these days, even cuties like Aamir’s got one.

My husband’s bet was and still is on Abhishek Bachchan. He is very likeable, simple and fun, a true chip of the old block. But how serious is Abhishek? He comes across as an ambition-less lad lost in his father’s glory and now basking in the splendor of his wife. I know I am harsh but he has great potential and I hate to see it go waste. Just think about it, he does a great movie like Guru and then he makes five awful movies in which he is so silly that if I had a “delete” button, I would just keep hitting it.

So, coming back to this superstar title, why is it so hard to get? Is it Amitabh himself who just keeps setting the bar higher and higher? Let’s look his career briefly – 

Amitabh Bachchan through the years

Superstar, Amitabh Bachchan

  • Amitabh started his career in 1970 with Saat Hindustani and bagged the best newcomer National Award. He then went onto win 14 Filmfare awards in various categories, 2 more National Awards, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shree. Still counting!
  • From 1970 to 1982, he gave us constant hit films like Zanjeer, Sholay, Deewar, Namak Haraam, Amar Akbar Anthony, Trishul, Don, Satte Pe Satta, Shakti and so many more. (He was also lucky that his only competitor Vinod Khanna decided to drop out of Bollywood to follow Osho Rajneesh. Otherwise who knows what the outcome would have been!) 
  • However, an unfortunate accident in the sets of Coolie led to a decade of flops for Amitabh but his image remained untarnished. Then came Agneepath in 1991! Bam! It resurrected his image. 
  • But he was not really young and went through another decade of flops and a lot of personal struggles. Best part about his career is that his fans never deserted him. 
  • With Mohabbatein in 2000, he totally re-invented himself and started playing the roles of a father and what a cool dad he became! 

There is no looking back since then. He played some very different and challenging roles in movies like Aks, Black, Sarkar, Paa, Rann etc giving him more awards, fanfare and fame. So, is it really possible for another human being to achieve this kind of success? But the title needs a successor. In fact, I was surprised when I heard this title being used randomly in the recent Filmfare Awards on everyone from Shahid Kapoor to Neil Nitin Mukesh who have not even achieved a quarter of what Amitabh has done. It looks like people in the industry have given up. But I am still searching for the next superstar.

After a long time, I am feeling very hopeful because of Ranbir Kapoor. A product of phenomenal genetic lineage (Neetu Singh, Rishi Kapoor and the entire Kapoor clan) and a perfect physical make up. He is gorgeous, period. And, he can also act. Phew!

A similarity with Amitabh is undeniable. Both are extremely tall and are not necessarily out and out handsome. Both are lanky with long nose and strange eyes but have some kind of a charisma to attract fans in big numbers and appeal to the young and the old. I know it’s too early to predict but hey, if anyone can get away wearing a pink turban and yet considered macho, it’s Ranbir.

Ranbir Kapoor vs. Amitabh Bachchan

In just 2 years or so, he has established himself as a great performer. But Ranbir better make up his mind on whether he just wants to be good-looking hunk dropping towels to expose his derriere or he wants to really become a superstar. His latest Rajneeti may have gotten him accolades but I was pretty disappointed. He just came across as too serious. If this was supposed to be a role of Michael Corleone, Abhishek Bachchan played it very well in Sarker. So, my friends, the field is wide open as it always has been but I will always remain hopeful even though I am a big fan of Amitabh.