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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Soni Razdan, Aahana Kumra talk about ageism in Bollywood: ‘Huge struggle’

Aahana Kumra speaks about how she had crossed a certain age by the time she started getting work in Bollywood. Soni Razdan, on the other hand, feels today is a good time to be a female lead.

Written by A. Kameshwari | New Delhi |
Updated: October 31, 2021 9:21:07 am
Soni Razdan, Aahana Kumra talk about ageism in BollywoodAahana Kumra and Soni Razdan talk about struggles of being a woman in Bollywood. (Photo: Aahana Kumra/Instagram)

Soni Razdan, Aahana Kumra and Ayush Mehra are all set to take us inside the lives of talent managers to Bollywood stars in their upcoming series Call My Agent: Bollywood. Ahead of the show’s premiere, indianexpress.com got the opportunity to stream first three episodes of the show. In the very first episode, which has a cameo appearance of the very beautiful Dia Mirza, we are told how Bollywood has no place for an ageing woman while men in their 50s continue to dominate the box office. The term ‘ageism’ is subtly referred, which made us ask the cast their experience in Bollywood and if they have fear of not getting work after a certain age.

“You can’t stop aging. It is good to play certain parts at a certain age. There are perfect examples in the West. There’s Meryl Streep, George Clooney and Brad Pitt, who’re playing their age and it’s so beautiful and graceful to see them age so well on screen. I believe our industry is also gradually moving towards that. Not a lot of roles were being written for older people earlier. But now, they are being explored,” Ayush said.

Aahana mentions how she has had the honour of working with some great women irrespective of their age, including Konkona Sensharma, Soni Razdan and Ratna Pathak Shah. The “proud” actor, however, recalled her struggle as an outsider. “I did theater for good ten years. In that time, I didn’t take up any work on television or films for because I could not understand those mediums. In films, I was getting roles like heroine ki friend, heroine ki behen. They were really strange roles. On television, I was kicked out because I was not a ‘conventional bahurani.’ They would be like ‘She’s not looking like she will listen to her saasuma.’ So, by the time I actually started getting roles, or I got my first work in cinema, I had already aged. And then you realise that ‘oh my god, I wish I was much younger and I would have done this part.'”

She, however, believes OTT has changed the business. “Having said that, I’m grateful to the OTT platforms that we don’t have to only worry about a film or a TV serial. I have to also now look at an OTT platform that is writing roles for women, telling stories about a woman who’s middle aged and older. I don’t have to worry about crossing 30,” Aahana said, citing example of Ratna’s role in Lipstick Under My Burkha and Soni’s role in Your Story.

“For my film with Soni, Your Story, we had gone to Busan. After the screening was over, Korean women related with our characters. So, you realize that ageism is something women across the world have to face. But I have to mention, the role that Ratna did in Lipstick has to be one of the most incredible parts. She played it with utmost dignity for a 60-year-old woman. And what a nice story to tell at 60 that you don’t stop living or don’t just read the Bhagavad Gita!”

Soni Razdan agreed that getting a good role after a certain age can be a struggle. “I’m getting work today, but for many years, I didn’t get any work for obvious reasons (hinting at age). Also there were just too few roles available for mothers (back then). So yes, it (Bollywood) was completely skewed towards men. Men could be 40, 50 and 60 and getting really good roles but women just didn’t have those opportunities. Thankfully, I have to say that’s changed. But it is a recent change. So today I’m having the time of my life,” the actor said.

“Stories don’t stop just because you are 60 or 50 or 70 or 80. Stories continue. Life goes on. So, there’s absolutely no reason why a woman of 60 or 65 or 70 should not be playing the lead role. I think now is really the time that ageism is falling by the wayside. However, it’s still a long way from women getting the sort of roles men are approached for,” Soni said.

Adding to Soni, Aahana said, “I still think Bollywood really needs to up its game because OTT platforms are stepping it up. We have 20-year-old girls romancing 60-year-old uncles. I’m sorry to use that word, but they are uncles.”

“There is this obsession, this youth obsession and they feel most of the audience is young. This is not true anymore thanks to streaming platforms. People of all ages are watching content. Storytelling has changed in the last four years. Actors are having the best time. Look at the talent in our industry. Just normal people becoming actors. It’s incredible,” she concluded.

Soni Razdan, Aahana Kumra and Ayush Mehra, along with Rajat Kapoor, will feature in Call My Agent: Bollywood, which will stream on Netflix on October 29.

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