Amitabh Bachchan deserves competition, and we, our very own Meryl Streep
Amitabh Bachchan may be the only star in the Hindi film industry that never gets old or outdated. After Piku, Wazir, and Te3n, the response to his latest release Pink only solidifies the claim.bollywood Updated: Sep 20, 2016 11:49 IST
Amitabh Bachchan may be the only star in the Hindi film industry who never gets old or outdated. After Piku, Wazir, and Te3n, the response to his latest release Pink only solidifies the claim.
At 73, when people sink too deep in the comfort of their armchair, he is commanding roles that can make the biggest of actors take stock of their career graphs.
Pink hits hard right at the heart of the gender debate by focusing the cinematic lens on an issue long relegated to behind closed doors — the right of a woman to say no to sex. The film could not have been what it is without Bachchan’s emphatic Deepak Sehgall plunging neck-deep into the crisis when the night is the darkest.
However, one cannot help wondering how different the film would have been if it was a woman lawyer — white haired, wrinkled, once at the top of her game, now retired — championing for justice instead of Mr Bachchan? And who would have played her, Ms Sehgall?
Before we begin naming worthy actresses as alternatives, an important question needs to be answered: With an older woman as its pivotal character, would Pink have been made at all?
Another question: Can you think of the last Hindi film you watched that had an old actress playing the lead?
A Deepika Padukone may be paid more than Amitabh Bachchan for working in the same film, but what if we replace Ms Padukone with let’s say, Jaya Bachchan? Would the offer still hold valid?
It may be interesting to note that Jaya Bachchan was a bigger star than Amitabh when the two got married in 1973. She was also more renowned for her acting prowess than he was at the time. Though she gave several years of her life to raise a family, she eventually did return to films. However, in the last 16 years, she has most notably featured in just four movies — Fiza, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kal Ho Naa Ho and Laaga Chunari Mein Daag. And not surprisingly, she played the mother of the hero or the heroine in all four of them.
In one of the episodes of Koffee With Karan, she and Hema Malini talked at length about how there is no interesting work for older women in the Hindi film industry and how their representation in the media is so negligible. It’s been nine years since and not much has changed.
This curse of not being offered diverse roles, however, is not exclusive to veteran actresses alone. Shah Rukh Khan has said more than once that he would love to work with his contemporary actresses such as Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla, who he believes are infinitely more talented than him. But he is always quick to add that he cannot, as no one casts them together anymore. (For reference, Mr Khan owns a hugely successful production house, Red Chillies Entertainment. But we understand his helplessness.)
Another case in point: Madhuri Dixit. The one, who made over a million hearts beat a little faster all through the late ‘80s and ‘90s, has starred in just three films in the last 10 years, ever since she returned to India from the United States.
The hero may age however much he can and die in front of the camera, still a hero. But the heroine needs to be 25. Eternally. While unashamedly carrying forward this ancient practice of blatant gender discrimination, what we are forgetting is that maybe we do not need heroes and heroines as much as we need actors who can facilitate story-telling.
Older women are as much a part of the society as everyone else, and cinema as a medium of mass entertainment and discourse cannot choose to be selectively exclusive. Not anymore.
With women issues now becoming a part of the mainstream cinematic discourse, the time has never been more opportune to undo the wrong. Because Amitabh Bachchan deserves some competition, and we, our very own Meryl Streep. Pink is the word and it never gets too old. It’s time Bollywood understood.
The author tweets at @sneha_bengani