After Priyanka Chopra walks down the aisle with Nick Jonas, Bollywood will have more married leading ladies than ever. Most A-list female actors in the Hindi film industry are wedded today. Yet popularity and stardom stands with the likes of Anushka Sharma, Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Vidya Balan. This is such a welcome change from the time when it went without saying that marriage is an end of a film career for the leading ladies. Today, however, the audience seems not to care much about their matrimonial status or even motherhood.

So what has led to this shift? Perhaps finally the audience has learnt to look at them as performers and stars. Whether or not they wear a wedding band seems not to matter to the viewers or perhaps it is the industry which has changed. Refusing to see a wedded female actor as a bad box office omen anymore.

It seems like the audience has finally caught up with changing times and sensibilities.

Objectification of female actors is still not uncommon in our country, both on and off-screen. Male audiences look at female actors from the gaze of desirability. For long, they have showered love and affection on women of Bollywood on parameters like glamour, sex-appeal and beauty, and not their talent or even screen presence. So, when an actor got married she ended up losing her appeal to woo the audience. The result was that even producers and actors would see a married female actor as a bad omen. While the likes of Hema Malini and Sharmila Tagore were an exception, most women were forced into early retirement.

SOME TAKEAWAYS

  • There are more married leading ladies in Bollywood today, than ever before.
  • The audience has finally come around to showering success on female actors irrespective of their marital status.
  • The film fraternity itself has played a big role in normalising this shift, by backing the likes of Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma and giving them the top bill.

This seems to be changing finally, and more women-centric commercial films are enjoying box-office success. Exposure to trends in the Hollywood and social media has ushered in a broad and mature mindset among the audience. While objectification is still a widespread problem, a majority of the audience also pays attention to performance. They are willing to spend money on a film lead by an A-list married actor, simply because it is a good film.

This shift is not just about a change in the attitude of the audience, the film fraternity’s attitude towards married heroines has changed too.

Today, male superstars and filmmakers don’t wash their hands-off married female actors like as used to earlier. The reason these women manage to retain their position within the industry is that they get support from their peers. Male stars don’t freak out about collections of their movies, if their leading lady is a missus in real life. Also, handing out bigger paychecks to these A-list women has helped in breaking the taboos. The pay equity between, married and single actors, plays a bigger role than we want to concede. It shows how stardom and relevance in the industry today has moved beyond whether there is a wedding band on a woman’s finger or not.

There couldn’t have been a better crop of A-listers to enjoy the fruit of this change, than the current lot. While we do wish this change had happened sooner, it is better late than never. Our actors are pushing for change in cinema one challenge at a time. Today, it is enjoying a successful run in the industry after marriage or maternity, tomorrow it may be pay parity. As an audience, our job is to get rid of the objectifying gaze and keep appreciating good cinema and performances. In due time, the rest would gradually fall in place.

Picture Credit: Hindustan Times

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.

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