‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’ has been in the news mainly because it is a remake of a rather iconic song released about 30 years ago. It is the era of remakes (awful ones at that), while the song seems to be making some people’s ears bleed, others have been excited to see the new rendition of the number.

However, what was (sort of ) unexpected was when Akshay Kumar ‘reprised’ his role as the man who gets seduced while the woman is dancing in the rain. He’s only in a much better shirt right now, with a little grey in his hair (or is there?). The actress dancing to the song is different though; it’s Katrina Kaif. 30 years ago, it was Raveena Tandon. What is this, if not a blatant example of how Bollywood continues to be ageist towards female actors while older men continue to get to romance younger women and no one blinks an eye? Couldn’t the makers have featured a ‘blissfully aged’ Kumar and Tandon, again? You’ve said it here, don’t say it out loud on the internet (especially the bit where you mention Akshay Kumar ageing, since everyone from the actor to the industry seems to be in denial).

The actress dancing to the song is different though; it’s Katrina Kaif. 30 years ago, it was Raveena Tandon. What is this, if not a blatant example of how Bollywood continues to be ageist towards female actors while older men continue to get to romance younger women and no one blinks an eye? Couldn’t the makers have featured a ‘blissfully aged’ Kumar and Tandon, again? You’ve said it here, don’t say it out loud on the internet (especially the bit where you mention Akshay Kumar ageing, since everyone from the actor to the industry seems to be in denial).

Also read: Netflix’s Meenakshi Sundareshwar & The ‘Little Window’ To Cultural Appropriation

Raveena Tandon was an actress of the 90s (unlike Akshay Kumar who is well the actor of 2021 too), who probably came with a shelf life of 10-20 years, at max. And now there are other (younger) actresses who have to take up as many projects as they can before they lose them out to the younger actresses due to their age. But you see the actor has to worry about nothing as such. It’s like he hasn’t aged, but has been sculpted by makeup to look even younger so that audiences don’t get a whiff of the fact that ageing is a natural process for both men and women. 

The age gap between the actors has been prominently normalised in Bollywood for as long as the industry has been alive and thriving. So much so, legendary actor Dimple Kapadia was barely 16 when she got married to Rajesh Khanna, who was 15 years her senior. Male actors continue to get away with anything, even if they are 30, or 40, or 70. They can get meaty roles, they can jump in the air and kick down the antagonist with the vigour of a 20-year- old even if they are 70. They are paired with young and upcoming actresses, and no, not in father-daughter or uncle-niece roles, but romantically. Sure, there can be an age gap between a couple but how long can you use the same actor, but constantly discriminate against the women because of the obvious age factor. When a female actor enters the industry, it is as if a clock begins to tick. After their time is up, which means their body begins to show physical signs of ageing, they are slowly cast out, while their male counterparts now dance around trees with other younger actresses. 

The song has Raveen Tandon do most of the work while Akshay Kumar aimlessly stands around, just looking at her. And yet, with another popular rendition of the song featuring Akshay Kumar again, it seems to be of common knowledge that the song is more that of Akshay’s than any of the two actresses. The screen makes ageing look good, but only on male actors. How we vie for a look of some salt and pepper stubble on our favourite actors, but we can’t bear to see some grey in the locks of a female actor. She’s meant to be desirable, hot, sensual, and sexy and according to Bollywood and societal notions, age diminishes that. Which is what works in favour of the male gaze. You take Akshay Kumar and replace him with an octogenarian man, and people will still want the actress to be as youthful as a newly bloomed flower. The woman is an object, a symbol of desire and sex, and she has to look good. She can’t have greys or wrinkles, nor can she sit in one place while the man does the same that she was doing just a couple minutes ago. 

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The male gaze does not favour the ageing female body. Especially in songs like ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’, where the camera zigzags from her cleavage to her stomach to her bare shoulders, all of which are engaged in some sort of thumping or thrusting movements. She’s wrapped around something or the other, be it a pole or the man in the song. Now, would it be sensual or sexy enough if the woman in question isn’t in her 20s or 30s? This is the rhetorical question that Bollywood asks its audience, expecting a resounding ‘no!’ in return. 

The male gaze does not favour the ageing female body. Especially in songs like ‘Tip Tip Barsa Paani’, where the camera zigzags from her cleavage to her stomach to her bare shoulders, all of which are engaged in some sort of thumping or thrusting movements. She’s wrapped around something or the other, be it a pole or the man in the song. Now, would it be sensual or sexy enough if the woman in question isn’t in her 20s or 30s? This is the rhetorical question that Bollywood asks its audience, expecting a resounding ‘no!’ in return. 

Another interesting phenomenon is that older actresses are usually offered roles of a mother, but male actors their age can still get leading men roles. The worst part is that they usually play mothers to their male counterparts, for example Sonali Kulkarni played Salman Khan’s mother in Bharat, but in real life, she’s 9 years younger than him. Another example is the movie Waqt, in which Shefali Shah played Akshay Kumar’s mother, while she’s 5 years younger than him in real life. There are countless films in which there is a huge age gap between the male protagonist and the female protagonist, while the actors essaying the role of the male protagonist’s mother are barely a few years older than them or usually younger than them. 

Also read: Where Does Ageism And Sexism Meet In India?

When Shefali Shah played mother to 5 years elder Akshay Kumar

This normalization of the massive age gap stems from a misogynistic outlook and unrealistic beauty standards set for women, which dictate that a female actor’s only value is her youth and when that fades, her career will automatically go on a downhill slope. A woman is seen as something added to the film for ‘glamour’, even if she’s a leading lady and has a meaty role to play. The underlying purpose is to look good and serve as eye candy. 

