Pooja Bhatt: Bollywood is youth obsessed. We decide a shelf life for women
Pooja Bhatt says it is that limited perception about female actors that limit opportunities for them.
It was after a long hiatus of two decades that Pooja Bhatt finally made her acting comeback and during this time, while she did get busy behind the camera, she admits how roles also dried up for her after a certain time or rather age group.
Talking about how roles dwindle for women over a certain age in Bollywood, Bhatt says, “They do and I know why because there’s a perception, we’re youth obsessed. We’re terrified of mortality, which is why when you look at the average fashion magazine, everyone is talking about a product to stop the passage of time. It’s anti-ageing and making your stretch marks disappear. No one wants to accept the passage of time.”
The 49-year-old actor-filmmaker says it’s this limited perception about female actors that limits opportunities for them.
“Especially in Bollywood, I think we’ve decided a shelf life for women, and when she reaches a certain age, we might give her a role which is powerful and strong but it’s quite clear that her sexuality has to be kind of completely tucked away. You’re not looked upon as a creature that’s desirable or even talk about her desires because we don’t want to go there. I don’t know why it makes us so uncomfortable. But we’re okay with men who’re kind of older and having affairs with younger women,” says Bhatt, whose last Bollywood outing was Zakhm in 1998.
Taking the decision to be a part of Netflix web series Bombay Begums was a tough one, Bhatt admits, adding that she knew the audiences had the memory of her from her last film.
“People expect you to be frozen in time and look the same way. They’d remember that youthful, feisty girl. But it was liberating to play my age and not worry about the passage of time,” she continues, “Also, there was a female director (Alankrita Shrivastava) who cast you because of that exact same reason. My face has changed, the body has changed, there are fine lines around the eyes and that is so liberating for a woman and for an actor in this world where everything is glossed over. We see everything through a filter. Letting your defence down is so liberating.”
And now, Bhatt is open to more such acting opportunities and she’d not care if something is offered to her where she has only a single scene.
“I’d happily and gladly do it if it adds to the whole. I wasn’t seeking to be launched again and I think that’s when life happens to you. When I was calm and I was open to change life just presented to me this magical opportunity and at that time, you’ve to decide whether you’re brave enough to take it. I just jumped into it whole heartedly and with a lot of humility,” she says.
Adding words of praise for her director, Bhatt adds, “Alankrita had a very unique gaze. What struck me about it was that how she has woven this rich tapestry together where everybody is there because they need to be there. There is not a single character which has been used for the sake of it or wasted in that sense.”