Where are the older heroines? – The New Indian Express
Express news service
One of the most exciting casting announcements of recent times was that Khushbu and Meena were going to be part of Rajinikanth’s Annaatthe. Naturally, the announcement aroused curiosity. Two of the successful Tamil movie heroines of the 90s, Khushbu and Meena have played the female lead role in several Rajinikanth blockbusters. Typically, older heroines don’t get the chance to play the lead female role when they return to the movies. They turn into sisters, sisters-in-law or even mothers of the same heroes with whom they had been partners. Annaatthe followed suit: Nayanthara was paired with Rajinikanth, while Khushbu and Meena played Kalaiyan (Rajinikanth) ‘morai ponnunga’ in a ridiculously funny track that didn’t do the two women justice. Pachakili (Soori) says: “Ivanga closes the panna-a reopens panna vandhrukanga account.The film and the treatment prevent this from happening.
The hero-young heroine combination is no exception for male superstars; it is a standard in all film industries. While men are apparently considered desirable as they get older, women are abandoned after their “lifespan”. Recently, a photo of Vijay Sethupathi sporting the pepper and salt look went viral. But when Sameera Reddy flaunted her gray hair, we had memes following her! Akshay Kumar can recreate his own sultry song, “Tip Tip Barsa Paani”, 27 years later, retaining almost everything from the original except, of course, the heroine.
This ageism, which targets women, is not limited to India. Sarah Jessica Parker recently opened up about the misogynistic comments she received about her look in the Sex and The City reboot. Calling it “misogynistic chatter,” she observed that such things never happen with men. In an interview with Vogue, she said: “It almost feels like people don’t want us to be completely okay with where we are, as if they almost appreciate that we are sorry for who we are today. yes, whether we choose to age naturally and not look perfect, or whether you do something if it makes you feel better. I know what I look like. I do not have a choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”
This is what seems to be happening here. The heroines have a meteoric journey of a few years, a whirlwind of films and glory. And then they slip into the shadows, coming back as “artists of character” if they return. They are replaced by the next group of young and beautiful women who go through the same cycle. Even beyond the problematic standards of female desirability, you can see it’s not just about aesthetics.
Men can have long and sustained careers as prospects, but women cannot have similar career charts. Male actors remember their films – their journey to stardom begins with romantic roles, then moves on to action and more “commercial” films. However, heroines are remembered for their hit songs, their path to success depends on who they are associated with. Hero-centric culture also means that less of the budget goes to heroines. If a female star becomes famous, she becomes “too expensive” for films with budget constraints. Think about it. If actresses don’t get well-written roles at the peak of their fame, how are they going to get it when they’re older?
What about women-centered cinema? Yes, it’s good that we see more female protagonists, but the budgets here are significantly lower than those of their male counterparts. It’s because we still haven’t entered the market for these films. Of course, there are exceptions like Nayanthara. But even the Lady Superstar continues to balance female-centric cinema with her more “commercial” heroine roles in celebrity films that have a larger market. Or take a Jyotika who has to produce her films. However, this is not a necessity for our male stars.
BR Ambedkar once said: “History shows that where ethics and economics collide, economics always wins. For lasting change to happen, actresses need to open their box office accounts. It is done little by little. Stars like Deepika Padukone, Nayanthara, Taapsee Pannu and others are leading the way in creating markets for their films. The digital space is helping, but there is still a long way to go. As a first step, it is important to collectively recognize and understand this systemic bias. You can only change something after understanding it.