A brand new day, and a gift-wrapped instance where a member of the Hindi film industry waving the flag of sexism proudly. This time, the honour belongs to Sara Ali Khan, who according to this report in The Quint, said this to Barkha Dutt at the We The Women summit in Bengaluru: “The audience wants older heroes to romance daughters of the heroines they used to work with. It is not fair to blame the heroes alone. When the viewers say that they don’t want to see the hero for the 96th time, maybe they won’t do such roles”.
Apart from the glaring age-gap between the men and women, the Simmba actor reportedly also spoke about pay disparity, and how ‘good movies’ like Padmaavat & Raazi should be made ‘more often’.
Wait, not so fast… Sara. She’s partly right about the audience’s conditioning, who continue to expect the women to look a certain age, even as the men grow old enough for their own children to enter the fray. But who’s to say that the audience knows any better than what they’ve been fed? Sara Ali Khan made her debut at 23 with a ‘leading man’ (easily) a decade older than her, probably because in an industry where the average age gap between superstars and their leading ladies is an appalling 20 years, 10 seems like a fair deal.
It’s understandable why someone like Sara Ali Khan wouldn’t want to upset the reigning superstars like the Khan trifecta, Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgn (all of whom have crossed the age of 50) and continue to be cast opposite significantly younger actresses. Next in line, Hrithik Roshan (45) was recently cast opposite Pooja Hegde (29), Mrunal Thakur (27) and Vaani Kapoor (31), with the minimum gap here being 14 years.
It’s fair to assume that Sara Ali Khan has grand Bollywood ambitions, and she realises the need to be diplomatic about working with significantly older ‘heroes’ (her father Saif Ali Khan included). But she seems to be ignoring the fact that female actors like Priyanka Chopra (37) are assumed to have ‘retired’ from Hindi films, because her choices lie between a Salman Khan-starrer or a Prakash Jha film for the B-centres. It’s the larger problem of what actresses in Bollywood are offered, beyond the ‘love interest’ or ‘women-centric films’.
What Sara Ali Khan has said here, is truly cringe-worthy and reductive. No Sara, instead of blaming the audience maybe it would help if the audience was offered an alternative. Oh wait, that won’t be great for business, would it?