Ex. Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi, Karisma Kapoor, Preity Zinta, Juhi Chawla, Rani Mukerji and many more
Answer by Raakhee V. Menon:
This is probably because the said 90s actresses were loved and adored more for their physical beauty and youth, and sadly not for their acting prowess. I have always felt that Indian cinema has two categories of female cine artistes – the heroines and the actresses.
The ‘heroines’ were not expected to act much. Nobody would take them seriously. They were just support factors for their male counterparts and to gyrate to silly dance steps in dream sequences, and play the hapless victim who gets abducted by the evil villain so that the ‘hero’ can come and save her from the baddies. More emphasis was given to the way they were presented on screen. Their introduction scene had to have the obligatory wind in the hair slow-mo shot, with the hero falling head over heels in love with her at that instant.
Now, what happens is that, the audience does just the same. They develop the same feelings for the ‘heroine’ as the hero portrays. She becomes the girlfriend of their dreams…a perpetually young and beautiful helpless creature who has to be taken care of and then she will dance with them around trees and give them shy looks, even if they look like a chimp with broken teeth in real life.
You don’t need to pay to fantasize, anyway. Why do you think senseless movies fare better than sensible ones? Because senseless movies often depict the actors with a larger-than-life image and they portray the actress as a dimwit who has no clue about what the hell is going on around her.
Although I am not entirely sure why this happens, I am tempted to believe that a lot of men like to see women portrayed that way…dull, pretty and who depends on them to know if it is night or day now. *rolls eyes*
This clueless nature looks cute when they are young. When they get older, looking/behaving as clueless as they did in their 20s makes them look like idiots.
Sridevi did a role like what she did in ‘Sadma’. Can she do it now? Maybe she can. But will she be considered adorable? No. So, the way a person is perceived changes with their age. What seemed cute in their 20s might seem obnoxious when they do the same thing in their 40s.
Many of the actresses who ruled celluloid in the 90s have given some sterling performances in movies that went largely unnoticed. Why did they go unnoticed? Because ‘acting’ is the job of ‘actresses’ not heroines! A movie like ‘Coolie No. 1’ became one of Karisma Kapoor’s biggest career hits. An astounding movie like ‘Zubeidaa’ went kaput at the box office.
The only saving grace is that it won a National Award for best film the year it was released. If that isn’t sad, I don’t know what is! I could quote numerous examples like this.
We have come 20 years ahead after the 90s. In 20 years, age would have taken a toll on these ladies and it is only common sense that they cannot do roles that portray them as 20 year old college girls. Don’t we hear a lot of these actresses being referred to as ‘Aunties’ (even if they look like a million bucks)?
I often wondered why. Once some random Indian guy had been kind enough to explain somewhere on some comment thread that all Indian women above 35 are considered to be aunties. Stupid logic, I know. But apparently, that’s how it works. Don’t believe me? Go to Google images, punch in ‘Indian aunties’ and see the results. Apologies in advance for the excessive cellulite show!
So, our dear menfolk don’t really want to see ‘aunties’ doing romance on screen. They pay to see only a young shapely body and a pretty face who can only talk cute! It’s probably a subconscious thing that women over 35 in India are supposed to be at home helping with their kids’ homework and planning dinner…and not thinking of things like love and romance.
But the producers and directors know what the audience wants and they are prepared to give it to them. Cast a 22 year old heroine opposite a nearly 50 year old man and nobody bats an eyelid.
Do it the other way round, and all hell breaks loose!
Like I said, people pay to be able to fantasize. The idea of a man being able to romance a girl old enough to be his daughter gives people a weird high! And though these male and female artistes start out at the same time, the men stay on longer because they get to practice their art for a longer time. They don’t get called uncles after they reach 35…or 45 or even 55 for that matter! The shelf life of an average Indian actress is much much lesser than that of a male artiste, even if she has not suffered much in the looks department.
So, in order to remain relevant and to have a job, most of these ladies move over to serious cinema or even theater after their glam days are over. They act in more and more meaningful cinema and finally get the tag that they have always yearned for…an actress! I am very proud of what the 90s actresses are doing today. The accolades they earn are well deserved…
Meanwhile, the men continue to romance younger and younger girls. Look at the case of south Indian actress Meena, for instance.
Over her time in the industry, she has acted with Malayalam superstar Mammootty as his daughter, as his girlfriend, as his wife and as his mother!
Honestly, I don’t think this is going to change anytime soon. The silver lining on the cloud is that the female artistes are freed from the clutches of the glamour world a lot earlier and that they get to concentrate on acting as an art rather than a medium just to show off their shapely waist.