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What’s Age Got to Do With It?

Why are age-challenged pairings not found weird, unreal or totally corny and dismissed when in real life, this kind of pairing — at least in India — would be frowned upon.

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Bollywood stars prance and romance heroines almost half their age. And no one fliches.

Dev Anand and Tina Munim, Dilip Kumar and Leena Chandarvarkar and Raj Kapoor and Rajshri Shantaram are just three of the zillion examples of age bogeying along with youth — to a cheering audience.

Today, confusion has been confounded with the Killer Khans leading the way in this cradle-snatching game. Sure King Shahrukh Khan struck it big with Kajol Devgan, years ago in Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge and Baazigar and even Madhuri Dikshit in Dil To Pagal Hai and Devdas, but his recent squeezes like Deepika Padukone, whom he romanced when she was a 20-year-old model in Om Shanti Om, and later Anushka Shetty in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi indicate that the track is getting younger.

The grapevine has it that his next fling with Yash Raj will either have bachhi Vaani (Shudh Desi Romance) Kapoor or beauty queen Sarah Jane Dias. His other project Raees is rumored to still to be searching for the female lead in another representative of youngistan. Mauja hi Mauja!

Where there’s Badshah Khan, can Bhai Khan be far behind? Salman Khan’s latest movie Kick, which kicked in over $35 million worldwide in its opening week, had heroine Jacqueline Fernandez, easily 20 years his junior, burning the screen with him. His earlier films too (Jai Ho and Dabangg) had newbies Daisy Shah and Sonakshi Sinyha, rocking the screen with him, in real cool fashion. Likewise, Asin Thottumkal in Ready.

Aamir Khan too follows this route. In his latest PK, the 49-year-old super star romances 26-year-old Anushka Sharma. What about Khiladi Akshay Kumar, who in his latest Singh is Bling ding-dongs with 22-year-old Kriti Sanon? Also Tamannah Bhatia in Entertainment and Shruti Hasan in Gabbar?

Why leave out Chhote Nawab Saif Ali Khan, who walked the talk by actually marrying someone much younger. His new releases will see him shaking a leg with Ilena D’Cruz and Parineeti Chopra. Earlier he had some sizzling scenes with Padukone in Cocktail, Bhatia in Humshakals, Sonakshi Sinha in Bullet Raja and Jacqueline Fernandez in Race 2.

Hollywood also had its share of this gen gap, notable ones being Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in To Have and Have Not, Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas, Warren Beatty and Annette Bening in Bugsy, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.

Point is: Why are these age-challenged pairings not found weird, unreal or totally corny and dismissed when in real life, this kind of pairing — at least in India — would be frowned upon.

Behavioral Scientist Ashish Nandy believes it is a simple case of separating fantasy from fact and entertainment from reality. “Bollywood is showbiz, popular culture, an intrinsic part of India’s DNA and its style of entertainment — spectacularly, glamorously and seductively unreal — paralyzes the critical faculty and shuts up the logic compartment in our brain, inviting us to languorously go with the flow. Everything is fantasy-driven and make believe, designed to dazzle the eyes … not tax the brain. So, as long as the action on the screen engages and entertains, who cares about silly things like age differences?”

He is right. SRK is dynamite. Salman is Tiger. Akki is Khiladi No. 1. They need hot phatakas to blow the audiences mind. End of story.

Film Scholar Rauf Ahmed agrees. “Arre Bhai, Bollywood watching is not an exercise on research, logic or reality-bytes. If the heroes are fit, sexy and hot and the roles fit their personalities and celebrate their star-aura, more wind beneath their wings. The young, glam babes give these heroes the glow of youth; the sexy male stars for their turn impart on their heroines, the veneer of super-stardom. Both are happy! Agreed not all heroines zoom up but overall the average of young, new heroines striking it big after debuting or starring with a much older male star is very very high. Rebel star Shammi Kapoor was a pioneer in this movement. He romanced newbies Asha Parekh, Saira Banu, Sharmila Tagore and Kalpana to superstardom.”

35-year-old Sonam Shah is apoplectic. The Bangalore-based social commentator believes that: “Few things look more ridiculous and vulgar than a botoxed, gym-toned, 6-pack hero coochie-cooing with a girl fit to be her daughter! I mean seeing Salman and Daisy (Shah) in Jai Ho made me puke. Ditto with SRK and Deepika. Watching Deepika with Ranbir or Ranveer, Aleya with Varun, Parineeti with Sushant or Shraddha with Aditya is such a joy! Compatibility does count and matter. If the Khans or Akshay, Ajay and Saif get away with it, it’s largely because the film is designed to be hero-centric where heroines don’t really matter beyond the eye-candy role. Pity is, because of the male stars manic obsession for younger heroines, mature, gifted actresses like Madhuri Dikshit and Juhi Chawla even Rani Mukerji continue to be sidelined … the very actresses who not very long ago made successful pairs with these very heroes.”

Touche! At the end of the day, sadly, market forces call the shots, not logic, reality or political correctness. If SRK has had two thumping hits with Deepika — Om Shanti Om and Chennai Express — why take panga with their pairing? If Salman has rocked the charts with Asin, Sonakshi and now Jacqueline, why kick up a fuss about the generation gap? If Akshay Kumar chooses to rock with a new babe to re-define Bling, what goes of your daddy? As long as the hormonal rush for fans is in place and the Friday smile at the Bollywood sensex displays dazzling teeth, the April-December jodi will remain, perfectly matched!

What’s age gotta do with it?

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Bollywood | Arts & Entertainment | September 2014

Image gallery

Shahrukh Khan and Katrina Kaif in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. Salman Khan with Sonakshi Sinha in Dabangg.

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