“Hamari umar ke role toh kamsekam humse kara lo bhai,” responded actor Neena Gupta on Twitter to someone who tagged her as a possible casting choice for the upcoming film, Saand Ki Aankh. With this tweet Gupta has raked quite a controversy on social media, calling out the underlying ageism in the Hindi film industry. A Twitter storm followed, and there were numerous comments regarding the relatively young casting of Taapsee Pannu and Bhumi Pednekar in the lead roles of 60-year-olds. The film focuses on two women in their 60s, and their journey to become ace shooters. As seen in the trailer of the film, the two actors have been aged with heavy use of prosthetics and make-up. Pannu responded to the comments: “I just wonder if the same questions were asked when we loved what Anupam Kher did in Saaransh. Did we question Nargis Dutt when she played a mother to Sunil Dutt. Did we question John Trivolta for playing a woman in Hairspry… Did we question when Aamir Khan played a college kid in 3 Idiots?”
Older female actors have often spoken about the common practice in the industry. Most say that they are often relegated to the roles of mother or daadi. Actor Surekha Sikri recently told The Indian Express, “As an industry, we don’t write parts for older women… Glamour will always drive the choices… Look at Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren. .. Senior actors like me are not extended the same izzat (respect), or the same trust that we will deliver. Why? Just because we are of a certain age?”
Soni Razdan recently played a woman of retirement age in Yours Truly and the film focused on her living a single life. Gupta, too, had a brilliant role in the National Award-winning Badhai Ho, where she played the role of a mother who is expecting a child in her 50s. “I wish I could make my debut in the industry now. A sea of opportunities awaits young actors now. Older women are getting interesting roles. I am hopeful,” Gupta had stated last year.