However, there is a slow yet noticeable change in the casting of films, usually in independent films, which is yet to reach the mainstream film industry. With spaces opening up for conversation about misogyny, feminism, pay gap, and sexism in the film industry, we could just take the leap of faith and be a little more hopeful about the times to come. 

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11 COMMENTS

  1. That’s a little hypocritical. Working with superstars (twice their age) for fame and recognition and wearing provocative clothes for attention and then crying ‘age gap’ and ‘male gaze’. Feminism promotes sexual liberation and then cries ‘objectification’. Most actresses are models turned actresses who know little about acting and are more than happy to work with (ageing) actors like Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, etc. Then they deliberately wear revealing clothes and objectify themselves.

  2. Salman Khan alone launched Zareen Khan, Daisy Shah, Sneha Ullal, Sonakshi Sinha, Athiya Shetty, Bhoomika Chawla, and many more. Even top actresses like Ashwariya Rai and Katrina Kaif got recognition after working with Salman Khan. When Katrina Kaif thought that she had become a star after having worked with the 3 Khans (Ek Tha Tiger, Jab Tak Hai Jaan, Dhoom 3) she went solo in 2016 with movies like Baar Baar Dekho and Fitoor but both flopped. She then went back to Salman Khan with movies like Tiger Zinda Hai and Bharat. Guess what? Both were hits.

  3. Kareena Kapoor Khan is breaking this stereotype. At 40 she is still in top 3 actresses and working in A list films with A list actors and big productions. She singlehandedly changed the mindset that women are not
    Desirable after marriage and a baby. Her career has stayed steady and she is bringing in a change to the age old system of the industry.

    • A considerable number of Kareena Kapoor’s movies have flopped, while her biggest hits have been with ageing actors – Golmaal 3 with a 41 year old Ajay Devgn, 3 Idiots with a 44 year old Aamir Khan, Singham Returns with a 45 year old Ajay Devgn, Bodyguard with a 45 year old Salman Khan, Ra.One with a 46 year old Shah Rukh Khan, Bajrangi Bhaijaan with a 49 year old Salman Khan, and Good Newwz with a 52 year old Akshay Kumar.

  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-aWMKcuJSo. Check the video out from 2:00. This nonsense is in your head. There are filmmakers that bring in actresses from 30 years ago in a remix version of their songs. The world is changing, stop trying to use your rebellious youthful thinking to fly the feminist flag. Yes, India has a lot to do when it comes to women but at the same time, it is.

  5. Salman Khan’s heroines are getting younger and younger with time. Recently he worked with Disha Patani, who is my age.
    Akshay Kumar will be working with Manushi Chhillar who is in her early twenties.
    I remember reading plenty of criticisms when SRK worked with Anushka and Mahira and all those films flopped.

    I see comments blaming actresses for wearing “revealing” and provocative clothes then “crying” age gap.

    One thing I appreciate from author is not shooting the messenger which is the only thing happening so far.

  6. Salman Khan’s heroines are not getting younger. Disha Patani is 29, model turned actress with limited acting skills, and her biggest hit has been Bharat, with Salman Khan.

    Anushka Sharma’s career took off with her very first movie, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi, with Shah Rukh Khan, a super hit. She then worked in a number of flop movies until Jab Tak Hai Jaan, again a super hit with Shah Rukh Khan.

    Do you really think anyone will watch new actresses like Manushi Chhillar if they don’t get cast opposite an Akshay Kumar or a Khan?

    Antim is going to get released and the actress in the movie will get recognition, only because of Salman Khan, just as dozens of actresses have received recognition after working with a Khan, or should I say, an ageing Khan.

  7. Dear Madam,

    I extremely agree with you. It is this very notion of male gaze I have been fighting as well. Surprisingly none of my women/female friends do not discuss or venture to even talk of
    this aspect and passively laugh it off saying it is all commercial issue. How sad! In fact, I
    feel very agitated and angry with this very idea of male gaze as also other issues such as
    being atrociously projected in bollywood and other films and passed off by our even incompetent censors.

    But, ultimately, it is the very people who allow themselves to be so objectified that need to take a conscious call for not only themselves but also their larger fraternity. There is no point in calling out #MeToo having willfully let themselves be so used and cry over split milk as the adage goes. The actresses as a united force should take a unified stance on this issue and as viewing public female audiences must resort to flash protests outsides malls, multiplexes and theatres where such films are being screened.
    Actresses should decide whether they would let themselves be belittled and objectified thus for the sake of a few lakhs of rupees or care more for their self respect and their own filial members.
    Ultimately one cannot have the cake and eat it too.
    I wish FII rouses the collective conscience of these actresses for the sake of their own fraternity than people like us writing and being smirked upon.

  8. To compensate for lack of talent, Bollywood actresses CHOOSE to do item numbers, wear bikinis, short dresses, etc. This is a quick way to earn money, fame, recognition, and attention but apparently the problem lies with the male gaze. From movies to promotions and award functions, actresses wear very revealing attire. Actresses objectify themselves. Even TV actresses doing traditional roles wear sarees with very small blouses to make sure that their body is revealed. Lehengas are worn with blouses the size of a bra. Let alone movies, you cannot even watch today’s TV serials with family.

    By the way, if you don’t want aged actors, make women centric movies and cast aged actresses, give them lead roles, have them beat bad guys, but you will only end up with a super flop like Gulaab Gang. Women themselves will watch Sultan over Gulaab Gang any day.

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