Men will be men— or rather Bollywood will be Bollywood, as male superstars continue wooing girls half their age on screen
Some things don’t change. Women age, men mature.
In Bollywood especially.
But now it seems to be the rule of 20.
Salman Khan will romance Katrina Kaif in Tiger Zinda Hai. Katrina is about 20 years younger to the superstar, but of course this is not the first time the two will be paired on screen - or off it. Though the makers of the film insist there is not much of scope for them to sing and dance in this action drama slated for release in December.
Salman’s strike rate has been impressive. His heroines have always been much younger: Sonam Kapoor in Sooraj Barjatya’s Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo (Sonam’s father Anil Kapoor is a close friend of the actor but for Sonam, apparently, it was a dream working with Salman); Dia Mirza in Tumko Na Bhool Payenge, Ayesha Takia in Wanted, Zarine Khan in Veer and Sonakshi Sinha in Dabangg.
But Salman has close competition. Notable among them are Ajay Devgn and Akshay Kumar, and SRK, of more or less the same vintage as Salman.
In Golmaal Again, though there is no obvious romance between Ajay and Parineeti Chopra, high-voltage hidden current flows. Parineeti is younger to Ajay by 19 years.
Ajay has done even better. In Shivay, he was paired with Saiyyesh Saigal, 29 years his junior. In Himmatwala, Ajay romanced Tamannah Bhatia, much younger than him.
In Padman, Akshay Kumar will have Radhika Apte playing is wife. Radhika is 19 years younger than him. Sonam Kapoor, also 19 years younger than Akshay, plays an important role in achieving his mission.
Akshay Kumar has romanced Sonakshi Sinha in Rowdy Rathore and Amy Jackson in Singh Is Bling, both much younger.
SRK does it spectacularly, as always. Anushka Sharma was 18 and SRK was 43 when the two worked together in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. SRK is once again acting in a film with Anushka Sharma to be directed by Aanand L. Rai. Shah Rukh had Deepika Padukone as his heroine in Om Shanti Om when she was just 21, Kareena in Asoka and Alia Bhatt in Gauri Shinde’s film Dear Zindagi.
But as with everything else, Rajinikanth, the only man on earth who can answer a missed call, is the best.
Amy Jackson has been paired opposite Rajinikanth now, her senior by 40 years, in a film. In Robot, Rajinikanth romanced Aishwarya Rai, 23 years younger. The pairing was much appreciated.
A much older hero is an age-old tradition in Bollywood, from the time it was known as the film industry. “The age difference was glaring when Hema Malini was cast opposite Raj Kapoor, more than 20 years older than her. It was the same with Dilip Kumar and Leena Chandavarkar. Hema Malini was also paired with Shammi Kapoor, who, too, was quite old at the time of Andaaz,” says film expert Dilip Thakur.
“In the past heroes even refused to accept that it was time for them to shift to character roles,” he adds. In some cases it is the heroine’s decision, such as Sonam Kapoor’s, and Poonam Dhillon’s. Poonam acted in six films with Rajesh Khanna, much older than her.
“Look at Salim-Javed. The same writers who write a film where Rakhee and Amitabh are paired opposite each other, write Shakti where Rakhee plays Amitabh’s mother,” says Sanjay Chauhan.
“It is common in Hollywood. If you look at it there is nothing much a writer can do as market pressures also go into the casting of a film. As a viewer I have never found it odd to see actors with wide age difference,” he adds.
But what about the reverse trend? A 50-year-old woman with a 20-year-old man? Or even 30?
Bharati K. Dubey