Make-up: Tarannum Khan; Hair: Shilpa;Stylist: Ajay Verma(Rafique Sayed)
Make-up: Tarannum Khan; Hair: Shilpa;Stylist: Ajay Verma(Rafique Sayed)

How to age with confidence: Age/Sex no bar...not if you are in Bollywood, writes Shefali Shah

The veteran actor takes on the ageism, sexism, and beauty bias plaguing the film industry
Hindustan Times | By Shefali Shah
UPDATED ON JUL 01, 2019 05:12 PM IST

People believe it’s easy to be an actor. All you need is good looks, a great body, fighting skills (on screen and otherwise) and lip-synch capabilities. If you can actually act, it’s a bonus, but that skill is not of much consequence. Add some luck to this package, and voila! You are a star. And, of course, most importantly, age is no bar for men!

But being a female actor is as arduous as... being a female actor. I refer to myself as an actor. I mean, why is there an ‘actor’ and an ‘actress’ when there is no ‘doctor’ and ‘doctoress’ or ‘lawyer’ and ‘lawyeress?’ But I will use the term ‘actress’ here because I have a word limit.

“I refer to myself as an actor. why is there an ‘actor’ and an ‘actress’ when there is no ‘doctor’ and ‘doctoress’ or ‘lawyer’ and ‘lawyeress?’”

Being an actress has the same requirements as being an actor, but it needs more. Fair, reed thin, tall, can lip-synch, can dance, can fight, ideally can act, has to be single all her life and most importantly, needs to be PG18 bracket.

But I am not fair, tall, or thin. And I am not a man like the ageless Captain America. Actually, even he had to succumb to age in The Endgame. Well, kind of!

Ageing is imperative. Unless of course I were a vampire or plastic. And I’m neither.

“Ageing is imperative. Unless of course I were a vampire or plastic. I’m neither”

Don’t believe me? Below is more or less, actually or hypothetically, the kind of conversation that would ensue between an aspiring actress and anyone in the film industry with a super power that changes an aspiring actress into Sophia Loren.

Conversation between AA (aspiring actress) and SP (super power)

AA: Hello I’m an actor and I would like to audition for the role of the female lead in your film.

SP: (Looking at AA carefully) You are not heroine material.

AA: Material? If I was, I wouldn’t be synthetic. I would be linen. Sharp and crisp.

SP: (No reaction) You don’t have that kind of a face.

AA: (Bewildered) What kind is that?

SP: Your face is too round. Nose too broad. Eyes too big, no jawline, short neck and ears... (He gives up, exhausted)What he means is your face is like a pizza with an artichoke for a nose, tomato slices for eyes, economically cut slivers of yellow pepper for lips, and not cut in triangles so no chance of sharp jaw lines. Basically inedible.

AA: Can’t make-up help?

SP: We don’t have budgets for prosthetics.

AA: But there must be some role I can play?’

SP: (Thinking really hard) You’re too short to play... a tree. Too dark to play a light bulb. And not pretty enough to play peonies.

AA: If you have a song in a field, I could probably be... (he cuts her off)

SP: You’re too fat to play a scarecrow.

AA: I was going to say one of the dancers in the background.

SP: (Looks at her from top to toe, gaze pausing at inappropriate places) Your waist... is wasted.

AA: So there isn’t any role at all that I would fit?

SP: (Thinks hard) No! (An afterthought) Maybe...

AA: Wow! What is the role?

SP: It’s a frame.

AA: (Stupefied) The role of a photo frame?

SP: No! That’s rich and classy and ornamental. You don’t fit it.

AA: So then?

SP: It’s the picture in the frame. Of the great grandmother of the greatest ever grandfather of the...

AA: The hero?

SP: (Snickers) You wish!

AA: Heroine?

SP: Ancestors.

AA: But I’m not that old.

SP: If you are above 20 it is old. (Explains as if to a child) Above 20 is before Christ. Above 30 is after Christ.

AA: Then what would 40 be?

SP: Relic.

AA: And above 40?

SP: Hopeless.

AA: So the role is of an ancestor of...?

SP: A dinosaur.

AA: (Realises it’s her chance to exhibit her acting ability) I’ll do it. I can act!

SP: Act? Is that even a word?

Conversation over!

The AA walks out, dismayed and dejected, heading straight for a geriatric ward, because it’s home for her kind of woman. Wishing she were a cupcake – fresh, pretty, delectable. I want to tell her that cupcakes too have a short shelf life and an expiry date.

Women are like wine: strong, spirited, full bodied, intoxicating, and potent. And we never cease to surprise.

Cheers to us.

Author Bio: Actor Shefali Shah has always been known for her powerful performances. Her newest offering, playing the cop in-charge of the Nirbhaya investigation in Delhi Crime , has won her even more acclaim.

From HT Brunch, June 30, 2019

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