Alpha Woman, Beta Man

Can relationships between them ever work? I don’t think so – and nor does Freida Pinto. Seema Goswami tells more.
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Updated on Feb 28, 2009 06:41 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySeema Goswami, New Delhi

I don’t really get all this shock-horror-outrage about Freida Pinto’s break-up with her boyfriend/fiancée the moment Slumdog Millionaire went global. Frankly, I would have been gobsmacked if it had been otherwise.

Yes, I know that sounds cynical beyond belief. And that I should have more faith in the power of young love. Or even, some sympathy for a young man dumped unceremoniously by his more successful girlfriend.

But you know what, I can’t summon up any outrage at all, let alone any shock or horror. The most I can do is shake my head and smile at the predictability of it all.

After all, haven’t we seen this scenario played out a million times before? Girl and boy meet in school/college. They fall in love and swear eternal fidelity to one another. Girl goes off and tries to make it as a beauty queen/model/actress. Girl makes it big. Girl calls up boy and says that it is all over.

Yes, that’s how things always play out. And if you ask me, that’s how it should be. Sure there is a lot of heartbreak and angst for the first few months or so. But in the long run, it saves everyone a lot of tears and tantrums.

The truth is that few relationships can survive the stresses and strains of one partner being hugely more successful or famous than the other. And the odds get even worse when it is the woman who is more successful. Alpha men can and do have successful relationships with beta women. But alpha women rarely if ever can make a go of it with beta men. And the sooner these women acknowledge the truth of this, the better it is for everyone concerned.

So, why fault poor Freida Pinto for dumping her old boyfriend the moment new avenues opened up before her? She is only acknowledging a truth that all of us would do well to recognise. Her life is going to change completely now – and she will not be the same person at the end of this process. So, why expect her to stick with her old love, with whom she now has very little in common?

Let’s face it. Even with the best of intentions on both sides, such relationships seldom work. Kate Winslet bravely married Jim Threapleton, whom she met on the sets of Hideous Kinky (she was the star; he was the third assistant director), hoping that the massive differences in their status would make no difference to their lives. But of course they did. The couple divorced three years – and one daughter – later and Kate is now part of a power couple with director Sam Mendes.

Nearer home, Aishwarya Rai went from alpha male Salman Khan to beta male Vivek Oberoi, hoping for a less tempestuous time with a lower profile guy. She seemed to be in love, though tellingly it was always Vivek who was holding forth about the relationship while Ash maintained a tight-lipped silence. And sure enough, Aishwarya called it off after a few months and starting dating Abhishek Bachchan, who was more in her league. Today, she is the Bachchan bahu, the brightest star in the family galaxy.

Fellow beauty queen Sushmita Sen did much the same thing, dropping her first boyfriend, Rajat Tara, soon after she became Miss Universe. Since then, she has dated a series of nonentities and unsurprisingly enough, none of these relationships have lasted.

Deepika Padukone broke up with her live-in boyfriend Nihar Pandya the moment Om Shanti Om released and is now an item with Ranbir Kapoor. And Priyanka Chopra is no longer with long-time boyfriend, Harman Baweja, whose debut film proved to be a big dud.

There is a reason these relationships don’t survive. The huge power imbalance always throws things off kilter. Rare is the man who can cope with the knowledge that his wife/girlfriend is the real player in the relationship. That she will always be the bigger name, the one whom people recognise.

Madonna always over-compensated for this by referring to herself as Mrs Ritchie (she even wore T-shirts with that legend) while her husband, Guy, ostentatiously called her ‘The Missus’ in public. So did they live happily ever after? Not bloody likely. They are now divorced and bickering over where to bring up their children.

Sorry to say, but there is a certain inevitability to this. Even Kate, who insisted that she was perfectly happy with her Jim, complained bitterly after they broke up that he never wanted her to be famous. And I suspect that if Freida had gone ahead and married her Rohan Antao, she would be making the same sort of statements a few years down the line.

Much better, surely, to make a clean break now, than drag things on painfully for another couple of years, making everyone concerned thoroughly miserable in the process.

Which is why I believe that Antao and his friends – who are gleefully leaking pictures to the media and moaning on about how badly he was treated – should put a sock in it. Okay, so she dumped him. Hey, shit happens. Deal with it. Be thankful for your 15 seconds of fame – because she intends to get her whole 15 minutes.

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