Long back, when Malaika Arora returned to work after her first delivery with an item number, a news channel went berserk debating a teeny-weeny stretch mark on her belly. It kept on zooming in on the almost unnoticeable line over and again. A ‘dismayed’ newscaster criticised the falling standards of Bollywood—a world where item girls and marriage cannot inhabit one sphere, much less stretch marks.
All of us know that Bollywood masala can’t do without two main spices: youth and beauty. No wonder we see Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit—two storehouses of talent that our Bollywood directors failed to exploit to the fullest—appearing in soaps, fabric conditioners, dishwashing solutions and basmati rice ads.
Madhuri tried staging a comeback post her marriage—Aaja Nachle, but the movie evoked lukewarm response. News of Sridevi’s second innings keeps floating in the media circles every now and then, but we can very well understand and even empathise with Sridevi for taking such a long time. She did give it a try with a TV serial, but probably realised she needed a broader canvas to fit herself in.
When will Bollywood learn to extend the screen-life of such actresses (I am not concerned about models who are being called actresses) beyond their marriage and deliveries? When will the directors realise that their acting prowess does not wane with childbirth?
Although Hollywood is steeped in its own prejudices and stereotypes, it at least brings back a Meryl Streep to the Oscar stage, almost every year. It encourages scriptwriters to think beyond nubility and look into the beauty hidden beneath wrinkled smiles.
Back home, thanks to small-budget movies, we have Rekha and Shabana essaying some off-beat roles. But they are often labelled ‘art’ movies, taking away any chance of making it big in box office. There are exceptions, too, like Kajol. But exceptions don’t make history!