New Bollywood equation: young women, old men
In Abbas-Mustan's "Aitraaz", eyebrows are raised when Priyanka Chopra walks into a crowded boardroom with the 60-plus Amrish Puri.
By Subhash K. Jha, IANS
"Is that really her husband? I thought it was her grandfather," sniggers an onlooker.
Years ago, in Kamal Amrohi's bold experimental "Daera", the frail and lovely Meena Kumari was married to an old, dying man. The film faded away from public memory quicker than the wilting wife.
But now a more than cursory attachment between a young woman and a man old enough to be her father, if not grandfather, is no longer uncommon.
A series of fascinating new films focussing on the intricate, often sexual, energy between young women and older men are being seen.
The exploration of this syndrome began earlier this year with Vishal Bharadwaj's "Maqbool" where Tabu was shown as the companion of the paunchy underworld don Pankaj Kapur.
And in the late Anant Balani's "Joggers Park", Perizaad Zorabian was the sunshine girl in retired judge Victor Bannerjee's placid life.
In Boney Kapoor's "Bewafaa", directed by Dharmesh Darshan, the young, vulnerable 22-year-old Kareena Kapoor is reluctantly married to widower Anil Kapoor.
Earlier this year, there was Mallika Sherawat clinging on to Dharmendra in Govind Menon's "Kis Kis Ki Kismet" for dear life. Though she was romantically paired with a newcomer, it was her sizzling camaraderie with the older and far more well-known co-star that lit up the screen.
If Priyanka Chopra is married to Amrish Puri in "Aitraaz", in Sanjay Gupta's eyebrow raising "Musafir", due in December, the 20-plus Sameera Reddy plays wife to the 45-plus Mahesh Manjrekar, who incidentally plays a far older man in the film.
Rani Mukherjee seems specially fascinated by roles that allow her characters to explore hitherto dark areas. In her new hit "Veer-Zaara", she has no romantic interest. What she does have are lengthy passages of interaction with Shah Rukh Khan who plays a fading old man pining for lost love.
Though there's no romantic angle to their interaction in "Veer-Zaara", earlier heroines would have thought twice and thrice before tampering their coupling with co-stars... unless it happened to be a Jaya Bhaduri who happily played daughter and wife to her favourite co-star Sanjeev Kumar in "Parichay" and "Koshish", released almost simultaneously.
Likewise, Manisha Koirala was audacious enough to allow her former real-life lover Nana Patekar to be both her father and her husband in "Khamoshi: The Musical" and "Agnisakshi" respectively.
Rani seems to be equal to the challenge of going beyond the acceptable parameters of man-woman relationships. In two of her forthcoming assignments, she's paired with the mighty Amitabh Bachchan in unconventional permutations.
In Sanjay Leela Bhansali's eagerly awaited classic-in-the-making "Black", Bachchan and Rani are a volatile and passionate teacher and pupil who go through a tumult of emotions that rock the given definition of gender equations in our cinema.
And in Ravi Chopra's "Babul", Rani plays Bachchan's widowed daughter-in-law. Most of her most powerful moments in the script are with the senior superstar rather than Salman Khan who plays her husband.
Do young girls prefer the company of older men? Going by the roles for some of Bollywood's best leading ladies, it would sure seem so.