Bollywood has always given more importance to glamor and young heroines rather than old 35 plus heroines. But few heroines defied that myth and have succeed beyond 35 plus.
Kajol is in the news again as an actress for her blowtorch-intense performance in My Name Is Khan. Thirty-five, married, a mother (incidentally, when mother-of-two Dimple signed Sagar, she was just 25) and yet Kajol is accepted as a romantic heroine it's definitely remarkable!
After five superhits together (Baazigar, Karan Arjun, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and K3G) the SRK-Kajol pair is likely to notch up a sixth with My Name Is Khan if initial collections are anything to go by.
It has been well over 10 years since Kajol got married to Ajay Devgn in February 1999. The actress does films only intermittently but there has been no pruning of her popularity. Since her marriage, Kajol has starred in two major hits opposite the two contemporary megastars of Bollywood Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham opposite Shah Rukh in 2001 and Fanaa opposite Aamir Khan in 2006. She bagged Filmfare Best Actress trophies for both these films. In 2011, Kajol is sure to get nominated, either for Khan, or Karan Johar's remake of Stepmom. Kajol is not the only heroine blowing away cobwebby conventions.
Aishwarya Rai got married to Abhishek Bachchan in April 2007 amidst a media frenzy of near hysterical proportions. In the current Age of Information that we live in, one had to be dwelling under a rock if one had not heard of the Bachchan wedding shenanigans.
Yet, the next time, an Aishwarya Rai film hit the theatres Jodhaa Akbar the then-34-year-old actress' marital status did not seem to matter a whit to charmed viewers. The film was successful; and the Ash-Hrithik jodi continued its Dhoom 2 winning streak.
At 36, Aishwarya has arguably the best assignments amongst all the heroines. She is cast opposite hubby Abhishek in Mani Ratnam's Raavana, Akshay Kumar in Vipul Shah's Action Replay, Rajanikant in Shankar's Endhiran and Hrithik Roshan in Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish.
Today, age is finally just a number; and marital status is no bar for a talented heroine looking to continue a successful career.
In the colourful 60s, two heroines, Meena Kumari and Vyjayanthimala, did exhibit remarkable staying power. Meena had a blockbuster hit, Phool Aur Patthar opposite He-man Dharmendra in 1966 when she was 34, But a year later, all her four films, Chandan Ka Palna, Majhli Didi, Bahu Begum and Noorjehan, fell at the box-office like axed trees. I was probably one of the few who saw all these Meena Kumari films.
But, the films she had in hand, such as Baharon Ki Manzil, had her playing mother figures; and her heroine days drew to a close. But Meena Kumari's career defiantly overturned expectations when a delayed-for-a-decade Pakeezah (with a captivating performance from her as an enchantress) became a smash posthumous hit, days after her death at the age of 39.
I often wonder what Meena Kumari's career would have been like had she lived after Pakeezah considering she was already playing a widow with children in the Rajesh Khanna-Mumtaz hit, Dushman, and a snow-white haired nani maa in Mere Apne.
Vyjayanthimala had her first tryst with success at the age of 18 with AVM's Bahar, and stayed a star for the next two decades. At 33 she inspired Hasrat Jaipuri to write 'Baharon phool barsaon' for the hit costume drama, Suraj. At 34, she starred in the cult thriller, Jewel Thief. But by 35 in 1968, she had married and announced her retirement from films. She had three big budget releases that year Sunghursh, Saathi and Duniya but they all failed to break the bank.
Nanda, Sadhana, Saira Banu had all wrapped up their careers by the time they were 35. Nutan, Mala Sinha, Waheeda Rehman, Asha Parekh continued to act but in largely non-romantic, non mainstream roles.
When the versatile Nutan was 35 in 1971, she was playing the lead in modest-budgeted films such as Lagan and Mangetar; and Shakti Samanta had signed her on for a pivotal but non-romantic role in Moushumi's debut Hindi film, Anuraag (1972). Significantly, Nutan went on to win the Best Actress Filmfare award when she was 42 for Main Tulsi Tere Angan Ki but the romantic leads were Vinod Khanna and Nita Mehta.
Mercurial tempered Mala Sinha looked like a svelte sylph at 35 in Maryada (1971) in which she carried off butterfly-knot blouses with ÃƒÂ©lan and didn't look she was cradle-snatching Rajesh Khanna. But her star was dimming. In Lalkar (1972) she had two leading men, Dharmendra and Rajendra Kumar, but the film was a disappointment. By 1973, she was playing Randhir Kapoor's mother in Rickshawala.
Rekha is that rare 'chosen one' who came close to crossing the 35-year lakshman rekha. At 34, she achieved mission impossible with a thumping comeback in a high-glam quotient role in Khoon Bhari Maang (1988). But a year later, a hat-trick of flops Manoj Kumar's Clerk, Kasam Suhaag Ki and Ramesh Sippy's Brashtachar put a speed breaker. Yet, Rekha continued signing films as a heroine (albeit not with the crÃƒÂ¨me de la crÃƒÂ¨me of heroes or filmmakers) till well into her 40s but the successes were few Phool Bane Angaarey (1991) and Khiladiyon ke Khiladi (1996).
'Dum maro dum' girl, Zeenat Aman lost her box-office dum and was essaying a character role in Sohini Mahiwal in her mid-30s. Raakhee had the singular distinction at 35 to play Amitabh's heroine in Bemisaal (1982) as well as his mother in Shakti in the same year. It was the last time she played Amitabh's heroine.
Interestingly, Shabana Azmi enjoyed the best years of her career in her 30s with Arth, Masoom and Avtaar. She was not in the reckoning for mainstream biggies but at 35, she had became the face of the art film movement and was working on films such as Paar, Lorie, Kamla, Khamosh, Shart and Ek Pal. But the art film movement itself was headed for a dip.
Dimple sought to do a Shabana and veered towards art films such as Rudaali after her days of working with Anil-Sunny drew to a close. At 35 she also picked up a role in Hema Malini's Dil Aashna Hai as one of the suspects who might be Divya Bharti's unwed mother a good role but the kinds of which I can't see Aishwarya Rai taking up today.
Hollywood too is today burning through the thicket of taboos 60-year-old Meryl Streep is enjoying the best phase of her life commercially with four major recent hits Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia, Julie And Julia and It's Complicated. Forty-five-year-old Sandra Bullock is the Entertainer Of The Year thanks to The Proposal and The Blind Side.
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