In Bollywood, the career span of actresses is almost half of that of actors. In the last two decades, we have seen a series of different reigning Bollywood queens, from Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit-Nene to Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra. However, our leading actors have pretty much remained the same with actors like Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan still ruling the box office. So why is it that our actors are able to stay in the industry for so many decades and our actresses retire, or rather fade away, every 5 years?
In our culture, a woman’s duties include being a perfect wife and mother, therefore, inhibiting her to do anything, but be the housewife she was born to be. Before the progressing views of Indians during the past 10 years, women were obligated to retire once they tied the knot. All of our leading ladies in the ’90s including Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor and Kajol Devgn, to name a few, more or less stopped acting, once they were married. This was just a norm in our culture and was seen as an appropriate step.
However, with the progression of our culture and the changing role of women in all professions, retiring once you are married is no longer the norm, proved by Kareena Kapoor Khan, who is still very much focused on her career. But with time, the world’s obsession with staying young is increasing. Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta were not phased out of as leading ladies because they got married, they were phased out because they were no longer the youngest ladies in town, with perfect abs and no wrinkles. Our society has entered a thin and perfection-obsessed culture that focuses importance on fads like size zero, that women after a certain age cannot keep up with. And lucky for our actors, they do not age as fast as women and are able to keep their real ages more of a secret, allowing them to stay in the industry for a lot longer.
Directors like Karan Johar, Aditya Chopra and Sanjay Leela Bhansali started replacing their once favorite actresses with younger blood because of our youth-mad society. Directors are less inclined to take risks and make movies about important issues other than just young romance, because our audiences only seem receptive to movies that explore the youth. Oh, and let’s not forget the addition of a sleazy item number, that seems to have become a rite of passage for any successful movie.
It is hard to say when this mad obsession will end, but until then we can count on having a rapid change of leading actresses in the industry. Hopefully, and eventually our beloved directors will be willing to take risks with our once a upon a time favorite older actresses, to create a different genre of more mature movies.