Going by the barrage of movies Bollywood has churned out lately, with the twenty something heroines being paired opposite the forty plus heroes, it's palpable that this trend is becoming a quintessential ingredient with filmmakers. Although this isn't any ground-breaking strategy movie makers are opting for - Dilip Kumar was seen cuddling a twenty something Saira Banu in the 1970s films like Gopi, Sagina and Bairaag, Vinod Khanna who played a 'don with a kind heart' in the 1980s Dayavan, rescued a 21 year old Madhuri Dixit off the streets by marrying her. So are the younger actresses being chosen over their older counterparts, because they're fresh faces? Or are there other factors involved too? Bollywood Hungama's Philip Bode gets a few industry stalwarts to give us their analytical stand on the motive behind, pairing up older actors with younger starlets in Bollywood.
We observe that this ubiquitous pairing tendency is more rampant and clearly exponential in the 21st century. Ram Gopal Varma's 2007 film Nishabd, had the senior Amitabh Bachchan falling head over heels for a teenaged Jiah Khan who was 46 years younger than him. In the second decade of the new millennium, Akshay Kumar fought thugs to reaffirm his love for southern siren Asin in Khiladi 786, who is 18 years his junior. He was paired again with Asin for Sajid Khan's 2012 laugh riot, Housefull 2. In several films, the Khan troika has been seen with a bevy of youthful beauties by their side as well. The roaring Salman Khan was seen bonding with Katrina Kaif in the immensely successful Ek Tha Tiger; she is younger to him by nineteen years. Sallu also won 20 years younger Sonakshi Sinha's heart in his 2010 cult film Dabangg.
The stunning Deepika Padukone made her debut opposite 20 years senior Shah Rukh Khan in Om Shanti Om. While Anushka Sharma, who made her debut opposite SRK in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, is 23 years younger than Khan. Aamir Khan, who played a deranged amnesiac out to avenge the death of his beloved Asin in A.R Murugadoss' 2008 blockbuster Ghajini, is 20 years older to the actress. The Nawab of Pataudi, Saif Ali Khan was recently seen with the young Diana Penty and Deepika Padukone, who are both 15 years junior to him, in their 2012 romantic flick Cocktail.
So is this an intelligent state of affairs vouched by visual storytelling mavericks or is this an interesting marketing ploy by pundits eyeing profits. "One needs to stick to the totality of the script, instead of just going by the face," feels eminent film producer Vashu Bhagnani whose latest film Himmatwala stars 23-year old Tamannaah opposite 44-year old Ajay Devgn. He adds, "Most of the top actresses of today are 25 and older, a younger actress would be cast if a script demands for it, a logical creative call needs to be made."
Actor turned producer Atul Agnihotri says, "Although working with an established actor has many advantages, it depends on what the role calls for." "A project defines its requirement where you have films with younger actresses in them," feels Ashish Patil of Y-Films. Ashish says, "Conversely, a film like Kahaani with a younger actress essaying the role of an older pregnant woman looking for her husband would not be as effective. Similarly for Mere Dad Ki Maruti, if I had an older woman enacting the role of a college going kid, it would not seem credible."
Producer Ramesh Taurani states that his company signs actresses for their talent and age is hardly a factor they care about. He says, "When an actress has been finalized for a movie, it is not her age we're looking at, its how she fits into the script seamlessly. So movies doing better business because of young blood is out of the question." Director Sujoy Ghosh seconds that thought. He says, "I think pre-dominantly the script is where we start from and take it forward, there are a lot of things one could do with a film, you can either take a chance with it or don't."
Going by body of work Anushka Sharma has done till now, Ashish Patil uses her example stating that the pretty actress has pure raw talent in her which is helping her get films. "She has never done a role for only song sequences. She is paired opposite Aamir Khan in Raju Hirani's P.K. in which she has a meaty part, and opposite Ranbir in Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet. In all her movies she has played exceptionally strong characters," he says.
Amrita Rao believes that curiosity is what clicks with the audience when it comes to newer faces. She says, "There is no method to madness in cinema; at times standard formulas work but sometimes they have failed as well, leaving filmmakers bewildered. I believe that, younger actresses give the benefit of invoking curiosity amongst spectators." She adds, "With the changing tides in cinema and acting, time has transformed more actresses like Parineeti Chopra, who showcase what is contemporary."
Female actors have shorter shelf-life compared to their male counterparts. While some fade in time, a few return to the limelight to rejuvenate their suspended careers. Amrita says, "I think a huge aspect of them retiring is because some get married and have children, which is a big responsibility. It's different for men, as they can have children and work simultaneously. For a woman, a lot of physical changes come along with having children, in which some actresses are known to have gone back to working and have looked even better than before." Resonating the same thought, Vashu says "Madhuri got married, had children and settled abroad only to return, and she is working on her comeback film Dedh Ishqiya now, the same goes with Sridevi and her latest film English Vinglish."
Going by the script budgets are allocated for a film. Could cost be a decisional factor with hiring an actress? Vashu disagrees. He says, "Film budgets are pegged at over Rs. 50 crores these days, so shelling out a meager 2-3% is not a big deal." Ramesh Taurani adds, "There are some younger actresses who charge more than the veteran ones, but casting is not based on a price tag. It's made upon looking at who fits the script." Amrita gives us an inside peek saying, "Most actresses want to work with big banner names because there is so much competition around, I don't think anyone would want to lose out on work because of a price tag." "Recalling what Yash Chopra said about budgets." Ashish says, "Yashji, once said that a film never fails, it is the budget of the film that fails. You are dead in the water if your film yields the same amount of money that it is made for."
Going by the basics, could a psyche of an audience be taken into consideration for casting a younger actress? Atul feel rightly so. He says, "The audiences love to watch couples on screen, they enjoy their onscreen chemistry. With couples like Kajol-Ajay, for the spectators its all in for money's worth." Although Taurani has a contrasting thought, he says, "We cannot think of an audience's reaction well before a film is made, so the issue of a spectator preferring a younger actress doesn't come in to play." Vashu says, "It is all the design and creativity involved with making of a character. Chulbul Pandey, Salman's character in Dabangg was designed around him, so if my son Jackie stepped in Salman's acting shoes, it would not be convincing."
This unique pairing trend also persists in 2013 with upcoming movies like Chennai Express in which Shah Rukh once again has Deepika again as his love interest while in Policegiri, Sanjay Dutt will be seen opposite Prachi Desai who is 29 years younger than him. This year we will also see the legendary Rajinikanth on the big screen although in an animated avatar in the much awaited, Kochadaiyaan. Incredibly, the superstar will have Deepika Padukone as his co-star who is 35 years younger to him.
Even though a significant age difference prevails between some of the onscreen pairs in Bollywood, these couples do seem to work for the Indian movie going audiences. So with profound clarity, one can say that this unique pairing tendency is here to stay.