Joined: 21 June 2005
|Seventy years ago, actress Devika Rani started her career after her marriage to producer-actor Himansu Rai. Described as the first lady of the Indian screen, she was highly adored. But her successors today are not as lucky.|
|Gender inequality is now well entrenched in the Hindi film industry, which has failed to provide equal opportunity to actresses who get married.|
In the earlier days, films were mainly based on social issues giving ample chance to married women artistes to showcase their talent. Devika Rani gave hits like "Jeevan Naiya" (1936) on class differences, and "Achut Kanya" (1936) on the caste system.
Other married actresses who carried forward her legacy were Shobhana Samarth, Meena Kumari and Nutan.
But in today's industry, which thrives on fantasy formulas, actresses are projected merely as objects of desire. Hence filmmakers avoid signing on married actresses who are considered "less desirable".
Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Karisma Kapoor and some others are definitely assets for the industry, but they are not considered for lead roles because of their marital status. Even if given a chance to work they have to be content with playing second fiddle.
The same rule, however, does not apply to male actors. Men are treated differently - they are encouraged to get married because it helps promote their image as a "family man".
Actors like Dharmendra, Jeetendra, Amitabh Bachchan, Jackie Shroff, Anil Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Hrithik Roshan have been open about their marriages from the beginning and it didn't create any hindrance in their popularity.
A few directors today have dared to challenge the rules.
One of them is journalist-turned-director Kunal Kohli, of "Hum Tum" fame, who is making "Fannah" with Kajol in the lead role. The popular actress - a mother now - has as her co-star Aamir Khan who recently wed Kiran Rao in his second marriage.
But by and large producers are not willing to experiment with new themes that could showcase the talent of such actresses.
Filmmakers are obsessed with the concept of a woman artiste being a nubile nymphet waiting to be swept off her feet by a knight in shining armour. And a married actress certainly doesn't fit the bill.
The public also refuses to accept them.
After her marriage, Kajol tried her luck in the home production "Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi" but the film sank without a trace. After a long hiatus she appeared in Karan Johar's emotional family drama "Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham", but that was more of an Amitabh Bachchan-Shah Rukh Khan film and the onus rested on the acting skills of the two superstars.
New age directors like Farhan Akhtar, Meghna Gulzar and Mahesh Manjrekar are experimenting with varied themes, offering more central and serious roles to women. But even these directors have not ventured into casting married women.
Years ago, Rakhee, who played the romantic lead opposite Amitabh Bachchan in "Kabhi Kabhie" and "Mukaddar Ka Sikandar", acted as his mother in "Shakti" after her marriage.
Marriage halted the flourishing career of talented heroines like Tanuja, Saira Banu, Jaya Bachchan, Poonam Dhillon, Rati Agnihotri, Sridevi, Padmini Kolhapure and more.
Sharmila Tagore and Dimple Kapadia were exceptions.
From the current lot we have Juhi, who is making a conscious effort to survive. But the actress of such hit films like "Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak" and "Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke" either features in offbeat films like "Jhankaar Beats" and "My Brother Nikhil" or ends up as a sister or a bhabhi in the typical masala flicks.
Madhuri too has expressed a desire to return to the silver screen.
Now all eyes are set on "Fannah", described as a mature love story. If the film clicks and the public accepts Kajol it will mark a new chapter in the male-dominated film industry.
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